Rosen the big prize as Cardinals emphasize offense in draft
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By BOB BAUM
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) The Arizona Cardinals' 2018 draft made its reputation on Day 1 with the selection of a player who the team hopes will become the long-sought franchise quarterback of years to come.
If the Cardinals got no one in this draft besides Josh Rosen, fans would have called it a rousing success.
And offense turned out to be the theme. Only one of the six players drafted by the Cardinals plays defense, even though their new coach Steve Wilks was defensive coordinator last year at Carolina.
The choices were simply a function of the names on the Arizona draft board, general manager Steve Keim said.
"In a perfect world, coach and I would have been thrilled to have balance and to fill some positions defensively if those guys warranted those picks," Keim said. "But we had such high grades on those offensive players, we didn't want to stray away from the board."
In the second round, Arizona went with homegrown wide receiver Christian Kirk from Texas A&M in the second round.
The Cardinals picked center Mason Cole out of Michigan in the third round and, with their first choice Saturday dipped into the FCS ranks to grab running back Chase Edmonds of Fordham.
It marked only the second time in the draft's modern era (which began in 1967) that the Cardinals have used their first four picks on the offense. The other was in 1993.
Finally, in the sixth round, Arizona went defense, grabbing cornerback Chris Campbell of Penn State. The Cardinals' final pick came third to last in the seventh and final round when they selected offensive tackle Korey Cunningham of Cincinnati.
But this draft was, first and foremost, about that long-awaited young quarterback for Arizona.
When Carson Palmer retired at the end of last season, there were no QBs on the roster. Now they have Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon and Rosen, who will begin his new job in earnest at the rookie minicamp in two weeks.
HOME SWEET HOME
No Arizona draftee could have been happier than Kirk, who grew up in the Phoenix area, starring at Saguaro High in Scottsdale before choosing Texas A&M over staying home at Arizona State. Now he's coming home and keeps describing the situation as "surreal."
Kirk said he got to know star receiver Larry Fitzgerald when he played on the same Pop Warner team as Kurt Warner's son. Warner would sometimes bring Fitzgerald along to games and they struck up a friendship.
"I think I was probably in the fourth grade at the time, third or fourth grade, and every time they came out, it was just so crazy," Kirk said.
Kirk will use his old No. 13. That was the Hall of Famer Warner's number, too.
"Exactly, I have to rock it well," Kirk said. "I have a lot to live up to."
Keim said that as he evolves through his fifth year on the job, he's paying more attention than ever to off-the-field character and the player's love of the game as he assesses who should be selected. He noted all but Campbell in this year's class were team captains.
The idea was to go with "strong character guys" that match what Wilks calls his team's DNA.
"I've almost promised myself that we would take guys, even if they're a little less talented, but they have that makeup," Keim said. "... Especially in our first draft together, we wanted to make a statement."
Almost every year, the Cardinals dip into the talent at the FCS level, or lower.
This year it was Edmonds, the all-time leading rusher in the Patriot League for yards and touchdowns who could be in a crowded competition for a backup spot behind 2016 All-Pro David Johnson, as well as a kick and punt returner.
"I'm just looking forward to whatever role Arizona asks me," he said. "Whether it's being a special teams player, being a third-down back, on the slot, something like that. I'm looking forward to it."
Keim called Edmonds' production "off the charts" and said he would have set the FCS career rushing record had he not been injured during his senior season.
Some prior Arizona draftees from the FCS ranks or lower include Johnson, taken in the third round out of Northern Iowa in 2015; wide receiver John Brown, selected in third round out of Pittsburg State (Kan.) in 2014; and cornerback/special teams player Justin Bethel, picked in the sixth round out of Presbyterian in 2012.
Oh, and quarterback John Skelton out of Fordham in the fifth round in 2010. He's no longer around.
Look for defensive players to be signed as undrafted free agents, as well as maybe some late veteran signings. Arizona still needs to find a cornerback to play opposite Patrick Peterson and is looking for depth at linebacker as the team transitions from a 3-4 base formation to a 4-3. The Cardinals also could use some depth at tight end.
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Updated April 28, 2018