With the NFL draft less than two weeks away, the Arizona Cardinals have one of the more intriguing set of decisions to make. Having traded up to get Josh Rosen at number 10 last season, they once again look like they’re on the clock for another Quarterback in round 1. So what should they do with the number 1 pick and what does it mean for Josh Rosen?
Arizona Cardinals 2018 Draft Recap
After a mediocre 8-8 campaign in 2017, the Cardinals immediately began to move on from the retiring Carson Palmer, signing perennial IR bench rider Sam Bradford to a one-year $20m deal with an option for 2019. Bradford was clearly a stop-gap option, having only twice started every game in a season, and only having one winning record when he was 2-0 with the Vikings in 2017.
Come draft day all the buzz was about quarterbacks, and as Josh Rosen fell lower than many expected, the Cardinals pulled the trigger and jumped from 15th spot to number 10 to select him. Giving up their 3rd and 5th round picks represented solid value for a future franchise quarterback.
Or so it seemed.
2018 Season Debacle
Despite much optimism with the future of the quarterback position in Rosen’s hands under the tutelage of Sam Bradford, and the return of David Johnson, things started badly…and only got worse.
After three defeats and just 20 offensive points, Sam Bradford was removed as starting quarterback, and the heir apparent assumed the reins. A win in his second start against the 49ers buoyed the fans. But other than another win against the niners three weeks later, and a win over the Packers a month after that, the cupboard was bare for Josh Rosen.
While the other rookies all had great to moderate success, Rosen was woeful. Not just poor, but epically awful at times. Sure Josh Allen was missing wide open receivers all over the place, but his legs were saving his blushes. Lamar Jackson struggled to get starting time, but once he did he ran away with the job. Baker Mayfield was exactly what everyone expected…possibly slightly better.
But Josh Rosen? Well, he ranked 37th in the league in passer rating with a clean pocket. It’s not uncommon for rookie passers to struggle under pressure, or dealing with new systems. But his struggles with a clean pocket were a huge issue. (you can read PFF’s take on the rookie class here)
Josh Rosen showed some signs of inspiration, and to be fair to him his offensive line were poor and he faced the seventh highest pressure rate of any quarterback in the league. Several quarterbacks have rebounded from very poor rookie campaigns to become very good starters, most recently Jared Goff.
The concern with Rosen is the rumours about his work ethic being sub-par and his college performances ranking him as basically an average first-round quarterback in all of the analytic models. That’s not to say he can’t improve. But the question is will it be with the Cardinals.
2019 Draft: Time For a Do-over?
So as we enter the 2019 draft there’s good news and bad news for Cardinals fans. After a 3-13 season, they have the number 1 pick. The bad news is it looks like they still feel they need a QB. So what do the Cardinals do with their first-round pick and Josh Rosen?
Draft Kyler Murray
This seems like a no brainer at this point. All of the talk has been that the Cardinals head coach is in love with Kyler Murray and will take him with the first pick. Unless this is the most epic game of smoke and mirrors that ends with the Cardinals trading away the pick for a boatload of picks (think Ricky Williams to the Saints) then Murray will be a Cardinal.
In this scenario, as soon as the Cards pick Murray, Rosen’s trade value begins to decline as teams will expect him to become available. While Arizona could keep both quarterbacks, the rookie contract structure makes them both affordable, the development of Rosen would be stunted, and the Cards would have the least experiences quarterback room in the NFL.
The Cardinals currently seem to be looking at second-round interest from the Giants, Patriots, and Redskins. But the Cardinals want a first-rounder. Once they draft Murray expect Rosen to be moved quickly depending on how teams feel about the other quarterbacks in the draft.
This is where the Cardinals become at the whim of the other teams the longer it takes to trade Rosen. If Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock drop outside the top six, I think Rosen’s trade value likely decreases. The Giants pick at number 6, and they will likely take Haskins if he drops to them. That would remove them from the Rosen options.
The Redskins draft at 15. If Lock were to fall to them, or to their range, they could conceivably trade up to take him, the same way the Cards traded up for Rosen (ironically they may also trade up to jump the Dolphins just as the Cards did). Washington may find it more palatable to trade a 3 and 5 to jump 5 spots to take Lock, rather than giving a second (or first) for Rosen.
If the Redskins pass on Lock, and don’t trade their first for Rosen, they could trade back and pick up extra picks, with the aim of using one of those for Rosen, but that seems unlikely.
If both the Redskins and Giants are off the board for Rosen, there’s a chance the Dolphins could then become a player with their second round pick. While this option has some surface appeal, the rumours out of Miami are that they have no interest in Josh Rosen.
If all that plays out, Bill Belichick will be rubbing his hands together at the prospect of getting Rosen for a second-rounder. However, there could be one last wrinkle if this is the trade. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Cardinals held out-for a first and we end up with the Patriots giving their first and second rounders, for Rosen and the Cardinals second. While just a one place difference, it might make the deal a little more palatable for the Cardinals.
Keep Josh Rosen
It’s a feint possibility, but the Cardinals could trade the number 1 pick, and ride with Josh Rosen. All the buzz seems to make this a long shot, but the Cardinals have so far not categorically said they will draft Kyler Murray.
The Cardinals are a team with a lot of holes to fill. You don’t go 3-13 if you’re one player away from a Superbowl (unless that player is Andrew Luck perhaps). The possibility remains for Arizona to trade the pick for two first-rounders, one in 2019 and one in 2020, and possibly second and third rounders in 2019. This may sound steep, but the draft value chart gives us this rough estimate. (we will discuss this in depth in an article this week)
The Cards could also keep Rosen as competition to Murray and see how the battle pans out. There may be a more robust market for Rosen once the draft market has settled. There are always injuries in camp and pre-season, and teams may be more willing to give up assets when their backs are against the wall.
This almost certainly ends the simplest way imaginable, with the Cardinals drafting Murray and then trading Rosen for a high second. If the Giants can do the trade before they pick at six, that would probably be the best deal the Cardinals will get, and I would expect them to realise that on draft night.
I still think Josh Rosen will go on to have a good NFL career as a starter and this is a decision that the Cardinals may end up regretting. Cutting bait this early with Rosen, without getting proper value for him, could come back to haunt the franchise for years to come.
The key in all this is value. It’s possible to trade Rosen away and still win in the trade even if he goes on to be a franchise quarterback somewhere else. Win-win trades don’t seem to be on too many fans radars, but in this case that seems like a possibility.