Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury referred to it as “karma” Friday night after general manager Steve Keim deferred to him to explain how, for the second night in a row, the team got their man when it wasn’t expected.
Thursday, it was do-everything defender Isaiah Simmons with the eighth overall selection in the first round. That wasn’t totally unexpected. Friday it was, when Houston tackle Josh Jones, projected as a late first- or at worse a second-round pick, lasted until the Cardinals quickly grabbed him with the eighth pick in the third round at 72nd overall.
After saying “I’m shocked; it’s certainly not a player that I anticipated seeing at that 72nd spot,” Keim added, “But I’ll defer to my partner in crime who has been teaching me about manifestation and that the universe is colliding. So I think maybe coach (Kingsbury) can comment on that.”
Kingsbury paused, and said, “Yeah ... it’s good karma, I think, but we definitely have some relationships there.”
That was in reference to University of Houston head coach Dana Holgersen, who “really got me into coaching,” and the school’s offensive line coach, Brandon Jones, who coached that position under Kingsbury at Texas Tech before moving on to Houston and coaching Jones.
He said, “So there's a lot of a good kind of synergy going there and we're so thrilled it worked out. We did not expect him to be there.”
Of course, that synergy doesn’t explain why Jones slid to where he did. With Simmons, the slip wasn’t as precipitous, but his availability was aided by a run of three quarterbacks in the first six picks Thursday night.
Friday, it was a run on wide receivers, running backs and safeties in the first 39 picks of the night. The eight receivers selected continued a run that began on Day 1 when six went in the first round. However, there was only one running back and no safeties selected in the first round. Those positions accounted for 12 of the first 39 picks Friday (seven safeties, five running backs), so the total was 20 of 39 including the wide receivers. Until Jones was taken by the Cardinals, there had been just one tackle selected Friday after there were six in Round 1.
Keim said he had Jones ranked in his top 30 and added, “I've already gotten a number of texts from other head coaches and general managers that were quite shocked that he was there as well.”
Keim didn’t reveal whether he had thanked any of them for not taking Jones.
But the pick was no-brainer for Keim. He said, “The biggest thing about it is, and I say this all the time, you have to trust your board. You have to build it the right way. This year, I felt extremely good about the way we built it (because of) my ability to spend more time watching tape to be able to slot these guys the right way.
“And I think that, when you trust your board, you trust the process, you have an opportunity for success. And today was fantastic for a number of reasons because No. 1, we got a player at the 72nd selection that we coveted. And it’s a guy that fits a positional need.”
At the Combine, Jones said he expected to go in the first round and added, “I think I’m one of the best tackles in this draft. Whatever team takes me is going to get a good ball player. This is a great tackle group. We have some great players in here. But I feel like my athletic ability stands out from most; just my true competitive nature. I’m competitive in everything I do. I want to win. That’s all I want to do, That’s what my focus is. To win ballgames.”
Jones had no idea why he slipped despite chatter that he didn’t test well at the Combine or needs work on technique, which in reality is true for many college players making the jump to the NFL.
“My agent did not know this was going to happen," Jones said. "We thought we were going to go (in rounds) one or two. As picks kept going, we're in conversation and he said he wasn't hearing anything from teams. He didn't hear anything negative, nothing bad about the Combine or anything about my character, so it just happens like that. The draft is crazy sometimes and I understand that and he prepared me for that.”
Jones then acknowledged, “But, I think it's a chip, it's just a chip. I have it on my shoulder for every team that passed on me. And thank you to the Arizona Cardinals for actually taking me because they're going to get a great ball player and I'm making it so those (other teams) will kick themselves in the butt throughout my career for missing on me.”