The NFL Draft can be nerve-wracking, but when it works out and you’re able to draft the player you covet like Isaiah Simmons, that makes a general manager happy. So it was Thursday evening when the Cardinals selected the Clemson do-everything defender with the eighth pick in the first round.
And general manager Steve Keim was beaming when he talked to the media about the organization's choice.
“Just the way we stack the board, he was obviously one of the few players that we considered elite," Keim said. "So, for a long time, those top couple on your board, I didn't think that there was any chance that he was going to be there at our selection. But as you continue to talk to other NFL people and then you start to see some more media reports, I started to realize it could be a real possibility and as the pick approached, the anticipation, the excitement, the nervousness; it was all there.”
Keim wouldn’t reveal where Simmons ranked on the team’s board, but did admit he was ine the top 5. He also acknowledged that the board fell just right with three quarterbacks selected within the first six picks.
That nervousness was there until Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon's Justin Herbert went with the fifth and sixth picks to the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively, leaving just the Carolina Panthers in front of the Cardinals. And Carolina did what most everyone expected, upgrading their defensive line with Auburn's Derrick Brown.
Asked how crucial it was for the quarterbacks not to slip, Keim said, “Generally when it gets to be about three or four days before the draft, I don't think I sleep much because my mind is constantly working, thinking about where we're picking, who's going to be there, how it's going to fall. And in this draft that was the play as I sat and worked different potential selections, especially with the seven (picks) ahead of us.
“That was the key. It was for the quarterbacks going to go or is there going to be a run on three or four offensive tackles? And early on it was quarterbacks as we got closer to the draft, the misinformation got out there, and it became the tackles. So either way, I just needed a run on either tackles or quarterbacks to go to get him.”
And now, Keim and the coaches will smile watching Simmons run and make plays on what they hope will be an a much improved defense.