A day after drafting one of the higher-rated guards to come along in decades, the Cardinals landed two more players Friday that at least once were viewed as potential first-round picks.
“Oh, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that, talent-wise,” head coach Bruce Arians said.
Kevin Minter, a hard-hitting inside linebacker from LSU, was projected as a mid to late first-rounder, and Arizona traded down seven spots in the second round, with the No. 45 pick, to get him.
Then in the third round, the Cardinals rolled the dice on Minter’s former LSU teammate, defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, with the 69th overall selection. Before he was booted off the team in August by Tigers coach Les Miles for repeated marijuana use, the “Honey Badger” was viewed as a can’t miss, future first-round pick.
“We feel like we got two dynamic players on the defensive side of the ball,” Arians said.
Minter could have gone as high as No. 20 to the Bears, while other draftniks had him going to the Ravens at No. 32.
“It’s every kid’s dream to go in the first round,” Minter said, “but obviously that didn’t happen. But I couldn’t have picked a better organization to be at regardless. It’s Arizona. I’m in Phoenix. It’s crazy. I’m at a loss for words right now.”
With suspended linebacker Daryl Washington due to miss the first month of the season, Minter will challenge for a starting spot right away, Arians confirmed. Mathieu can play anywhere in the secondary, but Arians said he will initially be groomed as a free safety and be used on punt returns, perhaps alongside his mentor, former LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson.
Peterson obviously liked both of the Cardinals’ selections on Friday.
“I think Minter was an excellent pick,” Peterson said. “I played with him for a year as well as I did with Tyrann. He’s a hard worker and definitely one of the guys that’s going to stuff up the hole. He’s a guy that loves contact and loves that nature of the game. I’m happy we got another LSU guy at the linebacker position. I definitely think that’s going to make us better as a defense.
Cardinals get big upside in 2nd and 3rd rounds of the NFL draft
Arizona Republic | Apr 28