Adam Schefter reports that Steve Keim is among Seattle's ten general manager candidates. This is a quick and dirty attempt to review his performance in Arizona.
Organization: Arizona Cardinals
Position(s): Player Personnel Director (May 2008), College Scouting Director (June 2006), Regional Scout (1999)
Curious that perhaps the most defamed team in the NFC, bad from when the Lions and Rams were good, is now auditioning personnel for promotion to other teams. Thus is the fickle world of the NFL. I don't like it, and I don't like Keim's boss Rod Graves. Graves has served with Arizona since 1997, and few franchises in any sport can claim a longer period of losing, instability and apathy from their fans. But, by all means, let's break off a piece of that talent factory.
Keim scouted the east for Arizona, and, undoubtedly, the southeast specifically. Let us first look at the players we can be most confident Keim had a hand in scouting. I singled out picks made from Keim's particular scouting area, and listed the round, overall pick, name and college.
1) 7 Thomas Jones RB Virginia
2) 41 Raynoch Thompson OLB Tennessee
3) 71 Darwin Walker DT Tennessee
Jones is still around but was a huge bust for Arizona. He split time with Michael Pittman, never averaged more than 3.7 yards per carry and was traded before the end of his rookie contract.
Raynoch Thompson sort of speaks for himself: Who is Raynoch Thompson? He was an undersized Vol linebacker that was out of the league by 2004. He is still only 32, meaning he was cut in his prime.
Darwin Walker played for that same undefeated Tennessee team as Thompson. He didn't play for the Cardinals, who cut him before a single start and after only one regular season game. Walker was claimed by the Eagles off waivers and became a productive five-year starter for some stout Eagles defenses.
2) 54 Michael Stone DB Memphis
3) 64 Adrian Wilson DB North Carolina State
4) 98 Bill Gramatica K South Florida
4) 123 Marcus Bell DT Memphis
Stone never broke through with the Cardinals and is now out of the league.
Adrian Wilson is an unconditional success. Wilson and Keim share an alma mater. He is now considered among the best safeties in the NFL. This is exploiting a hometown connection to pick an absolute steal in the third. Too bad, I guess, that NC State is hardly a talent factory.
Kicker in the fourth. Kicker in the fourth. Kicker in the fourth.
Marcus Bell is out of the league after three seasons with Arizona and three seasons with Detroit.
2) 49 Levar Fisher LB North Carolina State
Fisher is the only member of the 2002 class we can be pretty sure Keim had a significant say in drafting. Fisher was a standout at NC State, but lost his career to knee injuries. Fisher has knee problems in college, so this failure falls on Keim.
1) 17 Bryant Johnson WR Penn State
1) 18 Calvin Pace DE Wake Forest
2) 54 Anquan Boldin WR Florida State
Johnson has been a disappointment since entering the league. He was surpassed by Boldin in their respective rookie seasons and is now a minor player for the Detroit Lions.
Arizona selected Pace with its next pick and he was a bust before Ken Whisenhunt switched him to outside linebacker in 2007. No credit is given Keim.
Boldin was a win for all involved, if, perhaps, a crapshoot win. Boldin was a quarterback and wide receiver at Florida State that suffered serious knee injuries in college and then ran a 4.71 forty. I respect Keim for seeing the potential in Boldin, but I do not think anyone expected Boldin to be so good. His health has never improved and he still regularly misses time because of injury.
2) 33 Karlos Dansby OLB Auburn
3) 64 Darnell Dockett DT Florida State
Maybe this is Keim picking up speed and proving his potential. Dansby has been solid since being signed and still starts for Arizona. Of course, that's to be expected from a linebacker selected with the first pick of the second round.
Dockett has been a starter since his rookie season and a lynchpin on the Cardinals ever-in-flux defensive line. Over the past three seasons, he's been one of the best defensive linemen in football. He was considered a first-round talent, but also an underachiever and a major risk because of his battles with coaches, troubles with the law, and, specifically, his conviction for misdemeanor theft.
1) 8 Antrel Rolle DB Miami (Florida)
3) 75 Eric Green DB Virginia Tech
3) 95 Darryl Blackstock LB Virginia
4) 111 Elton Brown G Virginia
Rolle is a corner bust since shifted to safety. He has played decent at safety, but credit for that goes to the person who made the move: Whisenhunt.
Green was an intermittent starter, mostly between injuries, that is now out of the league.
Blackstock is now out of the league. He played sparingly for Arizona before being signed by the Bengals -- another well run organization.
Brown was a seldom starter for the often very bad Cardinals offensive line that is now playing in the USFL.
3) 72 Leonard Pope TE Georgia
6) 177 Jonathan Lewis DT Virginia Tech
Pope is a situational tight end and among the worst players at his position in the NFL.
Lewis participated in four games in 2006 and never again played in the NFL.
At this point, Keim was promoted to Director of College Scouting and can be debited or credited for the Cardinals entire draft class.
1 5 Levi Brown OT Penn State
2 33 Alan Branch DT Michigan
3 69 Buster Davis LB Florida State
5 142 Steve Breaston WR Michigan
7 215 Ben Patrick TE Delaware
Brown is a middling power right tackle that isn't significantly better than Ray Willis. Bust.
Branch is a pretty typical Keim pick: Highly touted prospect, thought of as a top ten pick before a nasty run of belligerence and bad effort knocked him off most draft boards. Branch is three years into his professional career, still every bit the monster he was in college, and still a rotational player buried on the Cardinals depth chart.
Buster Davis was a terrible pick when made. Davis was an undersized, see: 5'9", linebacker completely unfit for Whisenhunt's preferred 3-4 alignment. He was cut before his rookie season, has since bounced around and is now out of the league.
Breaston was a return monster at Michigan State that has developed into a very good slot receiver. Keim must be credited for, first, securing a good returner in the sixth, and moreover, seeing that Breaston was turning the corner as a receiver. A big win for Keim, on a pick I was very skeptical about.
Patrick is the Cardinals starting tight end, but largely an afterthought in the team's offense. Patrick was a toolsy sleeper that's produced some, but is mostly a starter by default, and still more H-back than tight end.
1) 16 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie CB Tennessee State
2) 50 Calais Campbell DE Miami (Fla.)
3) 81 Early Doucet WR Louisiana State
4) 116 Kenny Iwebema DE Iowa
5) 149 Tim Hightower RB Richmond
6) 185 Chris Harrington LB Texas A&M
7) 225 Brandon Keith T Northern Iowa
This is the draft that made Keim a general manager candidate and his fingerprints are all over it. DRC was a tools messiah that shot up boards during the pre-draft process. He never faced top competition in college, and many, including myself, questioned his ability to cover NFL talent. Well, that question is yet unanswered. Cromartie certainly looks amazing-sometimes, but he is also regularly criticized for being out of position, burned and, well, not being able to cover NFL talent. The Cardinals, noteworthy in this case, are the second worst team in the NFL at defending #1 receivers and were 27th in 2008. DRC is the unchallenged #1 corner in Arizona. He is only 23, and cover skills are slow to grow. Best to give this pick an "Incomplete". It's possible DRC puts it together and taps into his tremendous talent, and it's possible his flashy play hides a bad player.
Campbell was a slamdunk and is proving so in his second season. He is toolsy, growing into those tools, scheme correct and straight beastly.
I liked the Doucet pick at the time and still think he has a bright future. It's tough to measure his performance because he is buried on the Cardinals depth chart. Doucet suffered a lot of injuries in college and that might have sapped his speed.
Iwebama has proven to be a solid member of a good defensive line rotation. He was, and this will shock everyone that's read this far, a toolsy player that was knocked down boards because injury and off-field problems. His performance declined his senior season, something that hurt Campbell and Doucet's stock, too.
Hightower has proven himself a valuable receiver, but, then, who defends Tim Hightower when Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston are on the field. He has since been de-emphasized in favor of Chris Wells. Hightower is a modest success.
Harrington is now a Jaguar.
Keith is still on Arizona's roster and has played in one game this season.
It's a little too early to make much of the 2009 draft, but it further supports the basic Keim profile. In brief: His preferred scouting area is the American South East. He likes toolsy players and does not bat a lash at character concerns. Keim swings for the fences and has a high whiff rate. The 2008 draft has produced solid players, but let's be clear: The Cardinals are finishing their third decade of terrible football. They made the Super Bowl last season, but were only 9-7 in the regular season. The team changed when it signed Ken Whisenhunt, and its recent success has been built off smart leadership, a weak division, years and years of early round picks, and Kurt Warner. Warner has recovered from a mid-career funk to make a case for the Hall of Fame. That's mighty lucky. Warner joined the Cardinals in 2005 and I do not see how Keim could be credited with his signing.
Maybe he interviews well. Maybe his most recent drafts, his most successful drafts, speak more clearly of his own abilities and potential, but I don't like his method, I am not impressed with his results and I don't want to sign a person that's been an integral part of one of the worst run franchises in sports history. For every one diamond in the rough, there's acres and acres more rough. And, right or wrong, executives must be judged both by the decisions they make and the company they keep.