Cardinals move up 9 spots to draft DB Budda Baker
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona Cardinals kept their attention on the defense on Friday, trading up nine spots in the second round to select safety Budda Baker of Washington.
The comparisons to Tyrann Mathieu were immediate.
Mathieu himself tweeted “Young Savage.”
Baker is muscular, instinctive, quick, 5-foot-10 and 192 pounds.
“Along the lines of Tyrann Mathieu, I feel like I can bring versatility,” Baker said in a conference call. “I feel like I can play strong safety, corner, nickel. I’ve shown a lot of stuff on film. I’m able to read the quarterback, make certain tackles, open-field tackles and all that type of stuff. I feel like you guys are getting a great athlete.”
In the third round, Arizona chose wide receiver Chad Williams of Grambling State.
General manager Steve Keim said Baker may not quite have the football instincts and ball skills of Mathieu, but he’s a little bigger and quite a bit faster.
“A guy that jumped off the tape at us,” Keim said. “A tremendous football player, has everything we want in terms of passion, football character and like we’ve talked about over and over a hybrid player who has the ability to play multiple positions.”
The selection adds depth to a position depleted by the loss of safeties Tony Jefferson and D.J. Swearinger to free agency. And safeties are critical in Arizona’s defensive scheme.
It’s the second time in as many selections that Arizona has gone for defensive versatility.
The Cardinals’ first-round pick, Haason Reddick, picked at No. 13, can play inside or outside.
Earlier Friday, Reddick was introduced at a news conference at Cardinals headquarters and called Arizona “heaven on earth.”
It was a long time between picks for Arizona on Friday because, in a deal with Carolina, the Cardinals traded down 22 places in the third round — from 77 to 98, picking up a fourth-round pick in the process after losing one in the deal that landed Baker.
The third round has been kind to the Cardinals in recent years — Mathieu, David Johnson, John Brown.
This time, Arizona used its late, late third-round pick to select Williams, a 6-foot-1, 204-pound wide receiver.
“A guy that a lot of people don’t know about,” Keim said. “It probably wouldn’t be an Arizona draft if we didn’t take a small-school guy, particularly in the third round.”
Keim called Williams “big, fast, physical — has all the tools to be a really good player.”
Arians called him “another alpha-type guy that really has a chance to jump in right away.”
The Cardinals weren’t driven away by an off-the-field problem that Williams had that led to his suspension for the opener last season after his arrest on marijuana and firearms possession.
“Wrong place, wrong time,” Keim said of the circumstances that led to the arrest.
Keim said the charges were dropped and he had no concerns, calling Williams “a good kid.”
Williams said he just told the truth when he was asked by NFL teams about the incident
In his first game after the suspension, Williams caught 13 passes for 152 yards against the University of Arizona.
In the trade with Chicago that landed Baker, the Cardinals moved from the 45th overall to 36th to draft Baker. To do that, they gave the Bears their second-round pick (No. 45), fourth-round pick (No. 119) and sixth-round pick (No. 197). Chicago also gets Arizona’s fourth-round pick next year.
As part of the deal, the Cardinals get the Bears’ seventh-round pick this year (No. 221).
Baker, in his call to reporters, talked about his mother, Michelle, whom he described as a cancer survivor who is fighting Crohn’s disease and diabetes. When he hears players complain, he said, he gets angry because he believes that work is nothing compared with what his mother goes through.
“She is the rock in the family, the foundation,” Baker said. “She’s what makes everything tick.”
Baker said she was so happy to see her son stay out West.
“She was definitely crying,” he said.
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