NFL draft: Three scenarios for Cardinals to trade out of first pick

McShay: Bosa is most complete player in NFL draft (1:25)

Todd McShay explains why he expects DE Nick Bosa to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Cardinals, and Mel Kiper Jr. explains why Arizona could trade down. (1:25)

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If the Arizona Cardinals keep the No. 1 pick in this spring's NFL draft, the choice could be easy.

Take Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa and don't look back.

"Maybe you just take him and you just make him fit," ESPN NFL Draft Insider Todd McShay said. "You make him work."

Cardinals general manager Steve Keim said in December that there were a "number" of players he's evaluated who "certainly warrant consideration."

"Whether you select the player, or you move on and you get the draft compensation from other teams, there are a lot of different ways that we can go," Keim said. "And to me, it's very exciting when you think about it."

So, what if the Cardinals don't stay at No. 1? What if they trade back to the middle of the top 10 or even the middle of the first round?

It may be an easier decision for the Cardinals to trade the first pick than most people think -- especially since the Cardinals already have their quarterback of the future in Josh Rosen.

"I don't think it's hard at all," one NFL personnel executive said. "I think it's really easy if you're not fired up with who's at the top. It's very attractive to move out if you don't feel that someone is there.

"If you already have a quarterback, then that changes everything. Then you're a lot more able to have some wiggle room with moving back. Of course, the more you move back, the more draft capital you're going to get from the team that's moving up to that spot. If there isn't that pass-rusher or beast of a D-lineman, or someone like that, you're more apt to trade out because there's going to be someone looking for a quarterback."

McShay explained the Cardinals could be looking at three different scenarios.

Who needs a QB?: One option would be to look for a trade partner who needs a quarterback. That could be, McShay pointed out, teams like the Oakland Raiders at No. 4, the New York Giants at No. 6, the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 7 or the Miami Dolphins at No. 13.

The quarterback is the be-all and end-all for NFL teams. And for general managers, their jobs may depend on whether they can find the next franchise quarterback. That'll help the Cardinals this year regardless of how good the quarterback class is.

"You know how this league is? Even if the quarterbacks aren't even that good, when guys are on the road in the fall, people take them to the shop and they make them good because they need to find quarterbacks," the personnel executive said. "They'll manufacture some of their traits even though they're not there because they need a guy and they need to save their job. There's some of that.

"If you already have a guy at quarterback, as opposed to the people that don't have them and their jobs are on the line, they're going to look through rose-colored glasses usually at the quarterbacks that are out there and are on the board because something is better than nothing in those cases. It buys people time, too. Quarterbacks buy people time."

There's precedent here. The last three times the No. 1 pick was traded, a quarterback was chosen and the team that moved the top pick ended up drafting a franchise-defining player, as well.

In 2016, the Tennessee Titans traded the first overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams, who picked quarterback Jared Goff. The Titans turned one of the two second-round picks they received into running back Derrick Henry and the 2017 first-round pick they received into wide receiver Corey Davis.

In 2004, the then-San Diego Chargers turned two of the three picks they received from the New York Giants in exchange for Eli Manning into kicker Nate Kaeding in the third round that year and linebacker Shawne Merriman, whom they drafted in the first round in 2005. The Chargers also got some guy named Philip Rivers.

In 2001, the Chargers also traded the first pick, sending it to the Atlanta Falcons, who drafted quarterback Michael Vick. In return, the Chargers received three picks, including the fifth overall that year, plus receiver Tim Dwight. San Diego picked future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson with that fifth pick.

Trade back a little: If the Cardinals trade back to the middle of the top 10, top names such as Bosa, Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary and Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen likely will be off the board.

An option for the Cardinals in that situation would be to start looking for specific holes to fill, such as cornerback.

In his most recent mock draft, McShay had the top four picks drafting defensive linemen or pass-rushers, making it plausible that the Cardinals could move back far enough to draft one while still getting a haul they want.

The value of gaining additional picks could outweigh a roster's need.

"I think everyone kind of has the same frame of thought," the executive said. "Even when you have a need and that need might be met with one of those top picks, you still have that allure of gaining chances to hit on multiple picks if you trade out."

By signing veteran Robert Alford last week, Arizona may have bought itself a little time in finding a long-term answer at cornerback opposite Patrick Peterson. He'll enter offseason practices as the presumptive starter opposite of Peterson, but the Cardinals may still look toward the future at corner if they move back a few spots.

McShay believes LSU cornerback Greedy Williams is "clearly the best cover corner" in the draft.

Since Arizona let Jerraud Powers walk in free agency after the 2015 season, that corner position opposite of Peterson has been a revolving door. Last season alone, Arizona went through three different starters. Two, Jamar Taylor and Bene Benwikere, were cut during the season. The third, David Amerson, finished the year as the starter and is still on the roster.

Trade back a lot: The last option McShay explained would be if the Cardinals moved back to the middle of the first round. There, drafting a receiver would make the most sense.

"I don't think there's a receiver in the top 10 picks," he said.

With receiver one of the Cardinals' top needs this offseason, should Arizona trade with, say, the Dolphins and end up 13th, then they could entertain the possibility of Oklahoma's Marquise Brown, McShay said. McShay added that's also the range where the Cardinals could start looking at offensive linemen such as Ole Miss' Greg Little, Alabama's Jonah Williams or Florida's Jawaan Taylor.

Moving that far back will decrease the Cardinals' chances of getting a player they singularly covet. But that's part of the inherent risk of trading back. When a team moves back, the approach becomes more about a group of players than an individual.

"I think it's all about targets on your board," the team executive said. "You'll kind of round them up and place those tags and kind of group who you think will be there, and if you feel good enough about it, then you move back," he said. "It's tough to say, 'We're going to move back and bank on this one guy being there.' That's damn risky."

But wherever they end up, McShay said the Cardinals will be in a position to draft players they need to fit specific holes.

"There's still a ton of talent," he said.