2017 Is “The Year Of The Draft” For Arizona Pro Franchises

Get ready for some groundbreaking analysis and draft news: The draft is crucial to a pro team’s success.

Cardinals’ general manager Steve Keim called it the “lifeblood” of an organization. Each draft is important, and a swing and a miss, or a lottery not going their way, can handcuff and crush, a franchise’s momentum.

This particular year is especially crucial for each pro franchise in Arizona for various reasons. It seems as though each team is at their own respective crossroads and success or failure in the draft could make or break a current team’s leadership plans. The next two months could affect the foreseeable future for all four franchises. 

Arizona Cardinals
NFL Draft: April 27th-29th

The Arizona Cardinals are just one day away from selecting the next crop of the Bird Gang, and they’re in a seemingly odd place: walking a tightrope between adding weapons to the current roster looking to make a Super Bowl run and replenishing the depth and adding “projects” to make sure the cupboard isn’t bare for years to come.

The Cards will want to address successors for Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald as well as the linebacking corps and secondary, where they have brought in veterans Antoine Bethea and Karlos Dansby, who are certainly still productive but moving toward the twilights of their careers.

Everyone remembers the dark ages between Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer, a time that forced the Cardinals to make moves in the front office and fire Ken Whisenhunt. Finding the next gunslinger to get the ball to David Johnson, John Brown and J.J. Nelson, no matter what round, will be the priority.

Arizona Diamondbacks
MLB Draft: June 12th

This draft will be crucial for the Diamondbacks front office regime in their first draft with the club. The previous group hit a home run in their first year, drafting Dansby Swanson… but then they traded him to the Atlanta Braves. The Diamondbacks hold pick #7 in this year’s draft, and it’s been a mixed bag for the franchise in the first round, whether it be missing on prospects or trading them before they get to the hit their prime – the case for Swanson, pitcher Touki Toussaint and Trevor Bauer. No one headlines this group quite like Max Scherzer, who was the 2006 selection and has developed into one of the world’s best pitchers for the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals. A.J Pollock and Justin Upton are the only first round selections to reach an All-Star Game with the Snakes. Archie Bradley has also developed into a nice piece in the bullpen for Arizona.

Hazen was a part of a Boston group that drafted Andrew Benitendi, Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr. and recognized Xander Bogaerts as a rising star and signed him to a free agent contract. They will hope to do the same with the Diamondbacks and help replenish a minor league system that is regarded as one of the thinner systems in the league.

Phoenix Suns
NBA Draft: June 22nd 
NBA Lottery: May 16th

In the NBA, you don’t want to be in “No Man’s Land” – not good enough to be a top-five seed and making runs at the NBA title, and not bad enough to pick high in the lottery to get the game-changers. There also is some luck involved, too. The ping pong balls have to bounce your way, something that hasn’t happened in the past for the Suns (remember Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?). It also comes down to the talent pool. The Suns were fortunate to come away with the fifth pick in 2013, a historically thin draft, and selected Alex Len. In this case, 2017 is one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, and the Suns will have a chance to bring in Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, De’Aaron Fox or Jayson Tatum (among others). Having the second-best odds for nabbing the top pick will help them find the piece to pair with Devin Booker and Eric Bledsoe will help expedite the Suns’ rebuild.

Arizona Coyotes
NHL Draft: June 23rd
NHL Lottery: April 29

The Arizona Coyotes were sitting in pretty good shape leading up to the 2015 draft. They had the second-worst record in the league (i.e. second most ping pong balls) and two game-changing prospects in Connor McDavid and Jeff Eichel leading the draft class. You could feel the buzz leading up to the lottery in the state. Arizona could be becoming a hockey town.

And then they got the third pick.

No McDavid. No Eichel. The state had the air sucked out of it like a dementor just flew by.

Fast forward to 2017, and the Coyotes have a fun, youthful team. Max Domi, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Alex Goligoski, Tobias Rider and Christian Dvorak all bring a lot to the table and have plenty of room to develop as young contributors. It is tough enough to bring in top free agents when the team is consistently rumored to be relocating, so the bulk of the talent acquisition comes through the draft. The Coyotes are tied for the third-best odds to receive the top pick and have the best odds to receive the sixth pick. Second-year general manager John Chayka is known for his innovation, and maybe he can help stabilize the roster and the franchise by doing just that when the Coyotes are on the clock.