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"Steve has been an absolutely key component to our success," says Arizona general manager Rod Graves, who has spent the last six years methodically reshaping one of the NFL’s more underrated player-evaluation operations. "We’ve worked together very closely to develop the system that we have in place, and I can’t say enough about his contribution to what we’ve built."
Quietly, the Cards have enjoyed as much drafting success in recent years as any team in the league. Before last April’s draft, Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune did a study on draft success which found that over the previous five years – since Graves had taken charge of Arizona’s draft – 18 of 33 players picked by the Cardinals had become NFL starters, a league high.
With his thick build and clean-shaven head, Keim is an animated figure in pre-draft meetings and in the war room, never more so than when Wilson – the former Wolfpack safety to whom he had remained close, and now an established NFL star – slipped into the third round in 2001.
"We had such a high grade on him, and we never anticipated he’d be there," Keim recalls. "Some of us had recommended taking him in the second round, and when he was still there in the third my anxiety level was going through the roof. My bald head was turning the shade of an apple, and I’m thinking, ‘There’s no way this big, fast, explosive safety is gonna be there with the 64th pick.’ I couldn’t even think straight, and when our turn came, we couldn’t hand in the card fast enough."
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