With two consecutive division titles the Arizona Cardinals are beginning to make themselves at home in the latter part of round one in the annual NFL Draft. The Cardinals look like they are on track to be one of the leagues perennial playoff contenders for the next few seasons. The biggest issue facing the team is the retirement of Kurt Warner and the loss of several defensive leaders. The Cardinals were without a veteran presence at quarterback following Warner’s retirement so they signed Derek Anderson. He along with Matt Leinart, the disappointing former top ten selection, will battle for the starting job though neither is as good as Warner. Karlos Dansby and Antrel Rolle left for greener pastures early in free agency but the Cardinals hope they replaced Rolle by making a trade for Kerry Rhodes. Still, Dansby was their best front seven player for the last several years and replacing him will be a difficult task. Brent Foshee breaks down the Cardinals draft.
Defensive tackle Dan Williams was expected to be among the first 15 players drafted so Arizona was all too happy to stop his free fall at pick 26. Williams is a massive wide bodied nose tackle that will be expected to occupy multiple blockers in order to free up the teams middle linebackers. Not much of a pass rush threat, Williams makes his living shutting down the run by constantly fighting through blocks. Williams was a virtual unknown heading into the season and many scouts questioned his dedication but he represents great value for a team that clearly needs to reinvest in its defensive front seven.
Arizona struck gold again in the second round and executed a wise trade to move up several slots then draft TCU linebacker Darryl Washington. Washington was rated by many as a strong side linebacker but projects very similarly to Karlos Dansby, which should put him in the middle of the Cardinals defense. Equally adept at stopping the run and playing in pass coverage, Washington was amongst the fastest linebackers available this year. With a huge need that had to be addressed and extra selections from the Anquan Boldin trade, one has to be impressed with this move by the Cardinals. Washington should be a starter from day one as a rookie.
A standout Senior Bowl helped push Andre Roberts into the early rounds on many teams’ draft boards. Roberts was hardly a single week wonder in Mobile and consistently put up big numbers throughout his collegiate career. While he is on the small side for a receiver Roberts is an effective route runner that quickly accelerates down the field and has a chance to be a productive 3rd/4th receiver for the Cardinals. For a team that already has one of the best receivers in the game as well as two young up and comers at the position, Roberts is a nice value as a developmental player that can contribute early in his career.
Three years from now we may all be calling O’Brien Schofield the best pick in this draft. A ferocious pass rusher at defensive end for Wisconsin, Schofield projected to outside linebacker before he suffered a serious knee injury during the Senior Bowl. Schofield is an athletic player who has the speed, instincts, and consistency to rush the passer, drop into coverage, or pursue running backs down the field. He isn’t the strongest player and must be quicker getting off blocks. Should he maintain his speed after the injury heals he will push for a starting position. If he improves his game beyond Schofield could be a great linebacker for the Cardinals for years to come. And if we aren’t listing him among the best players from this draft class three years from now it won’t matter since Schofield was a 4th round pick.
With uncertainty surrounding the Cardinals quarterback position it made perfect sense for the team to invest in a developmental prospect; enter John Skelton.
Skelton had the strongest arm in the 2010 class. He’s built like a classic pocket passer and can throw the deep play action pass Ken Wisenhunt likes to incorporate in his offense. With Matt Leinart likely on his last legs and Derek Anderson possibly a stop gap player, Skelton could be the quarterback of the future for the Cardinals. In order to get there he will need to improve his mechanics and become a more accurate passer. Spending a year or two holding the clip board should help familiarize him with the offense.
Jorrick Calvin was a highly thought of prospect heading into his senior season, which was ultimately derailed by the NCAA. An excellent value this late in the draft, Calvin is a physical and aggressive cornerback that has a nice burst and positions himself to make plays on the ball. Calvin must get his football feet back underneath him and must do so making the leap from Troy State to the NFL, no small feat. Still the Cardinals must be pleased to find yet another developmental prospect that offers the potential to contribute this late in the draft.
Arizona used its last selection on Stanford tight end Jim Dray. A classic blocking tight end, Dray makes plays in the passing game, though they are rarely spectacular. He catch’s passes just like he blocks, with a blue collar and workmanlike mentality that gets the job done. For a team needy at the tight end position, Dray represents great value in the last round of the draft.
Grade: (B) I’m not as thrilled about the Dan Williams pickup as other’s are, although he undeniably represented great value at 26. I wonder if 2009 was the year Williams really figured it out or the year he knew he was going to get paid. Darryl Washington was great value and will strengthen the teams front seven. The Cardinals took several developmental prospects in the mid rounds and hope at least one of them pays off. If that happens this could be a great draft for a team that appears in danger of losing the top spot in the division to San Francisco, a team that seems to be on the upswing.