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Arizona Cardinals

Columnists: David Allison


Draft Review

“We will draft the best available athlete at each spot in this years draft, bank on it.”
-Dennis Green

After so many years of Calvin Pace, Thomas Jones, and Tom Knight, the Cardinals finally put together a great draft. They selected players that not only provided a great value, but also filled needs, which is one hell of a combination. As with any draft, you can look back and say that they should’ve taken so and so at that spot, but when it comes to drafts, this one is really about as good as you could wish for. These players will not only help build for the future, they will help now.

But, for all the accolades that this draft has received, it did fail to address a few major weaknesses that could plague this team in 2004. But before I get to those, let’s take a look at what the Cardinals did get done.

Round 1
Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pittsburgh

Everyone, including the Jaguars and Coach Green knew this kid was special. The Jaguars sign was that they reportedly attempted to trade their entire draft in order to trade up with the Raiders and select Fitz. Dennis Green knew first hand that this kid was special. Green has a relationship with Larry’s father, Larry Sr. that goes back many years. Legend has it that Green would not allow any other media member than Larry Sr. to interview him when Dennis was in Minnesota. Green loved Larry Sr. so much that he hired his kid, Larry Jr., to be the ball boy for the Vikings. Fitzgerald saw great receivers like Randy Moss and Cris Carter everyday, and began to take note.

Larry Fitzgerald dominated high school, and then in his second year of college at Pittsburgh, tore up the NCAA’s with 21 touchdowns. His skills have been likened to Cris Carter, and I think that that is an apt comparison, except for Larry is bigger and stronger. Fitzgerald is the best route runner in the draft, and could be one of the best in the pros very quickly. He seems to catch everything thrown his way also. The only problem that he could have in the pros is getting out of the break. He should gain that ability rather fast with some weight room training and speed drills.

This is a great pick because it gave the Cardinals the best player in the draft at the #3 spot. Fitzgerald will contribute right away, and has all of the makings to be the best player to ever don the red and white.


Round 2
Karlos Dansby, OLB, Auburn

Anytime you get the best linebacker in the draft outside of Round 1, it is quite a coup. Dansby was rated ahead of DJ Williams and Jon Vilma on the Cardinals board, and it is justified.

Dansby has incredible size at 6-5 251 lbs., and presents quite a pass rushing presence off the edge. He also has the size and speed to match up with nearly any tight end that a team would throw our way. And finally, he does all this with his terrific size, which will make him a great run stuffer in this league.

Karlos should start right away for the Cardinals at the strong side linebacker position, and could develop into a Pro-Bowl player in a very short time.


Round 3
Darnell Dockett, UT, Florida St.

You will first notice that I did not label him a “DT,” and there is reason for this. Dockett is what the Cardinals call an “under tackle,” and has one job, that being to collapse the pocket. A perfect example of what Dockett could develop into would be the Cowboys’ La’Roi Glover. They both have the ability to penetrate into the pocket and get to the quarterback, which is something the Cardinals sorely need.

Dockett was a 1st rounder by some “Draft Experts” but fell due to character issues. But who cares? He is the ACC’s all-time leader in tackles for loss, and will take over Wendell Bryant’s spot right away.


Round 4
Alex Stepanovich, C, Ohio St.

I must say that when this pick was made, I was about to destroy something. How could we take some center we don’t need, while a top-flight corner we do need, Will Poole is still on the board???

But, I soon came to my senses and saw the Cardinals logic. Stepanovich is an incredibly touch, blue collar guy, who could sneak into a starting role. This guy is like a bull, but his stock fell a bit due to the fact that he played guard as a senior. But thankfully, that did not deter the Cardinals from taking this player.

And 3rd rounder on most boards, Stepanovich is a great pick, a great value, and fills a need. He could either come in or push Pete Kendall back to guard, or Alex could play guard himself.


Round 5
Antonio Smith, DE, Oklahoma St.

We all saw the Pro Football Talk mock drafts that had this guy in the first round, which is why this pick does intrigue me. This is a guy who comes in at about 6-4 275 lbs., and has experience at tackle and end. He also has a great work ethic and excellent speed. He reminds me a lot of last year’s Cardinals 5th rounder, Kenny King.

Smith is a project who could look like a great pick in a few years, especially under new Defensive Line Coach Deek. He is the type of player though, who needs to have a strong camp though because there are a lot of players that offer the same type of skills (Wendell Bryant, Kenny King, Darnell Dockett…).

But saying all of this, Antonio could turn out to be a play in about 3 years. Because of the time needed to develop though, it is far too early to grade this pick.


Round 6

Nick Leckey, C, Kansas St.

How can you not love this kid? He seems to exemplify everything that we love about football. A tough, hard worker type, who always gives it his all. He’s the undersized under dog that lives in all of us, and he should get a chance to contribute for the Cardinals.

With Cameron Spikes and the loser of the Pete Kendall/Alex Stepanovich battle his only competition for the right guard spot, Leckey could contribute a lot sooner than most people think.

I really like this pick, and it provides a tremendous value.


Round 7
John Navarre, QB, Michigan

This is actually my favorite pick of the draft. A guy that I have been preaching about for months, Navarre is a player worth taking a flyer on. He has great size at 6-6, 250 lbs., and also has a cannon attached to his shoulder.

His accuracy and mobility are the two main things that stand out about this guy negatively. But, accuracy can be created through repetition, which he will get plenty of as the backup quarterback. And mobility can be achieved through speed drills, and practice throwing the ball on the run.

Navarre is the type of pick that could make Green out to be a genius in a few years. And since every team needs two good quarterbacks, the Cardinals are ahead of the game with three.


Overall Grade

A-

This grade is so simply because there was tremendous value achieved in this draft. The only reason it isn’t higher is that I believe there were better players who could help right away in rounds four and five that we did not pick up. But other than that, this draft was optimal.

Thank you Coach Green and Mr. Graves!


But even with that draft, there are still some areas that need to be addressed after June 1st for the Cardinals to be a surprise team in 2004.

Below is a list of the needs that the Cardinals still have after the draft.

• Cornerback

It still shocks me that this need was not filled in the draft. The Cardinals attempted to trade up into the tail end of Round 1 to pick Chris Gamble, but the 49ers wanted a 4th rounder and the Cardinals were only willing to give up a 5th. All of the Cardinals corners are undersized, and when they go up against these new, big receivers that seem to be inhabiting not only our team, but the whole league, our corners could have a problem.

• Nose Tackle

This is another area that the Cardinals really needed help with. In the new under scheme that Coach Green has brought in, a big, run stuffing, Ted Washington type tackle is needed to balance out the quicker, penetrating under tackle. There were players available, and still the Cardinals decided to go elsewhere.

• Right Offensive Tackle

Anthony Clement has been a solid starter for us, but still, we could’ve used a player to push him, and to add depth behind he and LJ Shelton. Behind those two, only Reggie Wells, a 6th rounder from last year, and Leonard Davis remain. So the interior offensive line was filled, while the outside still needs a bit of help.






















©2004
Sideline Scouting Services

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