Draft Rewind – Arizona Cardinals

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With the NFL draft rapidly approaching, lets take a look back at each team’s hits and misses over the past 25 years.

FIVE BEST PICKS

1. Aeneas Williams, CB, Southern. 3rd round, #59 overall in 1991.
A recent Hall of Fame inductee, Williams was a class act on and off the field. Despite playing just one year in college, he had an immediate impact and tied for the league lead with six interceptions his rookie year. 8 Pro Bowls, 4 times an All-Pro, and a member of the 1990s All-Decade team. 1991 was a historically bad draft class; I could go on for a while listing bums that went ahead of Williams. Suffice to say there were a bunch of teams that regret passing on him.

2. Anquan Boldin, WR, Florida St. 2nd round, #54 overall in 2003.

Boldin exploded onto the scene with 217 yards in his first NFL game and finished his rookie year with 101 catches. Fast forward 11 years, and he is still ballin. One of the more underrated receivers in the game, Boldin was the fastest to catch 200 balls (34 games), 300 (47), 400 (67), 500 (80), and 600 (98). Three more years of solid production, and he is a HOFer when you factor in his blocking, Super Bowl ring, and leadership. The Cards actually drafted another WR before him in the first round (Bryant Johnson); other receivers that went before Boldin include Charles Rogers, Taylor Jacobs, and Bethel Johnson.

3. Darnell Dockett, DT, Florida St. 3rd round, #64 overall in 2004.
Arizona nailed their first three picks in 2004; they nabbed Larry Fitzgerald in the first (#3 overall) and Karlos Dansby is the second (#33). Dockett is one of the best DTs in football, and has made three Pro Bowls. Of the seven players drafted before him at his position, only Vince Wilfork is a better player.

4. Adrian Wilson, S, North Carolina St. 3rd round, # 64 overall in 2001.
Until recently, Wilson had been a very durable safety that did everything you could ask for on the football field. His career was epitomized by his versatility; he could run with WR in the slot; blitz; play the run effectively; ballhawk; and arrive at the ball carrier with bad intentions. A career-threatening Achilles tear in the last preseason game of 2013 wiped out his first year with the Patriots, and he was recently released when New England decided to go with free agent Patrick Chung. Rewinding back to the 2001 draft, none of the five safeties selected before him have made a Pro Bowl. Wilson is a five-time Pro Bowler and has also been named All-Pro three times.

5. Pat Tillman, S, Arizona St. 7th round, #226 overall in 1998.
Most people who do not follow the NFL know of Tillman as the player that quit football and became an Army Ranger, inspired by 9/11 (his fascinating life story is chronicled in the John Krakauer biography Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. I highly recommend this book). After being drafted by the Cardinals in ’98, Tillman steadily went from a fringe special teams player to a Pro Bowl level strong safety; highly regarded Sports Illustrated writer Paul Zimmerman had Tillman on his 2000 All-Pro team after an impressive year that saw him record 120 solo tackles. Seventh round draft picks make teams often, but rarely will they yield Pro-Bowl caliber talent.

FIVE WORST PICKS

1. Andre Wadsworth, DE, Florida St. 1st round, #3 overall in 1998.
An absolute terror at FSU, Wadsworth ran a 4.65 at 278 lbs, and jumped 38 inches at the combine. His rookie year was so-so, and knee problems had him out of the league by 2000. Charles Woodson went a pick later, and Pro-Bowlers Kyle Turley, Fred Taylor, Tra Thomas, Keith Brooking, and Takeo Spikes were also on the board.

2. Matt Leinart, QB, Southern Cal. 1st round, #10 overall in 2006.
Leinart would have likely been the first pick the year before (which turned out to be Alex Smith), but stayed at USC for his senior season. Actually set a rookie record with 405 yards passing in a loss, and finished 4-7 as a starter. After many chances to lock up the job, he lost it for good to Derek Anderson in 2010 and was out of the league three years later. Jay Cutler went the pick after Leinart.

3. Tom Knight, CB, Iowa. 1st round, #9 overall in 1997.
Played eight seasons in the league, and was an average DB. Warrick Dunn and Tony Gonzalez were the next two picks, and fellow corners Chad Scott, Chris Canty, Dexter McCleon, Sam Madison, and Mike Logan went on to have better careers from that draft.

4. Wendell Bryant, DT, Wisconsin. 1st round, #12 overall in 2002.
Crashed out of the league via the substance abuse policy after three years of nondescript play. That year was not a strong draft (Julius Peppers was the only great player in the top ten); the Cards passed on the likes of Ed Reed and Clinton Portis.

5. Bill Gramatica, K, South Florida. 4th round, #98 overall in 2001.
Gramatica is known for tearing his ACL celebrating a made FG. From 43 yards. In the second quarter. He was a below-average kicker; when he was drafted, his brother Martin was a Pro Bowl kicker for the Bucs. If his name was Bill Smith, he likely gets scooped up in the 7th round and avoids this dubious list. Drafted after him that year: Rudi Johnson, T.J. Houshmanzadeh, and Floyd Womach. Undrafted (and better) kickers Jay Feely, Lawrence Tynes, and Rob Bironas also entered the NFL that spring.

Info courtesy of of pro-football-reference.com

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