Draft week is upon us in the National Football League. The most talked about happening in the sports world will unfold over a three-day period in New York this weekend.
Once again, the Arizona Cardinals find themselves drafting in the top ten. This year's seventh overall selection marks the 16th time in their 26 drafts that they're selecting in the top ten. And yes, if you're wondering, that's the most in the league since 1988.
There have been some forgettable top ten selections made by the Cardinals, as my colleague Dave Dulberg has pointed out. But the Cards deserve some credit as well -- they've made some pretty good top ten picks too.
Here's my list of the top 5 best Cardinals' top ten draft picks of all-time (say that five times fast!)
5. Eric Hill (No. 10 in the 1989 Draft) - LB, LSU
Hill was part of the Cardinals' second draft class in 1989, just one year after the team relocated from St. Louis. The 6-foot-2, 258-pound linebacker had a nose for the football and was one of the most productive tacklers ever to wear Cardinal red.
Hill started 14 games as a rookie and was a stalwart in the middle of the Phoenix/Arizona defense for nine seasons. Twice Hill had more than 100 tackles in a season.
Hill started 128 of a possible 144 games in a Cardinals uniform, forcing seven fumbles and recovered four. On Opening Day 1991, he scored the first touchdown of the season on an 85-yard fumble return in a 24-14 win over the Los Angeles Rams.
4. Eric Swann (No. 6 in the 1991 Draft) - DT, Wake Technical CC
Swann never played college football at the Division I level. He was on his way to North Carolina State but couldn't qualify academically. He played at Wake Technical Community College before moving on to the Bay State Titans, a semi-pro team in Massachusetts that paid him five dollars an hour.
Swann's strange football journey didn't scare off the Cardinals, who took him sixth overall. The raw prospect started three games as a rookie and produced four quarterback sacks -- the third-most on the team.
The 6-foot-5, 307-pound defensive tackle was often injured during his career, but was very productive when healthy. He racked up 45.5 sacks in 84 career games as a Cardinal, including a career-high 8.5 in 1995. He's fifth in team history in that category.
Swann would represent the Cardinals at the Pro Bowl following the 1995 and 1996 seasons.
3. Simeon Rice (No. 3 in the 1996 Draft) - DE, Illinois
Few players the Cardinals have ever drafted have come to town with as much swagger as the sack specialist from Illinois. The swagger was warranted -- Rice left school as a two-time All-American and the all-time Big Ten leader in sacks.
Rice made an immediate impact, registering 12.5 sacks in his rookie season in 1996. In 1998, he had 10 more and helped the Cardinals win a playoff game for the first time since 1947. The following year Rice ranked second in the league with a career-high 16.5 sacks, forced five fumbles and represented the Cardinals at the Pro Bowl for the first and only time.
Yes, Rice made a lot of waves on his way out of town when he referred to Phoenix as "the armpit" of the NFL -- a comment he later labeled a bargaining ploy -- but there's no denying what he did while he was here.
2. Patrick Peterson (No. 5 in the 2011 Draft) - CB/PR, LSU
Two years, two Pro Bowl appearances at two different positions -- a pretty impressive feat for anyone.
Peterson electrified the NFL as a rookie, returning four punts for touchdowns, including a 99-yarder in overtime to beat the St. Louis Rams.
In his second year, Peterson wasn't able to repeat his punt return prowess, but made great strides at his primary position, becoming one of the best cornerbacks in the league. His seven interceptions were the third-most in the league.
He's only two years into his pro career, but the sky is the limit for Peterson in Arizona.
1. Larry Fitzgerald (No. 3 in the 2004 Draft) - WR, Pittsburgh
Despite picking Anquan Boldin in the second round of the 2003 draft, the Cardinals went wide receiver with their first round selection a year later, and they've reaped the rewards ever since.
Fitzgerald caught 58 passes for 780 yards and eight touchdowns as a rookie and was just getting started. All told, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound receiver has 764 catches for 10,143 yards and 77 touchdowns during his brilliant nine-year career.
Fitzgerald was one of the centerpieces of the Cardinals' NFC Championship team in 2008. Fitz was simply unstoppable in the postseason, catching 30 passes for 546 yards and seven touchdowns during Arizona's improbable march toward their first Super Bowl appearance. His two fourth quarter touchdown catches helped the Cardinals grab a 23-20 lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers with just 2:37 left.
In 2012, he became the youngest player in NFL history to reach the 700-catch plateau when he accomplished it at 29 years, 23 days old. He and Randy Moss are the only players in league history to have at least 10,000 receiving yards before the age of 30.
Fitzgerald should move into the top 20 in all-time receptions this year -- and with a monster season, into the top 15. Did we mention he won't turn 30 until August?
In fact, all-time leading receiver Jerry Rice had only 549 catches before his 30th birthday -- 215 less than Fitzgerald.
Yeah, that was a pretty good pick by the Cardinals' front office.