Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Cardinals an A. ESPN's John Clayton and Sports Illustrated's Don Banks both list the Cardinals as one of the draft's winners.
Oh, that 2006 draft really set the table for the dominant Cardinals team you see today.
As draft grades continue to pour in from various different sources it is important we remember one easily forgettable fact: No one knows how any of these players will turn out.
Kiper's grade, in 2006, was based largely on the Cardinals' first round pick.
"The Cardinals' QB of the future, Matt Leinart, fell into their lap at No. 10 (I had Leinart as the third best player in the draft). Guard Taitusi "Deuce" Lutui (second round) and TE Leonard Pope (third round) were great picks."
One out of three would make a Hall of Fame hitter in baseball, but it does not help in building a football team.
Clayton mused about the Cardinals, normally a bad luck team, finally receiving some good fortune, starting with the signing of Edgerrin James.
"Twice this offseason they struck gold. They headed into free agency without the intention of paying big money for a running back. But with a surprising $17.5 million increase in the salary cap, the Cardinals were able to sign Edgerrin James. Then, Matt Leinart was gift-wrapped for them at No. 10."
He was, as then-Cards coach Dennis Green said, "a gift from heaven", right?
And then there was Banks.
"Dennis Green's club somehow came away with a Heisman-winning quarterback at the ridiculously affordable price of a No. 10 pick in Leinart and one of the draft's top guard prospects in Taitusi Lutui. In a related development, the Cardinals franchise is changing its name once again, this time to USC East."
Affordable? I'd say Leinart cost the Cardinals plenty, in money and potential. USC East? Nah, it's USC Northwest and they're up in Seattle.
The point here isn't to pick on these well-respected draft gurus and football guys. It's to remind everyone that, while it's nicer to have everyone say the Cardinals had a good draft rather than a poor one, the real value of the team's selections will not be known until 2014 or so.
Believe me, I was as excited as all of you when I learned the Cardinals were selecting Patrick Peterson with the fifth overall pick. While not knowing much about the player (I'm more of a Pac-10 guy myself), what he represented to me was the team's willingness to not so much worry about needs as much as just acquiring good football players. Though Peterson plays a position where any team can use a little more help, his selection clearly was not based on need. Since the Cardinals won just five games last season it is clear the only thing they really need is more talent, and that's what they looked to add. No matter how his career unfolds it will be tough to criticize this pick, as it was certainly the right one at the time.
Of course, the strategy to take the best player, position be damned, is also what led to one of the surprise picks in the draft: running back Ryan Williams from Virginia Tech. The running game, while needing help, isn't exactly devoid of talent. So, taking one in the second round not only adds to the logjam at the position but also brings legitimate questions about the team's faith in its two leading runners, Tim Hightower and Beanie Wells. If Williams develops into the consistent running threat the team has been lacking the pick will be looked at as not only bold, but also a sign that the Cardinals do, in fact, know what they're doing. Imagine that.
The team's third round pick does not have to worry about finding time at his position, as tight end Robert Housler certainly plays a position of need. However, no one outside of Florida Atlantic University, where he went to school, really knew who he was before his name was called Friday afternoon. Still, anyone who at 6'5" and 248 pounds can run a 4.46 40-yard dash is worth a shot for a team that hasn't had a legitimate threat at the position since, well, anyone can remember. He could very well be the threat the team needs, or he could be a waste of space. Time will tell.
Looking around, you'd be hard pressed to find an "expert" who feels the Cardinals pulled a Tim Hightower and dropped the ball this past weekend. Hell, even I think the Cards did a nice job over the last few days. Whether they filled some holes or just added some good players, people seem to agree that the team is better today than it was when the 2010 season ended. Let's hope that when we talk about this draft class five years from now we're talking about the foresight the analysts showed, not mocking their thoughts with the benefit of hindsight.