Cardinals say they won't draft for need, but may do so anyway
With the NFL Draft just a few days away, both Rod Graves and Ken Whisenhunt have openly talked about the strategy of drafting based on ability, not need.
"What we don't want to do is draft a lineman just to draft a lineman because that's what you think you have to do," Coach Whiz has said.
"We will focus on our needs throughout the process but we don't deviate from that approach,"Graves said about taking the best available player, regardless of need. "I think with that you have a better chance of coming away feeling satisfied and, more importantly, being successful with the pick."
Their words sound well-and-good, but the real test will come Thursday when the team makes its pick (presumably 13th overall). If history is any indication, need will absolutely be a factor.
Let's take a look at the team's draft history under Whiz:
2007: Levi Brown, 5th overall.
2008: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 16th overall
2009: Beanie Wells, 31st overall
2010: Dan Williams, 26th overall
2011: Patrick Peterson, 5th overall
Of those five, only DRC, Wells and Peterson could be considered "BPA" selections, and even that's a stretch since corners are always in demand and the team was planning on cutting Edgerrin James when they picked Wells.
If there is anything to learn from Whisenhunt's tenure - and maybe those of every NFL coach, to be honest - it's that need is always a factor, no matter what people say.
So, where does that leave the Cardinals?
Based purely on "need," the Cardinals would likely be interested in one of David DeCastro, Jonathan Martin, Riley Reiff or Cordy Glenn. All linemen, all would plug a hole.
Based purely on value, a player like Michael Floyd, Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw would be a fantastic choice at 13.
At least one of those players will likely be there when the Cardinals are on the clock. At least one of those players will likely be the guy.
If the Cardinals go with a lineman, will you feel like they did so out of need? Would you even believe them if they said Reiff or Glenn was the top player on their board?
Probably not, but "reaching" for a player at 13 is a lot more understandable than doing so in the top-5, so the Cardinals taking a lineman not named Matt Kalil would not be the end of the world.
Things were easy to figure out last season, with only four teams picking before Arizona. Most figured Peterson to be on the board for them, and given his talent plus the need the team was planning on creating by trading DRC to Philadelphia, the choice was about as obvious as it was successful.
There will be no such luck this time around.
Picking later in the draft is the price a team pays for success, and because of it the Cardinals will have to wait a while - and probably sweat a bit, too - as names are called and players taken off their draft board.
Then the Cardinals will make their selection, and no matter who it is, will say they selected the top-ranked player on their draft board and talk about how excited they are to add a player of so-and-so's caliber to the roster.
They'll probably be lying, at least a little bit.
While it is great to say a team is taking the best player available, it's far from that simple. The Cardinals will be factoring in their team needs every time they make a pick, meaning they may draft a player that is less exciting than he is needed.