For the last month of the NFL season the biggest debate in Arizona was whether or not the Cardinals should lose games in order to gain better draft positioning. The season ended Sunday and while the team won two of their final four games, they did wind up with a 5-11 record and the fifth pick in the 2011 draft.
Now that we know where the Cardinals will be picking, it’s time to shift the focus to what type of player they can expect to draft at that spot. While there is plenty of time to debate what position or specific player they’ll add to their roster come April, now seems as good a time as any to take a look at the history of the number five selection in the NFL draft’s first round.
There have been some interesting names over the last six years selected in the spot the Cardinals find themselves in this year. Names that include Cadilac Williams, A.J. Hawk, Glen Dorsey, Mark Sanchez, Eric Berry and one you might be familiar with, Levi Brown. While some of those names sound familiar, the group only touts one rookie of the year among its ranks: Cadillac Williams. Still, there are no true “stars” (to be fair, Sanchez and Berry have the potential but haven’t been in the league long enough).
Some of the best players to ever get drafted fifth overall include Terrance Newman, Jamal Lewis, Deion Sanders, Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson and Junior Seau, all of whom had very productive careers. The best quarterbacks ever selected at number five? Jim McMahon in 1982 to the Chicago Bears and Kerry Collins in 1995 to the Carolina Panthers lead the list.
Not all number five picks are great ones. Names like Curtis Enis, Trev Alberts, Bryant Westbrook and Mark Mitchell were all selected at the spot. Haven’t heard of most of them? That’s alright, neither have most fans. That’s because they had little to no impact in the league.
The Cardinals also have had their fair share of poor picks in the fifth slot. In the team’s history they’ve had the pick on six separate occasions. None of them have had much of an impact.
There was Jimmy Lawrence in 1936 who only played 30 games for the franchise and ran for 357 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Jack Robbins was selected fifth overall in 1938 and played a total of 17 games for the club and threw for 1076 yards, six touchdowns and 19 interceptions. Defensive tackle Dave Butz had the honor in 1973, but he only lasted 13 games for the then St. Louis Cardinals and never recorded a tackle or interception in his career. In 1981 they selected linebacker E.J. Junior fifth overall. He lasted the longest of any of the Cardinals’ six selection, 111 games, and appeared in two Pro Bowls while recording 24 sacks and 12 interceptions. Just five years later later the Cards picked another linebacker at number five in Anthony Bell. He didn’t fair as well as his predecessor at the spot, lasting 76 games with the franchise while recording 11 sacks and two interceptions. The most recent time the Red Birds selected number five was in 2007 as they selected offensive lineman Levi Brown while running back Adrian Peterson was still on the board.
So if history teaches us anything it’s that the number five selection in the first round of the NFL draft, like any other pick, is a crap shoot. That is, unless you are the Arizona Cardinals, then it just tends to be a negative experience. Hopefully head coach Ken Whisenhunt, general manager Rod Graves and the rest of the front office can change that when the commissioner steps to the podium in April.