It’s no secret the draft can lay the foundation for a
successful football team, provided it nets an organization
quality players year after year.
That the Cardinals are struggling now should be no
surprise, as the team has not landed enough impact players
in recent years.
According to Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic,
mistakes in 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2009 really stand out.
Miss on a quarterback (Matt Leinart, first round, 2006),
and a team finds itself trying to solve the problem via
free agency (Derek Anderson) or trade (Kevin Kolb).
Miss on an outside linebacker (Cody Brown, second round,
2009), and a team has to gamble that an old free agent
(Joey Porter) has something left.
Miss on a left tackle (Levi Brown, first round, 2007), and
a team might be continually reminded that it passed on a
star running back (Adrian Peterson).
To be fair, it would not be right to point the finger at
Ken Whisenhunt, as Somers notes. For all the praise he
gets as a talent evaluator, Dennis Green really had only
one excellent draft for the team, and that was his first
when he took Larry Fitzgearld, Karlos Dansby, Darnell
Dockett and Antonio Smith.
Other Green drafts netted J.J. Arrington, Eric Green,
Darryl Blackstock, Elton Brown, Leonard Pope, Brandon
Johnson and the aforementioned Leinart, among others.
However, things didn’t really get much better under
Whisenhunt, who has just Brown to show for his first
draft, Calais Campbell, Early Doucet and Brandon Keith
from his second and, of his third, can only claim Beanie
Wells and LaRod Stephens-Howling as impact players. In
total the Cardinals have drafted 35 players with Whiz at
the helm, of which only 21 are still with the team and
just nine are current starters.
It’s too soon to properly judge the 2010 and 2011 drafts,
but early returns do give reason for optimism.