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Cardinals say they won’t draft for need, but may do so anyway

The Arizona Cardinals are saying all the right things.

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,”
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

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

Based purely on value, a player like Michael Floyd, Melvin
Ingram or Courtney Upshaw would be a fantastic choice at

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

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

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

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.