Over the next week or so, we’ll be taking a round-by-round look at the draft history of the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals since they relocated from St. Louis in 1988.
We’ll start with the Cardinals’ seventh-round picks.
5. Ben Patrick, TE, Delaware (7th round, 215th overall, 2007)
Patrick will always have a very special place in Cardinals’ history: He scored the franchise’s first-ever Super Bowl touchdown — a 1-yard pass from Kurt Warner — during the second quarter of their loss to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa.
The former Duke Blue Devil and Delaware Blue Hen (he had a thing for blue in college, what?) would play 42 games for the Cardinals in his four years, starting 20. He caught 45 passes for 446 yards and four touchdowns while wearing the red and white.
4. LaRod Stephens-Howling, RB, Pittsburgh (7th round, 240th overall, 2009)
Stephens-Howling made more of an impact on special teams than he did on offense during his Arizona career. In 2010, “The Hyphen” led the NFL in kickoff return yards with 1,548, which is 19th on the all-time NFL single-season list. That season, he also returned two kicks for touchdowns — a 102-yarder to open the game in a 24-23 win over the Oakland Raiders in Week 3 and a 96-yarder in a Week 9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
Although he was never a feature back, LSH led the Cardinals with 357 rushing yards in 2012 — which is honestly more a sign that Arizona couldn’t run the football to save their lives that season. In fact, 10 individuals had more yards than the Cardinals had as a team, so there’s that.
3. Ernie Jones, WR, Indiana (7th round, 179th overall, 1988)
“Indiana” Jones was the first-ever seventh-round pick of the Cardinals, although he should have gone higher…if not for the fact that he was high. Jones tested positive for marijuana at the ’88 combine and his stock plummeted. The Cardinals nabbed him and he teamed with Roy Green, J.T. Smith and Neil Lomax to form one of the most dangerous passing attacks in the league.
In five seasons with the Cardinals, Jones caught 210 passes for 3,574 yards and 18 touchdowns — ranking in the top 20 in franchise history in all three categories.
In February of 1993, Jones was arrested for possession of crack cocaine and marijuana and was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for a conditional draft pick six months later.
2. Johnny Johnson, RB, San Jose State (7th round, 169th overall, 1990)
Johnson was a tremendously talented college running back who had built a bit of a negative reputation for himself. Johnson was booted off the Spartans team after missing practices and meetings. He claimed he was tending to family matters following an earthquake in northern California. Regardless, he fell to the seventh round where the Cardinals snatched him.
It didn’t take long for the rookie to prove his versatility. In his first NFL game, Johnson ran for 54 yards on 14 carries and caught six passes for 99 yards in a loss to the Washington Redskins.
As a rookie, he ran for 926 yards and represented the Cardinals at the Pro Bowl.
Johnson played only four years in the desert, but he still ranks third on the Cardinals’ franchise rushing list (since 1988) with 2,326 yards.
1. Pat Tillman, Safety, Arizona State (7th round, 226th overall, 1998)
Who did you think I was going to pick? Ivory Lee Brown? Jomo Cousins?
After a sterling career at ASU where he was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year as a senior, Tillman’s pro prospects weren’t very promising. The pundits didn’t think he had a position in the NFL — too small to play linebacker and too slow to play safety.
The Cardinals spent a seventh-round pick on Tillman regardless, and he rewarded them for it. As a rookie, Tillman started 10 games in the secondary and was a standout on special teams.
In four seasons in Arizona, Tillman played in 60 games, starting 39. He had three career interceptions, three fumble recoveries and 2.5 sacks.
Of course, Tillman’s legacy spreads far beyond the stat sheet or the gridiron. He turned down a multi-million dollar contractfrom the Cardinals to join the U.S. Army Rangers. He was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in 2004. His life, although short, has served as an inspiration for millions of Americans.
A statue of Tillman is on display at University of Phoenix Stadium.
Others considered: Mark Smith (1997), Jim Dray (2010)