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.
5. Daryl Washington, LB, TCU (2nd round, 47th overall, 2010)
I’ll start with an admission. I wanted to put Frank Sanders, the Cardinals’ second-round pick in 1995 on this list. Sanders spent eight years in Arizona and is fourth on their all-time receiving list. But Sanders never made it to the Pro Bowl and Washington has, so he got the nod.
Four linebackers were drafted before Daryl Washington in 2010, but the undersized former TCU standout has outperformed them all. Rolando McClain (8th overall to Oakland) is out of the league. Sean Weatherspoon (19th, Atlanta) has battled injuries the last two seasons. Koa Misi (40th, Miami) has been solid and Sergio Kindle (43rd to Baltimore) played in only three NFL games before his career was over.
Washington has been a starter for most of his four-year Cardinals career, and has been one of the most productive linebackers in football since stepping on the field. The 27-year-old has registered 394 total tackles, 18 sacks, 24 passes defensed, six interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
He represented the Cardinals at the Pro Bowl following the 2011 season.
The linebacker served a four-game suspension in 2013 for failing an NFL drug test and could miss time in the future as the result of a guilty plea on an aggravated assault charge.
But the fact is, when Washington is on the field, he’s simply one of the most dynamic defensive players in team history.
4. Calais Campbell, DE, Miami, FL. (2nd round, 50th overall, 2008)
Campbell’s draft stock took a hit after a disappointing junior season in 2007. Some believed Campbell made a poor choice in declaring for the draft in the first place.
After getting his feet wet as a rookie, Campbell became a starter in 2009 and has been a force ever since. He’s accumulated 36.5 sacks over the last five seasons and has knocked down 29 passes.
He had perhaps his best season in 2013, when he posted a career-high nine sacks and helped anchor the best run defense in the NFL. In fact, ProFootballFocus.com had Campbell rated as the second-best 3-4 defensive end in the league last season, behind only J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans.
Campbell has become a fan favorite — one with a very bright future in the NFL.
3. Karlos Dansby, OLB, Auburn (2nd round, 33rd overall, 2004)
Dansby does hold the very unique distinction of being the only man to leave two different 10-win Cardinal teams in free agency, having done so in 2009 and 2014.
Coming out of Auburn ten years ago, Dansby’s stock plunged a bit based on his senior season performance, but he was still the first player selected in the second round.
He became a starter immediately and showed a nose for the football, recovering three fumbles and picking off one pass as a rookie. Over the next six seasons, Dansby was a stalwart on defense and helped the Cardinals to back-to-back division titles in 2008 and 2009.
Dansby would then sign a big-money free agent deal with the Miami Dolphins, and spent the next three years in South Florida.
After getting cut by the Dolphins, Dansby signed back with the Cardinals and completely outperformed his one-year, $2.25 million contract by registering 114 solo tackles (fourth-most in the league), intercepting four passes, racking up 6.5 sacks and scoring two defensive touchdowns.
Cleveland recognized Dansby’s performance and rewarded him with a four-year, $24 million contract that was too rich for the Cardinals to match. While there may be some hard feelings about Dansby’s second Valley exodus (right, Darnell Dockett?), it’s hard to ignore his contributions to the Cardinals over the years.
2. Jake Plummer, QB, Arizona State (2nd round, 42nd overall, 1997)
There’s no other way to put it — Jake Plummer was Valley royalty when the Cardinals chose him in the second round 17 years ago.
He was fresh off leading the Arizona State Sun Devils to their second Rose Bowl appearance and finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting behind two guys he was better than — but that’s a story for another day.
Plummer was handed the keys to the offense early on — he started in Week 9 of his rookie season — but the immediate returns just weren’t there. He threw four interceptions that day in a 41-14 loss to the Tennessee Oilers. Plummer would rebound to even his touchdown-to-interception ratio (15-to-15) by season’s end, but the Cardinals went 3-6 in his starts.
Things clicked in Plummer’s second year. He led the Cardinals to their first winning campaign in Arizona and a rousing 20-7 playoff upset of the Cowboys in Dallas. It was supposed to be the beginning of great things in the Valley…but it wasn’t.
The Cards came crashing down to Earth in 1999, going 6-10 in a season where Plummer missed four games due to injury. In fact, the Cardinals went 18-39 in games Plummer started over a four-year span, which led to fans being relieved when he left via free agency and signed with Denver.
“Jake the Snake” is third on the Cardinals’ all-time passing yardage list with 17,622 and is fifth with 90 touchdown strikes. And most importantly, he breathed some life into a dormant franchise with his exciting style of play.
1. Anquan Boldin, WR, Florida State (2nd round, 54th overall, 2003)
Charles Rogers. Taylor Jacobs. Bethel Johnson.
Those are the names of three receivers who were drafted ahead of Anquan Boldin in 2003. The trio combined to catch 112 passes in their NFL careers. Boldin had 101…as a rookie.
Perhaps no player in NFL history has had a better league debut than Boldin, who caught 10 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Detroit Lions.
Boldin was the lone attraction in that 2003 season that saw the Cardinals go 4-12. In fact, the Florida State product was the team’s lone representative at the Pro Bowl and was named the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year (he’s the only Cardinal ever to win the award.)
The next year, the Cardinals nabbed receiver Larry Fitzgerald with their first-round pick, and just like that, the Birds had one of the top receiving duos in football. They’d terrorize NFL defenses for the next six years, culminating in two NFC West titles and an appearance in Super Bowl XLIII.
Boldin grew unhappy in Arizona over contract details and was traded to the Baltimore Ravens prior to the 2010 season for a third and a fourth-round pick in the draft.
His 586 receptions are the second-most in team history.