Before you look forward, it’s a good idea to look back.
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. Jamir Miller, LB, UCLA (1st round, 10th overall, 1994)
Miller had a couple things working against him when he made himself eligible for the 1994 draft.
The first was a misdemeanor weapons charge brought against he and his uncle in March of 1993. The second was an arrest after he was charged with possession of $15,000 worth of stereo and computer equipment that was stolen from a campus dorm room in the winter of 1993.
Those trangressions didn’t scare off new Cardinals head coach Buddy Ryan, who pulled the trigger on the UCLA linebacker with the 10th overall selection.
Miller played sparingly as a rookie in 1994, but did register 19 tackles and three quarterback sacks. He became a starter in 1995, and would hold that position for the next four seasons.
In 1998, his final season with the Cardinals, Miller became a leader on defense, posting 113 total tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He helped the Cardinals earn their first playoff berth since the strike-shortened 1982 season and a Wild Card round win over the Dallas Cowboys.
He became a free agent and turned down an offer from the Cardinals, instead opting to sign with the Cleveland Browns.
In 2002, Miller suffered an Achilles tendon injury that ended his career.
4. Simeon Rice, DE, Illinois (1st round, 3rd overall, 1996)
In the 1996 draft, the Cardinals were seeking a difference-making pass rusher with the third overall pick.
They got one.
Rice was a wrecking ball in his college career at Illinois, racking up 52 sacks in four years. He came to Arizona with a swagger that hadn’t been seen in Cardinals players of the past.
“Simeon’s the most confident young person I’ve ever met,” his former teammate Eric Hill once said. “At first you might mistake it for arrogance, but it’s not. He doesn’t believe anyone can stop him.”
And few people did in his first year in the league. Rice compiled 12.5 quarterback sacks and was named the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year, becoming the first and only Cardinals player to achieve the feat.
Rice had a bit of a sophomore slump in 1997, getting only five sacks, but came back strong in 1998 and 1999, totaling 26.5 in those two seasons.
Prior to the 2000 season, Rice held out throughout training camp. He signed a one-year, $4.25 million deal and put up only 7.5 sacks in 15 games.
At one point during negotiations, Rice called Phoenix “the armpit of the world” — a claim he softened later on.
“You know what? Personally, I feel like I am the deodorant. I am the spray,” he said. “I’ve got to come in here and bring a little different seasoning to the table. It’s all good. It’s funny. This is a game, and that’s all it is.”
He signed a five-year deal with Tampa Bay in 2001, and helped them to their one and only Super Bowl title.
Rice made his mark on the field and in the media as one of the most quotable players in the history of Phoenix sports.
3. Eric Hill, LB, LSU (1st round, 10th overall, 1989)
After starring in college, Hill stepped into a starting role at middle linebacker — a spot he didn’t play in college — immediately for the Cardinals. It was a job he’d hold for nine years.
Hill never put up big numbers and never made the Pro Bowl, but #58 was a constant presence on the football field for nearly a decade.
His play resonated with opponents, too. In 2013, former Dallas fullback Daryl “Moose” Johnston was asked by national radio host Dan Patrick who the toughest defender he ever played against was. “Eric Hill,” he answered without hesitation.
“To me, he reminds me a lot of what Ray Lewis became. He was 6-foot-3, 250 or 255, downhill in the running game, never left the field on third down. We had a very, very simple game plan against the Arizona Cardinals. It was pretty much ‘let’s run downhill,’ and Eric Hill and I had a number of very, very violent collisions throughout the years.”
2. Patrick Peterson, CB/PR, LSU (1st round, 5th overall, 2011)
To say there was a lot of talent available in the 2011 NFL Draft would be a massive understatement — and that fact worked in the Cardinals’ favor.
Arizona had the fifth pick and watched Cam Newton, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus and A.J. Green come off the board ahead of their pick at No. 5. That meant Patrick Peterson, the All-American from LSU, was still available — and Arizona grabbed him.
Of course, all the teams in the top five that year reaped rewards of a talented class — each player has made at least one Pro Bowl appearance. But Peterson’s been a Pro Bowler in each of his first three seasons.
While the transition to becoming an elite-level cornerback has been a process for Peterson, he immediately made his mark with one of the best seasons ever for an NFL punt returner. Peterson returned four punts for touchdowns as a rookie, tying a league record.
In his second season, Peterson became a shutdown corner and made his second Pro Bowl on the strength of his seven interceptions, which ranked fourth in the league.
Peterson started the 2013 season with a bold claim.
“I definitely feel like I am the best corner in the game,” Peterson said in an interview with Erik Kuselias on NBC Sports Network.
He may not be there yet, but he’s in the discussion with the likes of Seattle’s Richard Sherman and New England’s Darrelle Revis.
1. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pittsburgh (1st round, 3rd overall, 2004)
I hate to end this entire seven-part series on such an anti-climactic note, but really, who did you think would be No. 1?
Even though the Cardinals used a second-round pick on Anquan Boldin the previous year, they went receiver the very next season and got Fitzgerald, the record-setting star from Pitt.
How dominant was Fitzgerald in college? He caught at least one touchdown pass in 18 straight games — an NCAA record.
After a decent rookie season, Fitz exploded in 2005, leading the league with 103 catches while putting up 1,409 yards and 10 touchdowns. Those numbers became the norm.
What wasn’t the norm was the Arizona Cardinals making the playoffs. In 2008, they did just that after winning the lackluster NFC West. Once in the playoffs, Fitzgerald, with help from quarterback Kurt Warner, took his game to a whole new level. In four postseason games that year, he caught 30 passes for 546 yards and seven touchdowns, including a 64-yarder from Warner that gave the Cardinals the lead with just 2:37 left in Super Bowl XLIII.
Fitzgerald is simply the biggest league-wide star the franchise has ever known. He is their all-time leading receiver and a pillar in the community.
Not a bad draft pick ten years ago, huh?