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Cardinals draft board ready for NFL Draft

PHOENIX – The 2011 NFL Draft is only days away and all the speculation and mock drafts will become meaningless as teams will make their selections.

Many people focus on what specific player each team will choose, but many don’t think about the process how teams decipher who they want to draft.

It’s a complex process that requires scouts, player personnel, coaches and the front office pouring over game tape, determining players’ raw ability and questions of character.

For the Arizona Cardinals, they have found a system that has worked for their franchise.

“We spend a lot of time going through the process of evaluating these players,” said coach Ken Whisenhunt.

It’s a two-step process where players are given an “ability” grade and a “winner” grade.

The organization assembles all its personnel and then debates how good a player’s actual playing ability is.

“We grade those guys based on their ability and their relationship to other players that will be available in the draft,” said general manager Rod Graves.

The front office cites face-to-face meetings with players as a crucial step in the evaluation process.

“When you get a chance to spend time with these potential drafted players, you get to find out about them and develop a relationship with them and that’s an important part of the evaluation,” said Whisenhunt.

These meetings gives the organization an opportunity to better measure a player’s character or work effort, something that can difficult to see on the surface.

“You have to look at what kind of intangibles do they have regarding their work ethic, passion for the game and their commitment. It’s part of the puzzle to determine what player fits best for us,” said director of player personnel Steve Keim.

Then, the group will look to assign each player a “winner” grade where a player’s intangibles are measured.

“I will give those guys a separate grade that’s based on four areas. Does a player play hard, smart, physical and his football character,” said Graves.

Once a player has been graded out in both categories, the Cardinals weigh out both grades to find a final grade for a player.

The Cardinals organization has done a good job in past years at finding great value in players from smaller schools such as Tim Hightower, Greg Toler, Ben Patrick and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

“Our scouts do a great job of not making quick judgements on players,” said Whisenhunt.

Team president Michael Bidwill gives high praise over his organization’s ability to draft good players.

“Our personnel department has done an outstanding job. I put up our scouts and personnel people against the best in the league,” said Bidwill.

With the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, lets hope he’s right because if the team is able to add a number of quality players in this draft, it will go a long way towards improving last year’s disappointing team.