Ranking the Arizona Cardinals’ First-Round Draft Picks

Apr 21, 2016, 2:43 PM | Updated: May 2, 2016, 11:02 am
Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill, left, and coach Dennis Green, right, pose with Pittsburgh wid...
Arizona Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill, left, and coach Dennis Green, right, pose with Pittsburgh wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald at a news conference Sunday, April 25, 2004, in Tempe, Ariz. The Cardinals took Fitzgerald as the third choice in Saturday's first round of the NFL draft. (AP Photo/Tom Hood)
(AP Photo/Tom Hood)

The 2016 NFL Draft begins next Thursday in Chicago, and the Arizona Cardinals own the 29th pick in the first round.

Should they keep the pick, the player selected will be the 30th player drafted in the first round by the Cardinals since they moved to the Valley from St. Louis in 1988.

There have been some home run picks by the Cardinals — and others that haven’t worked out so well.

Here’s a ranking of the Cards’ all-time first-round draft picks.

1. Larry Fitzgerald – WR – 2004 (3rd overall) – Pittsburgh

APTOPIX NFC Championship FootballThe Cardinals nabbed Fitzgerald after San Diego took Eli Manning and Oakland went with Robert Gallery (oops!). Since entering the league in 2004, Fitzgerald is the most productive receiver in the league in that span with 1,018 catches. He’s a nine-time Pro Bowler who had a career-high 109 receptions in 2015 for the NFC West champions.



2. Patrick Peterson – CB – 2011 (5th overall) – LSU

Patrick PetersonIn five years in the league, Peterson has made the Pro Bowl five times, joining Cincinnati’s A.J. Green as the only 2011 draftees who can make that claim. As a rookie, Peterson tied an NFL record by returning four punts for touchdowns.



3. Simeon Rice – DE – 1996 (3rd overall) – Illinois

CULPEPPER RICEIn his five years in Arizona, Rice was one of the premier pass rushers in the league with 51.5 sacks — a total that was more than Hall-of-Famers Reggie White, Chris Doleman and Derrick Thomas had in that span. After leaving Arizona on bad terms, he went on to play eight more seasons with Tampa Bay, Denver and Indianapolis. His 122 career sacks put him 17th on the all-time list.


4. Eric Hill – LB – 1989 (10th overall) – LSU

EricHillHill was a stalwart for nine seasons in the middle of the Cardinals’ defense and had four 100-tackle seasons, including a career-high 131 in 1999.




5. Eric Swann – DT – 1991 (6th overall) – Wake Technical College

swann125Swann was one of the riskiest picks in Cardinals history. He never played a down of college football after failing to qualify academically at North Carolina State. When healthy, he was a dominant force on the defensive line and had 45.5 sacks in nine years. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection (1995, 1996).


6. Jamir Miller – LB – 1994 (10th overall) – UCLA

miller125Miller started slowly as a 20-year-old rookie, but developed nicely over his five years in Arizona. In his final year, he helped the Cardinals earn a playoff spot (and win a postseason game for the first time in 41 years) when he had 113 tackles, three sacks, two fumble recoveries and four passes defensed.


7. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie – CB – 2008 (16th overall) – Tennessee State

DRC125Sure, DRC was a little bit goofy (remember the Dora the Explorer backpack and coloring books?) but he was quite a find from a small school midway through the first round. Rodgers-Cromartie started 11 games as a rookie for a Cardinals team that lost Super Bowl XLIII. In three seasons with Arizona, he had 13 interceptions, four of which he returned for touchdowns. His 24 career interceptions are the second-most of any DB drafted in 2008, behind Aqib Talib’s 30. DRC was traded to Philadelphia in 2011 in the deal that brought Kevin Kolb to the Cardinals.


8. Leonard Davis – OL – 2001 (2nd overall) – Texas

davis125Davis, at 6-foot-6 and 375 pounds, was a mountain of a man. Drafted as a tackle, Davis started all 16 games in his rookie season at right guard. He moved to right tackle in 2002 and back to right guard in 2003 before starting at left tackle for the next three seasons. He never reached his full potential in the desert but thrived after signing a free agent contract with the Dallas Cowboys and went to three straight Pro Bowls as a right guard.


9. Michael Floyd – WR – 2012 (13th overall) – Notre Dame

Michael Floyd, Damarious RandallFloyd was the second wide receiver picked in 2012 and unlike the first, Justin Blackmon of the Jacksonville Jaguars, has been a productive and steady force for his team. Floyd’s first NFL catch went for a touchdown – an 8-yarder in a 27-6 win over the Eagles in Week 3. In fact, Floyd’s 19 career touchdowns are the fourth-most among receivers in his draft class.


10. Deone Bucannon – S – 2014 (27th overall) – Washington State

Aaron Rodgers , Deone BucannonThe Cardinals moved down seven spots to take the hard-hitting safety from the Pac-12. In just two seasons in Arizona, he’s become one of the most important parts of the Cardinals’ defense. Bucannon has played most of his time as an undersized dollar linebacker, but has thrived. His stellar play has encouraged other teams to use similar schemes. He’s got 195 total tackles, five sacks, an interception return for a touchdown and four forced fumbles in just two seasons.


11. Antrel Rolle – CB – 2005 (8th overall) – Miami

Antrel Rolle, Justin GriffithRolle was drafted as a corner, but flamed out at the positon, eventually moving to safety. It was there where he became a productive playmaker. In 2007, Rolle led the NFL with 231 yards on interception returns and took three picks back for touchdowns — including two in a 35-27 road win at Cincinnati in Week 10. He had a third nullified by a penalty. Rolle was the starter for the Cardinals at free safety in the Super Bowl season of 2008 and earned his first Pro Bowl nod in 2009, his last year in the desert.


12. Ken Harvey – LB – 1988 (12th overall) – California

kenharvey125“The Original Phoenix Cardinal,” Harvey was the franchise’s first-ever draft pick after the relocation from St. Louis. As a reserve player in 1988, Harvey had six sacks. He became a starter the next year and notched seven sacks and a career-high 120 tackles. In six years with the Cardinals, Harvey had 47.5 sacks. He left for Washington in 1994 and was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Redskins.


13. David Boston – WR – 1999 (8th overall) – Ohio State

boston125Many local fans cringed when Boston, the man who scored the winning touchdown for the Buckeyes in the 1997 Rose Bowl that killed Arizona State’s national title hopes, was picked by Arizona at number 8. Boston was decent as a rookie, but exploded in his second year, catching 71 passes for 1,156 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2001, Boston was one of the most feared receivers in football, leading the league with 1,598 yards — which is still a club record.


14. L.J. Shelton – T – 1999 (21st overall) – Eastern Michigan

shelton125Shelton was the second of two first-round picks in 1999, and carved out a solid but unspectacular career. The 6-foot-6, 335-pound tackle was a primary starter for Arizona for six seasons before stops in Cleveland, Miami and San Diego during a 10-year career.



15. Dan Williams – DT – 2010 (26th overall) – Tennessee

danwilliams125“Dumpster Dan,” as he was called by radio analyst Ron Wolfley, was a big piece of the Cardinals defense, both literally and figuratively. As a defensive tackle, Williams didn’t put up big numbers, nor was he asked to. Instead, he occupied offensive linemen so teammates Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett could make plays. Williams had 119 tackles, two sacks and an interception return for a touchdown in five years with the Cardinals.


16. Beanie Wells – RB – 2009 (31st overall) – Ohio State

wells125It looked like Wells would be a star for a long time in Arizona based on his rookie season in which he ran for nearly 800 yards and seven touchdowns. Injuries slowed him in 2010, but in 2011, he ran for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns, setting a franchise single-game rushing record in the process with a 228-yard outburst in St. Louis. After another injury-plagued season in 2012, Wells was out of football.


17. Garrison Hearst – RB – 1993 (3rd overall) – Georgia

hearst125Hearst held out in training camp as a rookie, signing right before the Cardinals’ final preseason game. In his sixth game as a pro, Hearst suffered a knee injury, ending his season. It also cut short his second year, limiting him to just 37 carries in eight games. Hearst, finally healthy, became the starter in 1995, running for 1,070 yards on 284 carries. He was cut after the season and hooked on with Cincinnati and ultimately San Francisco, where he ran for a career-high 1,570 yards in 1998.

18. Levi Brown – T – 2007 (5th overall) – Penn State

levibrown125The name alone conjurs up painful memories for Cardinals fans. Brown was selected instead of running back Adrian Peterson out of Oklahoma. Brown is out of the league while Peterson has remained, despite serious off-the-field issues, one of the most productive running backs in football. But the fact of the matter is, Brown was a six-year starter on the offensive line for Arizona and started at right tackle in Super Bowl XLIII.


19. Calvin Pace – DE – 2003 (18th overall) – Wake Forest

Ernest Graham, Calvin PaceThe Cardinals owned the sixth overall pick in 2003 and had the opportunity to draft hometown hero Terrell Suggs, who had set an NCAA record with 24 sacks as a junior at Arizona State. They passed, citing concerns about Suggs’ off-the-field choices. The Cardinals engineered a trade with New Orleans and acquired back-to-back picks, including no. 18, where they got Pace. Draft experts scoffed at the selection, claiming Pace was a third-round talent. He became a starter in his rookie season and spent five decent years with the Cardinals before moving on in free agency to the New York Jets, where he has been ever since.


20. Bryant Johnson – WR – 2003 (17th overall) – Penn State

Bryant Johnson, Leigh BoddenThe first of those back-to-back selections acquired from the Saints was Johnson, who never really distinguished himself in Arizona. He did catch 40 or more passes in four straight seasons in the Cardinals’ pass-happy offense, but had his share of drops as well. Johnson was overshadowed by the team’s second-round pick in 2003, Anquan Boldin, and Larry Fitzgerald, whom they took with the third overall pick the next year.


21. Tom Knight – CB – 1997 (9th overall) – Iowa

MOSS KNIGHTKnight is considered one of the great stretches in Cardinals draft history. After the Seattle Seahawks took Shawn Springs at no. 3 and the Detroit Lions took Bryant Westbrook two picks later, the Cardinals selected Knight. The former Hawkeye played five so-so years in Arizona, and had just three interceptions in 63 games.


22. Thomas Jones – RB – 2000 (7th overall) – Virginia

thomasjones125Jones was the second running back drafted in 2000, and really did nothing to distinguish himself in Arizona. In three seasons with the Cardinals, he amassed only 1,264 yards on 362 carries — a paltry 3.5 yards per pop. The most lasting memory about Jones’ time in the desert is a mysterious broken hand he suffered when (according to him) he was answering a phone. Jones went on to play with the Buccaneers, Bears, Jets and Chiefs and had five straight 1,000-yard seasons between 2005 and 2009.


23. Jonathan Cooper – G – 2013 (7th overall) – North Carolina

Jonathan CooperAccording to GM Steve Keim, Cooper was the Cardinals “best offensive lineman the minute he walked though baggage claim” in 2013. One of the highest-rated guard prospects ever, Cooper suffered a broken leg in a preseason game against San Diego that erased his rookie campaign. He was never the same after that, battling injury and inconsistency over the next two seasons. Keim was able to trade Cooper to the New England Patriots this offseason in a deal that netted pass rusher Chandler Jones, so Coop’s time in the Valley wasn’t all bad.


24. Matt Leinart – QB – 2006 (10th overall) – USC

leinart125Leinart was one of the most decorated college quarterbacks ever at USC, winning a Heisman Trophy and two national championships. Head coach Denny Green, who called Leinart “a gift from heaven” eased his rookie into action. The lefty got his first start in Week 5 against Kansas City and played well in a 23-20 loss. He’d go on to start 11 games, posting a 4-7 record. Leinart never did enough to fully grasp the starting job, and spent most of his remaining time in Arizona as a backup to Kurt Warner, who led the team to an NFC Championship in 2008. Leinart was cut in training camp in 2010 and played in four games the rest of his career.


25. Joe Wolf – OL – 1989 (17th overall) – Boston College

joewolf125Wolf spent nine years with the Cardinals, mostly as a depth player on the offensive line. He was a full-time starter as a rookie in 1989 and in 1996.




26. Andre Wadsworth – DE – 1998 (3rd overall) – Florida State

CUNNINGHAM WADSWORTHViewed as a can’t-miss prospect, Wadsworth missed. After a great college career that started with him walking on at Florida State, Wadsworth was the first non-quarterback drafted in 1998. He signed his rookie deal the night before the season opener in Dallas, but went on to play 16 game in ’98. Knee injuries affected his availability and productivity over the next two seasons and he played in only 20 of the Cardinals’ 32 games. He underwent microfracture knee surgery and was released in 2000.


27. Ernest Dye – OL – 1993 (18th overall) – South Carolina

ernestdye125Dye spent four injury-plagued years with the Cardinals, starting at left guard as a second-year player in 1993. He played with the Rams in 1997, and re-signed with Arizona in 1998, although he’d never play another game for the team. Dye, along with teammates Carl Simpson and Lester Holmes, was involved in a car accident near Munds Park, about 25 miles south of Flagstaff, where the team held its annual training camp. Dye lost the use of his right arm due to the injuries suffered in the crash and never played football again.


28. Wendell Bryant – DT – 2002 (12th overall) – Wisconsin

BREES BRYANTBryant didn’t play very well when he was on the field, getting just 1.5 sacks in three seasons with the Cardinals. He was suspended for the 2005 season after repeated violations of the NFL’s substance abuse policy and the Cardinals cut him. Bryant never played in the NFL again, but had stints with the Las Vegas Locomotives and Omaha Nighthawks of the short-lived United Football League.


29. D.J. Humphries – T – 2015 (24th overall) – Florida

D.J. HumphriesHumphries is the only Cardinals first-round draft pick not to play a down in his rookie season, so there’s no other place to put him on this list. He is, however, penciled in as Arizona’s starting right tackle for 2016 after starter Bobby Massie left in free agency for Chicago.


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