Last week, Vince Marotta broke down the best draft classes in Cardinals history for “The 5.”
In it, he ranked the 2004 draft haul, which included Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby, Darnell Dockett and Antonio Smith, as the best, and it’s difficult to argue.
But while Fitzgerald is easily the best player to come out of that group, it is the team’s later selections — specifically Dansby and Dockett — that really make it stand out. After all, it’s one thing to get talent in the first round and a completely different thing to find it in rounds two (Dansby) and three (Dockett).
That fact is the spark for this week’s edition of The 5 as, keeping in mind the draft’s structure has changed over the years, we will rank the best Day 2 picks in Arizona Cardinals history. In this case, the list is based on the second and third rounds.
5. Calais Campbell – 2nd round, 2008
The Cardinals chose the mammoth defensive lineman out of Miami with the 50th overall selection, and though he did not make a significant impact for the team as a rookie as the Cardinals reached Super Bowl XLIII, he quickly became one of the stalwarts along the defensive line. Campbell tallied at least six sacks in every season from 2009 to 2014, posting a career-high nine in 2013. During his time in Arizona Campbell has become a defensive captain, a great person in the community and a two-time Pro Bowler.
4. Darnell Dockett – 3rd round, 2004
The Cardinals tabbed the Florida State product with the 64th pick in the 2004 draft, and it did not take long for Dockett to show just what kind of player the team had. A rare interior defensive lineman who could pressure the quarterback, Dockett picked up 3.5 sacks as a rookie and then, after adding another 2.5 over the next two seasons, went on a run that saw him become one of the best defensive linemen in the league. He posted nine sacks in 2007, leading to the first of three Pro Bowl berths, and tallied a total of 40.5 sacks over 10 seasons with the Cardinals. Never bashful, Dockett’s personality at times led to a little extra stress for management, but there was little disputing the kind of player he was and the passion he played with.
3. Adrian Wilson – 3rd round, 2001
When the Cardinals chose Wilson with the 64th overall selection, they were not quite sure if the former North Carolina State product would be a cornerback or a safety. He ended up at safety and the rest, as they say, is history. Wilson went on to play 12 seasons for the Cardinals, reaching the Pro Bowl five times and becoming one of the most feared defensive backs in the NFL. He finished his career with 987 tackles (716 solo), 25.5 sacks, 27 interceptions, 106 passes defensed, 15 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries and four touchdowns. He is one of just six players to have recorded at least 25 career interceptions and 25 sacks, and in 2015 was inducted into the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor. In April 2016 he was hired by the team as a scout.
2. Anquan Boldin – 2nd round, 2003
It’s funny to think about how Boldin was the second receiver the Cardinals drafted in 2003, but nabbing him 54th overall was one of the best things the franchise has ever done. Boldin followed up an impressive training camp with one of the best debuts in NFL history, catching 10 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in a road loss to Detroit. That served as the springboard for him to become one of the best receivers in the NFL, and in seven seasons with the Cardinals he caught 586 passes for 7,520 yards and 44 touchdowns. He went to the Pro Bowl three times and his playing style — hard-nosed, physical and emotional — was something to behold. He’s remained a productive player in the years since the Cardinals traded him, catching 423 passes for 5,675 yards and 30 touchdowns for the Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers, the former of which he won a Super Bowl with.
1. Aeneas Williams – 3rd round, 1991
Another member of the team’s Ring of Honor, few probably expected Williams, taken 59th overall out of Southern, to become the player he did. And that’s fine. Williams burst onto the scene as a rookie with six interceptions, and from then on was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. In fact, while Deion Sanders got most of the publicity in that era, some would argue Williams — who was a much better (and more willing) tackler was at worst Prime Time’s equal. Williams stuck with the Cardinals longer than some other players may have during a time in which they were not particularly good, and saw his faith rewarded with the team’s playoff run in 1998. In 10 seasons with the Cardinals Williams intercepted 55 passes, was a Pro Bowler six times and a First-Team All-Pro twice. Arizona traded him to St. Louis in 2001 – where he went on to make another two Pro Bowls — and Williams was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of its class of 2014.
Just missed the cut: Karlos Dansby (2nd round, 2004), Jake Plummer (2nd round, 1997), Frank Sanders (2nd round, 1995), Tyrann Mathieu (3rd round, 2013)
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