Arizona Cardinals Draft History: The third-rounders

May 6, 2014, 12:58 AM | Updated: 12:58 am
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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.

Last week, we look at the Cardinals’ standout picks from the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. Now here’s a look at the team’s best third-rounders of the last 25 years.

5. Gerald Hayes, LB, Pittsburgh (3rd round, 70th overall, 2003)

Just one pick after the Dallas Cowboys selected tight end Jason Witten out of Tennessee, the Cardinals tabbed Hayes, a middle linebacker from Pitt.

Hayes played on a part-time basis for his first two seasons in the league, but then became a starter in the middle of the Cardinals’ defense for the next four years.

In his four seasons as a starter, Hayes averaged 85 tackles and led the team in that category in 2006 and 2007.

Hayes’ tenure in Arizona was always steady but never spectacular — although he did show a nose for the end zone. In 2007, Hayes capped a 48-19 win over the St. Louis Rams by picking off a Gus Frerotte pass and returning it 30 yards for a touchdown.

In Week 8 of 2010, his final year with the team, Hayes scooped up a LeGarrette Blount fumble and rumbled 21 yards for a touchdown in a 38-35 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

He’d undergo back surgery later in 2010 and was cut in 2011 before signing with the San Diego Chargers.

4. Ricky Proehl, WR, Wake Forest (3rd round, 58th overall, 1990)

“Rock ‘N Roll Ricky Proehl” came to the desert as an unknown commodity (at least to most football fans) in 1990 — the same draft in which the Cardinals picked Larry Centers out of Stephen F. Austin.

Proehl immediately made a mark as a rookie when he caught 56 passes for 802 yards and four touchdowns despite starting only two games. He became the first rookie to lead the Cardinals in receiving since 1950.

He’d carve out a spot in the starting lineup for the next four seasons and averaged 57 catches, 759 yards and four touchdowns per season.

In his final year with the Cardinals, Proehl fell into head coach Buddy Ryan’s doghouse when he dropped a pass in a season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Rams, and never completely got out of it.

Following the 1994 season, he was dealt to Seattle for a fourth-round draft choice.

After two years with the Seahawks and one with Chicago, Proehl landed in St. Louis, where he became a target in one of the most prolific passing games the league has ever known. In fact, Proehl caught the biggest pass in Rams’ history when he hauled in a 30-yard touchdown throw from Kurt Warner late in the 2000 NFC Championship Game. They’d go on to beat Tennessee a week later for their first Super Bowl title.

3. Darnell Dockett, DT, Florida State (3rd round, 64th overall, 2004)

Dockett was part of a phenomenal 2004 draft class for the Cardinals that also included Larry Fitzgerald, Karlos Dansby and Antonio Smith.

After starting for four years in Tallahassee, Dockett immediately claimed a spot in the middle of the Cardinals D-line, one he still has a decade later.

Dockett wasn’t necessarily a third-round talent, but saw his stock fall because of some off-field issues.

Since he’s been in the league, Dockett’s kept his nose clean (not counting his Twitter account) and he’s missed only two games in his entire career.

Dockett had his best game on the sports world’s biggest stage, when he sacked Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger three times in Super Bowl XLIII.

In his career, Dockett has 40.5 sacks, four interceptions, nine forced fumbles and 14 fumble recoveries.

He’s been to the Pro Bowl three times.

2. Adrian Wilson, S, North Carolina State (3rd round, 64th overall, 2001)

Wilson, a muscular defensive back from N.C. State, gave the Cardinals something they hadn’t had on their defense in a long time: an intimidating physical presence.

As a rookie in 2001, Wilson played a reserve role on the Arizona defense, but gave fans a look into the future when he returned a Tony Banks pass 61 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter of a Week 17 loss to the Washington Redskins.

Wilson became a starter the next season and registered over 100 tackles while adding 1.5 quarterback sacks and four interceptions.

In 2006, the same year Wilson made it to the Pro Bowl for the first time, he also had two 99-yard touchdowns — an interception return in a loss to Atlanta and a fumble return in a loss to Minnesota.

In 2010, Wilson became just the tenth player in NFL history to record 20 sacks and 20 interceptions in his career.

Following the 2012 season, Wilson was released by the Cardinals after 12 years in the desert. As a Cardinal, he registerd 893 total tackles, 25.5 sacks, 27 interceptions and 16 force fumbles.

He went on to sign with the New England Patriots, but spent the 2013 season on injured reserve before being cut last month.

When his playing days are over, Wilson is a shoo-in for the Cardinals’ Ring of Honor.

1. Aeneas Williams, CB, Southern (3rd round, 59th overall, 1991)

It’s pretty uncommon for a player to walk on to a college squad and end up getting drafted by an NFL team.

It’s almost impossible for that former walk-on to go on to a Hall of Fame career as a pro.

Needless to say, there aren’t many players/people like Aeneas Williams, the Cardinals’ third-round pick in 1991.

Williams started immediately for the Cardinals, grabbing six interceptions as a rookie — the second-most in the league. He was just getting started.

He’d go on to play a decade for the Cardinals, starting 159 out of a possible 160 regular-season games and earned a reputation as the one of the best cornerbacks in the game.

Williams would make the Pro Bowl six straight years (1994-1999) and ended his time in Arizona with 46 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries and scored eight touchdowns.

He was traded to St. Louis following the 2000 season and would play four seasons with the Rams, including a Super Bowl appearance in his first year there.

In 2014, Williams was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, becoming the first draftee of the Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals to accomplish the feat.

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