We'll be desperate for things to talk about soon enough, so I decided to take my NFC West draft recap team by team. We'll start today with the Arizona Cardinals.
First Round Pick: Levi Brown is not considered a top five talent by many and Arizona has admitted publicly that they sought to trade out of the pick, but if you're going reach a little bit, normally, left tackle is a good position to do it for. Unfortunately, Brown will be the left tackle for a left-handed quarterback--greatly reducing his value. I think Brown has limited potential, he's already 328 pounds, his pass blocking skills are considered rough and his agility is execrable, but he's starter ready. Fifth pick money is an awful lot to pay for a run blocking tackle with questionable ability in pass pro.
Best Pick: Ben Patrick has good quickness and a very good track record. He managed to fall to the seventh round because few teams use a regular H-Back and because of a disappointing showing at the combine. Ken Whisenhunt likes versatile players and will find uses for Patrick both receiving out of the backfield and blocking on sweeps and counters--he won't disappoint. This is great value for a seventh round pick.
Worst Pick: Geeze, who to choose? Brown is too expensive for what's expected of him. Further, that fifth pick could have been used on Amobi Okoye or Jamaal Anderson, each of whom represents a position of equally great need, but each are better talents. Alan Branch was plummeting draft boards after big questions about his durability and commitment, but taking a top ten talent in the second round is usually a good move. A fourth round pick is not a ton to spend to get the guy you want, but Arizona was already short of picks thanks to a 2006 draft day trade and after making the move was left with only five. Also, I question what Arizona is doing defensively. Starting nose tackle Gabe Watson showed developing ability as a run stuffer last year, but is now displaced by Branch--that is, unless Arizona is truly moving towards a 3-4, but neither Branch nor Hall would work as an end and third round pick Buster Davis is much too small to be an inside linebacker in a traditional 3-4. The current roster looks like a weird mishmash of uncomplimentary talents that is going to have a hell of a time generating a pass rush.
The pick that really typifies this draft for me, though, is the selection of Steve Breaston in the 5th. Arizona is very top heavy offensively, their production is predicated on two top wide-outs, a declining running back and a very talented young QB. Let's ignore Matt Leinart for a second, both Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin have been bit by injuries and Boldin's look like the chronic type. Edgerrin James saw an across the board decline in production last season. Much of that is, no doubt, moving away from an Indy offensive juggernaut, but some must be attributed to the natural decline any running back sees as he ages and the carries stack up. If any of these three players face major injury or decline for whatever reason, Arizona will suffer greatly. So who do they take with their fifth round pick? A trick play specialist. Breaston has "home-run threat" written all over him, what he doesn't have are the skills to play in the NFL. He can't block, doesn't run precise routes, drops balls and is a cipher across the middle. If you're desperate for a guy to add a little color to your playbook, Syvelle Newton went undrafted. This is an inexplicable pick in an amateurish draft.
What Does this draft tell us about the Cardinals? Trick plays galore. Whisenhunt earned a reputation as a bit of a mad genius with the Steelers, thanks in no small part to the team drafting Ben Roethliberger, a player Whisenhunt gets too much credit for "developing". Big Ben was a major talent coming out of college--David Lewinn's system rates him as the only prospect better than Peyton Manning in the last ten years--and, if anything, Whisenhunt should share some of the blame for his decline last season. Like too many mad genius offensive coordinators before him, Whisenhunt has bought into his own bull crap, eschewing quality roster construction to bring in "his guys". This team needed as many quality players as possible to fill out positions of need and create some semblance of depth, instead the Cardinals are once again a thin team that's offense will be great in spurts, but too unreliable to consistently succeed.
Final Grade: The Cards are a team many, including myself, predicted to compete next season. This is why you shouldn't make such claims before the NFL draft. Brown was a reach, Branch is a poor fit that cost too much. Davis is a 4-3 LB who needs big men up front to keep the blockers off him. Breaston is a joke and Patrick, well, Patrick is a good pick. If Davis or Branch get hurt or flop, this entire draft falls apart. C-