With the 2009 NFL draft nearly two weeks in the record books, this sports fan set out to do what every “passionate” (irrational) fan does and grade each team’s selections prior to playing a single snap in the National Football League.
Having tirelessly studied “Film” (10 second YouTube clips) for months leading up to the draft and possessing extensive experience in sports management (fantasy football) , I set out to evaluate the decision makers of the NFC West. Here is my pick-by-pick evaluation of the Arizona Cardinals' 2009 NFL Draft.
Arizona Cardinals: Round 1, Pick 31
Chris “Beanie” Wells: RB, Ohio State
This pick may soon prove to be the best selection of the 2009 NFL draft. With that in mind, if “Beanie” continues to run for the sidelines and miss critical games with non-critical injuries, it may not. Nevertheless, Wells is the most physically gifted running back not named Adrian Peterson to come out of college football in the last five years.
Many believe that with his rare combination of size, speed, and vision he is a threat from all areas on the field. The Cardinals, however, will likely use last year's pick Tim Hightower in goal line and short yardage situations to keep Wells fresh.
Personally, I prefer Well’s tangibles and production over Knowshown Moreno who went off the board 17 picks earlier. The Cardinals were down right lucky to see a star-potential running back fall to the end of the first round. This pick was a great value at a position of need.
Round 2, Pick 63
Cody Brown: DE, Connecticut
As the Cardinal’s indicated by allowing Calvin Pace to walk in free agency last year and cutting Travis Laboy immediately following the draft, it’s about time Arizona invests a draft pick in an OLB pass-rushing toy for their 3-4 defense. Brown was named team defensive MVP after posting 11 sacks and 16.5 tackles for a loss as a senior.
Although filling a large void, this pick didn’t possess the same value as one would hope. Realistically, there wasn’t a lot of drop off in talent at the OLB position once all the bubble first-round picks of Larry English, Connor Barwin, Everette Brown, and Clay Matthews were off the board by the middle of the second round. Had they been so desperate for an OLB they would’ve been wise to trade up.
Also, they could’ve waited a round and grabbed Brown or a player like Lawrence Sidbury who many scouts actually ranked ahead of Cody Brown (yet fell to the end of the fourth round). Instead, they fill a big need with questionable value.
Round 3, Pick 95
Rashad Johnson: FS, Alabama
Of Arizona’s two starting safeties, one is a Pro Bowler set to enter Free Agency at season’s end (Adrian Wilson) and the other is a corner shifted over for his lack of quickness (Antrel Rolle). Given these cold hard facts, Arizona felt the need to bulk up the position for depth and future starters.
While not a physical freak by any means, Rashad Johnson posseses decent athletic ability coupled with superior instincts. These instincts upgraded him from a walk on to a defensive cornerstone for the Alabama program. As a senior, Johnson tallied five interceptions on his way to a first-team all SEC selection, a remarkable accomplishment considering the strength of competition. Given that he could have easily gone in the late second round, Johnson presents good value and need. A solid selection overall.
Round 4, Pick 131
Greg Toler: CB, St. Paul’s
Entering the college offseason, Greg Toller was viewed as an "under the radar" sleeper type prospect after being named All-CIAA and Little All-American first-team honors in 2008. In his senior season he posted 51 tackles and six interceptions.
Much like my unfortunate record at the DMV, he ran his way into the radar clocking a 4.38 40-time at 5-11, 191 lbs. Although promising, there were certainly more tested cb’s on the board in Mike Mickens and Macho Harris. And to think, just two years ago Cardinal CB’s were the laughingstock of the NFL. They bolster a need at decent value.
Round 5, Pick 167
Herman Johnson: OG/OT, LSU
When the team that drafted Leonard Davis with the second overall pick of the 2001 NFL draft has a chance to grab his second-coming in the fifth round, you better believe they will. While Davis was a major bust as an offensive tackle, his sheer size and strength made him an above average guard.
Herman Johnson, the biggest baby born in the state of Louisiana, will be a mauling guard when trapped in the proverbial phone booth between the center and tackle. Johnson could have easily gone as high as the late second or early third, so landing him in the fifth round is an incredible value at a position where you can never have too many big bodies.
Round 6, Pick 204
Will Davis: DE, Illinois
You can bet that the Cardinals draft card read "2007 Will Davis." The 2007 Will Davis wowed scouts with his rush-moves and motor, accumulating 9.5 sacks. The 2007 Will Davis was a second round pick. The 2008 Will Davis struggled, exhibiting minimal pass-rush ability, registering a measly 3.5 sacks. The 2008 Will Davis should be an UDFA. If the Cardinals got 2007 Will Davis, they landed a potential starting OLB. Although not tremendous value, this is a boom bust pick at a position of needed depth.
Round 7, Pick 240
LaRod Stephens-Howlings: RB, Pittsburgh
By drafting Chris Wells, the Cardinal’s added another power back to a running back core that already had a power back in Tim Hightower. Since the value was too good to pass up on with the first pick, the Cardinal’s decided they’d look to the later rounds for their speed back and proverbial wind in the earth, wind, and fire trio out in the desert. With this in mind, there were certainly more noteworthy and productive speed backs on the board in Wyoming’s Devin Moore and Purdue’s Kory Sheets.
After all, in four college seasons, Stephens-Howlings ran for just 1,066 yards and 6 touchdowns. His small 5’7", 180 lb frame and quick feet will remind many of Charger’s running back Darren Sproles (minus the legendary collegiate production of course). Having spent his college career backing up LeSean McCoy, LaRod Stephens-Howlings will make a career serving as a backup in the NFL and providing special teams ability. A needed pick at questionable value.
Round 7, Pick 254
Trevor Canfield: OG, Cincinnati
The Cardinal’s offensive line has been more porous than a mal-practiced acupuncture clinic over the years, and they continue to beef up their interior offensive line. Canfield, who was a three time All Big East Conference second-team selection, has been noted for his mean-streak on the field and work ethic off of it. Canfield could have been selected as early as the fifth round so this selection provides good value, at a position that can never have enough meat.
Overall Grade: B+
With the exception of tremendous value/need picks of Chris Wells, Rashad Johnson, and Herman Johnson, as well as sleeper Greg Toler, the Cardinals draft was relatively mediocre, including several "reaches."