With my retrospective about Larry Fitzgerald’s memorable 2008 playoff run due to post Monday at azcardinals.com, it’s fitting to have Fitz and his Cardinals’ draft class come up in an ESPN article about each team’s best draft classes ever. It goes back to the first common draft of 1967. The ranking is based on a tool created by profootballreference.com called “approximate value,” which is based on games, starts, awards and some meaningful individual stats. Winning games factors in. Obviously, the longer a player stays with the team that drafted him matters, and so would volume.
That’s why it would matter that the draft shrunk to seven rounds in 1994. It was 17 rounds in 1967, and 12 from 1977-1993. More chances to find players in a class. The Cardinals’ draft class of 2004 made at No. 18. That’s no surprise. It was a fabulous class, with Fitzgerald in the first round, Karlos Dansby in the second round and Darnell Dockett in the third round. Defensive end Antonio Smith, who started for the 2008 Super Bowl team, was a fifth-round pick.
(The other three picks from that class — fourth-round center Alex Stepanovich, sixth-round guard/center Nick Leckey, seventh-round quarterback John Navarre.)
Only one team — the Ravens, with their 1996 class of Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis — has their draft class ranked higher than the Cardinals when their class in the seven-round era. The extra rounds (and no unrestricted free agency before 1992) helped many other teams have their best drafts long ago.
Fitz is still going strong, and Dansby has returned for a third tour with the team (and will build that draft class value again). Dockett is retired, but Smith hasn’t shut it down yet, playing for the Texans last season.
Tags: Antonio Smith, Darnell Dockett, draft, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald
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Had Derek Carr lasted on the draft board until the Cardinals picked 20th in the second round this past May, Carr might have been in Tempe (and Logan Thomas wouldn’t, assuming the Cards would have drafted only one quarterback). Carr, now the rookie starter for a Raiders team that will host the Cardinals Sunday, was instead drafted with the fourth pick of the second round.
Arians said personally he had Carr ranked “fairly high” going into the draft. But he also said he saw Carr as a second-round talent. The Cardinals spent their first-round pick, 27th overall and 10 picks before Carr was actually selected, on safety Deone Bucannon. Bucannon has turned into a godsend for the defense, not necessarily as a safety with the Cards deep at that spot right now but as a fill-in for suspended linebacker Daryl Washington in the nickel package. When Bucannon was drafted, Washington was still on the roster. Bucannon’s play has helped the defense survive Washington’s absence.
Still, the constant search for a young, long-term QB was on, which is why the Cards eventually drafted Thomas. It would have been interesting to see what Arians could have done with Carr, who is off to a decent start even if his team is 0-5. Carr is coming off a four-touchdown, one-interception game against San Diego, by far his best performance. Through five starts, Carr’s passing rating is 81.1, with eight TDs and five interceptions.
“Man, that kid’s got heart,” said Raiders defensive end Antonio Smith, a former Cardinal. “He’s got heart and he’s got faith in what he wants to be and who he is, and he’s continually getting better and better each week.”
Arians said Carr, young brother of former No. 1 overall pick David Carr, was “very mature” coming out of Fresno State.
“Really liked him,” Arians said. “It’s one of those things like Peyton (Manning) and Andrew Luck – when you grow up in a football family like he did, you don’t go in the locker room in awe of anything because you’ve been in one your whole life. It’s another day in the gym. That part of it is easy for those guys to overcome quickly. He was in a good offense that spread the ball around, so, yeah, I liked him. I thought he would be a successful quarterback.”
Tags: Antonio Smith, Bruce Arians, Derek Carr, Raiders
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Darnell Dockett was speaking very matter-of-factly Monday. There was little emotion in his voice, although there might have been, since the topic was longtime nemesis Richie Incognito and Incognito’s suspension after his alleged bullying of teammate Jonathan Martin in Miami. Long before now, back when Incognito was playing for the Rams, he would get under the skin of Dockett and then-Cardinal defensive end Antonio Smith, and the two would often talk about having to face him before the twice-a-year Cards-Rams games. Safe to say there was no love lost there. Dockett has had his fun in the past with a war of words with guys like Vernon Davis — and considering they are friends, it was fun. The Incognito stuff was not that. They weren’t alone. Former Cardinal defensive lineman Nick Eason once said Incognito spit on him during a game.
“Nothing that guy does surprises me at all,” Dockett said Monday. “I’ve had a few incidents with that guy, I’ve seen other players have incidents with that guy, I’ve seen everything he has tried to do to hurt guys. It’s unfortunate you try to mentally hurt guys you need to win football games, actually a guy on the same side as you. That’s very unfortunate.”
Smith, who left after the 2008 season to sign with the Texans (who visit University of Phoenix Stadium Sunday), had one very public run-in with Incognito after both left the NFC West. Last year in the preseason, Smith got so fed up with Incognito that he ripped the offensive lineman’s helmet off and swung it at Incognito. That got him a suspension. Like Dockett, Smith told reporters Monday he wasn’t surprised Incognito was involved in the latest news.
“You are what you are I guess,” Smith said. “That doesn’t surprise me one bit.”
Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby played with Incognito in Miami and was in the awkward position to talk about the situation. He called Incognito a good teammate from what he had been around. Safe to say Dockett isn’t going to come around to that line of thinking. Someone asked Dockett if he could be specific with his run-ins with Incognito.
“I don’t have to get into the details,” Dockett said. “Everything I’ve seen I’m pretty sure you’ve seen it too. Anybody that’s been around sports has seen this guy. It ain’t hard, Just Google it. I’m not going to get into details because I honestly don’t care about the guy at all. I’m just glad the NFL and the Miami Dolphins are taking action. I don’t have any respect for the guy.”
Tags: Antonio Smith, Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, Richie Incognito
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The NFL released the compensatory picks for the 2010 draft today and the Cardinals did not get one. While there had been a lot of talk earlier about possibly getting one after losing defensive end Antonio Smith last offseason, I guess it was offset by signings like cornerback Bryant McFadden, to the point where comp pick guru AdamJT13 had already guessed the Cards were out of the loop (that link, by the way, explains well how the comp pick formula basically works).
The picks announced today, again, were based on last offseason. This month’s free agency transitions will affect the 2011 draft. In short, the Cards could come out ahead — possibly. Players have to be actual free agents (the contracts expiring) and not released, meaning the loss of Antrel Rolle won’t help but the signings of Joey Porter and Derek Anderson won’t hurt either. For now, the Cards’ 2011 comp formula will be Karlos Dansby/Jerheme Urban vs. Paris Lenon/Rex Hadnot.
UPDATE: Here is AdamJT13’s explanation on the Cards’ situation for this draft: “Arizona signed two qualifying players and lost two qualifying players, so the best the Cardinals could hope for was a net value pick, but as I projected, the difference in values was not enough to warrant one. Had the Cardinals not signed Jason Wright, they would have received a third-round pick for Antonio Smith.” I believe the players were McFadden/Wright vs. Smith/Terrelle Smith.
Tags: Antonio Smith, Antrel Rolle, Bryant McFadden, Derek Anderson, draft, free agency, Jerheme Urban, Joey Porter, Karlos Dansby, Paris Lenon
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I’m writing this at 30,000 feet or so, flying somewhere high above the U.S., at around 1:45 a.m. Phoenix time. And let me state the obvious – while these red-eye flights home aren’t the best, they are much, much easier to take with a victory in the back pocket.
I’ve been covering the Cardinals full-time since 2000, and I can’t remember – and this includes last year’s playoff run – a time when the confidence felt more all-encompassing than it does right now. That’s why they could overcome some of the bad breaks in New York. They believe. You want to talk about a culture change in the franchise, that’s one major tell right there.
I mean, they’re 3-0 on the road. I remember sitting in the bowels of the Georgia Dome in 2006, after the Cards had been nailed for a 32-10 defeat and Denny Green had handed over the keys to the car to Matt Leinart and benching Kurt Warner (that alone just tells you how far this team has come). I did the math and figured that was the 50th road game I had covered as a beat writer. The Cardinals had lost 41 of them.
Indeed, the Cards are a long way from that era.
As for the immediate Giants’ aftermath:
— I’m sure I will get a bunch of e-mails on the subject, but yes, it certainly feels like there was a running back changing of the guard Sunday night. Beanie Wells only had 14 carries, but he averaged 4.8 yards a carry. The fumbling for the backs remains a concern – one each for Wells and Tim Hightower – but I’d be surprised if Beanie doesn’t get the majority of the carries now, with Hightower the receiving and short-yardage back.
All Beanie could say Sunday was how it was fun. No, it’s not eloquent. But it crystallizes his thoughts.
— The Cardinals have to hope the ankle injury to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie isn’t too serious. They may not absolutely need him this game, not with the Panthers struggling and possibly benching quarterback Jake Delhomme. But they need DRC and his playmaking abilities.
— The defense still hasn’t allowed a touchdown in the first quarter this season (only three field goals) and hasn’t allowed a first-quarter point in four straight games.
— You see the impact being made by Alan Branch and Calais Campbell and you have to have optimism for the future on the defensive line. Campbell has played so well the loss of Antonio Smith hasn’t been felt at all. As for Branch, I mean, this was a guy who many had written off, so for him to be this productive is just extra.
— Warner wasn’t bad Sunday, not by a long shot. But when it was over, I couldn’t help but think of the comments he made in training camp when he talked about often feeling last year that the Cards didn’t have a chance unless he played really well, and that he hoped the team would reach a point where it could win even if he had an off night. In my mind, I think that’s exactly what happened Sunday. Warner wasn’t off, per se, but he didn’t seem super sharp (the Giants’ pass rush will do that) and his teammates picked him up.
— The Giants had won 15 straight games when leading at halftime. That’s over.
— Unbelievable to me that Adrian Wilson had one of his biggest games – a pick, a fumble recovery, and another near pick – despite cramps. The secondary was banged up and scrambling at the end. By the way, Bryant McFadden didn’t have a gaudy stat, but I thought he played his best game of the year, especially with the defensive backfield leaning on him after DRC went out.
— Finally, a humorous anecdote. Apparently, some small critter raced across the field during the game, which, according to Beanie, scared fellow running back Jason Wright. “He hopped in my arms like a little girl,” Wells said with a smile. “It was the funniest thing I’ve seen in my life.” Wright, getting dressed next to Beanie in the cramped visitors’ locker room laughed but emphasized that because Beanie blabbed to reporters, “You’re gonna pay for that.”
Heck, Wright could afford to laugh it off. He scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Alan Branch, Antonio Smith, Beanie Wells, Bryant McFadden, Calais Campbell, DRC, Giants, Jason Wright, Kurt Warner, Matt Leinart, Tim Hightower
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What sticks with me more than anything else after the Cards’ disappointing season-opening loss was the TV shot of an animated Larry Fitzgerald talking to Kurt Warner in the huddle late in the first half. I don’t know what Fitz was saying nor did I get a chance to ask, but I’m willing to guess – since Fitz didn’t have a catch at that point – Fitz was saying something along the lines of “Just give me a chance and I’ll go get it for you.”
Shades of last season’s opener against the Niners. Of course, the Cards ended up winning that game. The Cards didn’t win Sunday. But it was game two where the offensive air attack really starting clicking after an uneven first game. Can they repeat that in Jacksonville?
Anyway, some other thoughts:
— If the Cards can really play defense like that, they’ll be in good shape. Their new style is now on video though, so teams will be better prepared. But if Chike Okeafor can play like that and Darnell Dockett continues to be disruptive ad Calais Campbell (pictured below stuffing Frank Gore near the Niner goal line) plays like he is ready to make us forget Antonio Smith, that’s a start.
— Beanie Wells showed some things after his messed-up first play, but if Tim Hightower can make plays out of the backfield catching the ball, that’s why Hightower will continue to start. Hightower did seem to slip back sometimes into some east-west running after making strides toward north-south in the preseason.
— The receiver injuries have to be a concern. It’s now clear why Lance Long made the team, because Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston were banged up. Are the injuries a major reason the offense has slid backward? That makes sense.
— The penalties should be a thing of the past. They were a bugaboo in 2007. They were cleaned up for the most part last season, but there they were Sunday killing the Cards. “There was a lot of aggression out there, a lot of emotion,” Dockett said of the penalties. “Penalties hurt you but at the same time I don’t think that dictates whether you win or lose the game like that out there.” That could be true, but what stuck with coach Ken Whisenhunt afterward were the two penalties when the Cards got the ball back when they could have won. They had 38 yards to go and went backwards 15 yards first.
— The offensive line play was uneven. It wasn’t helped when Warner held the ball a couple of times waiting for plays to open up. But Levi Brown had trouble with rush end Parys Haralson, as one example. The Cards didn’t get to establish much of a run, either, playing from behind much of the game.
Tags: 49ers, Anquan Boldin, Antonio Smith, Beanie Wells, Calais Campbell, Chike Okeafor, Darnell Dockett, Frank Gore, Jaguars, Ken Whisenhunt, Kurt Warner, Lance Long, Larry Fitzgerald, Levi Brown, Parys Haralson, Steve Breaston, Tim Hightower
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