Heading into the draft, the Cardinals were said to have their sights set on Wisconsin' Joe Thomas, the top-rated tackle in this year's class of prospects. But the Cleveland Browns snapped up Thomas with the third overall pick.
Most experts predicted Brown would be taken by the Miami Dolphins with the ninth overall pick or later. But the Cardinals were clearly concerned with addressing their need at tackle, and took him with the No. 5 pick.
It will be interesting to see where Brown plays for Arizona. He was a multiple-year starter at left tackle for the Nittany Lions, the final two spent protecting the blind side of right-handed quarterbacks Michael Robinson and Anthony Morelli.
Leinart, however, is a lefty, meaning Brown could be stationed at right tackle to protect the QB's blind side.
Levi Brown is Penn State's highest overall draft pick since defensive end Courtney Brown and linebacker LaVar Arrington went with the frist and second picks in 2000. He is the first PSU offensive lineman to go in the opening round since Jeff Hartings and Andre Johnson in 1996.
This also marks the earliest in the draft a Nittany Lion offensive lineman has been picked, besting Mike Munchak, who was the eighth selection (Houston Oilers) in 1982.
See what the Cardinals' staff had to say about the pick in the interview transcript below.
HEAD COACH KEN WHISENHUNT (KW) AND VICE PRESIDENT OF FOOTBALL OPERATIONS ROD GRAVES (RG) DISCUSSING LEVI BROWN.
(RG): Good morning. We are happy to have been in a position to select Levi Brown, offensive tackle from Penn State as our first selection. Any questions today?
On liking Brown over Joe Thomas
(KW): We had both of those players ranked very close, almost right together. Certainly there were attributes about each player that we liked. Id be lying if I didnt tell you that I like the physical mentality or the physical nature of the way he (Brown) plays. I think it is a good fit for what we are trying to do and what we are trying to establish with this football team.
On Browns pass blocking:
(KW): I think hes a very talented football player. I am very comfortable with the line coach that we have, Russ Grimm, as far as anything that he needs from a pass protection standpoint or from a run game standpoint. I think Russ will help him in that area greatly. Once again I think he is an outstanding football player and I really like the way he plays the game.
On trade offers:
(RG): No, in fact it was very, very quiet. We didnt get any calls as a matter of fact. As Ive always said, we were prepared to make the pick. We had looked at several scenarios. We have been talking about Levi Brown for the last couple weeks. We knew it was a possibility that we would be faced with him on the board and our staff and myself, our scouting staff, were certainly comfortable with making that choice at that particular spot.
On whether they have talked to Levi yet: (KW): He was excited, he said lets get it going coach!, and I said lets do that. Were excited to have him and he seemed excited when I spoke to him.
On whether taking Brown was a reach:
(RG): Obviously there will be varied opinions about whether we should or should not have. The fact of the matter is we had him graded very, very highly. As coach Whisenhunt said, hes an excellent fit for our football team and I believe if you like him you take him.
On where Brown will play:
(KW): Weve discussed that. We have three guys there and we have to figure out the best rotation or the best two that are going to play. Whether that means that Mike Gandy plays left (tackle) or right (tackle) or Levi plays left (tackle) or right (tackle), I think that is going to be a question that we can hopefully answer in these OTAs and certainly in training camp. But I do know this: in watching tape of Levi, to me he looks comfortable and I know Russ worked him out, working out of either stance, and thats really what the issue comes down to. I do not have any questions or any fears about him playing either side.
On Joe Thomas going 3:
(RG): No. We anticipated in a number of scenarios we looked at that it was a possibility, and we were prepared for that. Joe Thomas is an excellent football player and we would have been excited to have him also. Thats not the way it fell today and we are excited about the pick we did make. As Ken indicated, in our evaluations of both players there were certainly elements that both players brought to the table that were a little different.
On thinking of Adrian Peterson:
(KW): Certainly he is a good football player and he was in consideration. He was up there high on our board. But the way I feel, when looking at this football team when I came in here, was that we have the skill position players to match up with anybody in the league. When you build a team you want to build the core of the team. I made it clear early that we wanted to make sure we took care of the offensive line. We addressed that in free agency and we felt like it was a situation in the draft that we could also address. I know this, our quarterback (Matt Leinart) texted me right after we made the pick Great pick coach so it was something that was important to him and I we feel very good about it.
On whether Edgerrin James sent a message: (KW): I told our quarterback to tell Edge to get ready to run the football. Were excited about that.
On the pick being unanimous:
(RG): Weve had it lined up. We were going with the order on our board. Our grades, we had a cluster of players there with outstanding grades and we had an opportunity within that group to lean toward an area we felt was most important to us. Levi Brown was certainly in that group.
On Brown being smart and physical:
(KW): He has a lot of integrity, his father was a marine. He carried a presence when he came in the room with us for the interview in Indianapolis. When you talk about character, when you talk about intensity, when you talk about the physical nature of how you play the football game on the field, he certainly embodies a lot of those qualities; At least from my impressions of him from the short time I have been around him. I think that is one thing that really shows on the football field when he plays and ultimately that is what you look for.
(RG): And there were some other aspects; his leadership that manifested there at Penn State, I think he was a team captain there. A lot of the comments that we received from the staff there about his person, about his work habits, all of that, it really just came together as being a good package.
On who Browns agent is:
(RG): Joel Segal
On filling a need with the best player available: (KW): I go back to what we did in free agency. Mr. Bidwill and Mike certainly were generous in giving us the ability to sign free agents and Rod Graves and his staff did a great job. One piece of advice that I was given in this process was you trust your board. You put months of work into aligning players on your board and when it comes time to pick you put trust in that. Levi was at the top of our board and when it came time to pick it was an easy decision.
On drafting physical players:
(KW): I think that is a mentality that we started establishing two weeks ago in mini camp on the field with our veterans and with what they have done in the weight room so far in our off season program. That is important because when you are looking for that type of player and you get a young player and bring him into your team you want to have that mentality so they can buy in. I have seen that work and be successful and that is the kind of team that we want to put on the field.
On Brown committing only two penalties in 2005: (KW): Yes, anytime you are not penalized as a lineman that is very impressive. I guess Russ has a high mark to live up to.
On Russ Grimm being happy with the pick: (KW): Russ liked Levi. He liked Joe Thomas as well. I think Russ is excited about the guys that he has in here on our football team right now. As far as what we are going to do with this offensive line, we are certainly excited to get a new addition like Levi with that group of guys. Russ does a great job of establishing chemistry along that offensive line, guys believing in what we are going to do, how we are going to play physical. I think he is excited because Levi kind of fits that mold. On top of that he is also a good football player.
On the lines improvement so far:
(KW): Ultimately that will be judged by how we play. I feel very good about the depth that we have, I feel very good about the competition that we have. One thing I really like is that these guys have been working out together down here in the weight room. They are already starting to develop chemistry and a mentality. I am very excited about the group that we have on our team and certainly the addition of Levi.
On whether Reggie Wells stays at guard:
(KW): That is certainly a thing we would like to see happen. I think Reggie is unique in that he can play both for us, and that gives us some versatility. I would think that right now, with these tackles that we have, Reggie will have a chance to stay at guard.
On expectations for Brown:
(KW): Were going to give him every opportunity to compete for a position. That is what I believe in doing. If he earns the right based on what he does in training camp and what he does over the next couple of months then he is going to play. He has talent. There is always a transition when you go from college to the NFL level, there will be some growing pains. I think he will be a good player for us and a good offensive lineman for years to come.
So no calls for trades:
(RG): We have been on the phone all week checking interest. I certainly took an opportunity this morning to go back and see if there was any interest in anyone moving up and everyone seemed comfortable staying exactly where they were.
On getting the first pick out of the way: (RG): Im excited. Ken and I have spent a lot of long hours just talking it through and what the possibilities might be in the later rounds. For us it is just beginning. It is a relief to be able to address this particular spot, our first round pick, in the way we did with the player that we did. Im excited for what might happen in the second and third rounds today.
(KW): Im excited. I am really excited about the direction that we are going as an organization with this team. I am excited that we have been given the opportunity as coaches to have some pretty good football players to get this thing going the way my vision or the way I feel it should be with a smart, physical football team.
On looking at defense now:
(RG): We are going to look in that area, we just have to see how the board falls for us. I think more-so then ever now the best player available gets more important as the day goes on. We do not want to pass up an opportunity for good players whether it is offense or defense. We would like to address our return area if that presents an opportunity but well see. At this point we would like to look toward the defense and see what may happen there.
ARIZONA CARDINALS OFFENSIVE LINE COACH RUSS GRIMM (RG) DISCUSSING LEVI BROWN
On how much he likes Brown:
(RG): Obviously his aggressive style of play, hes a big man that can move. I think he still has a lot of upside, thats kind of exciting. The thing that impressed us the most when we went to work him out was the passion he has for the game. What he brings to the table, I think he wants to keep improving. Hes excited about playing and were definitely happy with him.
On the difference between Brown and Joe Thomas: (RG): Im not going to compare the two tackles, theyre both young kids. All the kids coming out that are going to be selected today are good football players. Its just a matter of whether it fills the need here or fills the need somewhere else, theyre both quality players.
On working Brown hard during his pro day: (RG): You test them a little bit, just the mental part. At a workout like that, youre just competing against yourself. He has strangers coming in, instructing him to do drills that are sometimes a little different from what hes used to or what hes been taught. You just want to see how he reacts, how he handles the coaching part, can he take hard coaching and is he a little sensitive. And we were pleased with the results.
On Browns pass blocking being criticized: (RG): Everybody coming out, theyre going to have to obviously work on it a little bit. We were happy with his pass protection on tape. Obviously at the next level, things pick up a little bit, but thats a challenge we feel comfortable that he can handle.
On the biggest adjustment for linemen from college to the NFL: (RG): The biggest adjustment is the size, the quickness of the game, week in and week out. Hes played against some good competition but now its going to be on a consistent basis. The biggest thing for college kids the first year is just the length of the season. Theyre used to that training camp, 11 games and then your 12th is a bowl game or something. Now you go, four preseason games, 16 regular season games with a bye and then obviously the playoffs so you could get up to 24. Its usually double the season.
On the lack of contact between Brown and the Cardinals: (RG): We went and saw him at the combine, we talked to him there. Coach Whisenhunt has talked to him; Mr. Graves has talked to him. You see him work out at the combine, you see him do the measurables, he does all the tests and it stirred up the interest to the point that we went up to Penn St. and looked at him again up there just to make sure we were positive about the rating we put on him.
On whether Brown could play on either the right or left side: (RG): We feel he can play either side. Once we get into the mini-camp and the OTAs, wed like to make that decision as soon as possible, but were a little more flexible now as far as being able to move some guys around.
On the Cardinals offensive line:
(RG): I think the guys that are here, with the addition of the couple guys we got in free agency, I think theyve done an excellent job. Theyve been losing weight, theyve been working out, theyve been getting in great shape and again, were still undefeated. No penalties, no sacks, everything is good right now.
On whether he thinks the players here will be a productive offensive line: (RG): I think so. We feel good about the guys we have here. Obviously we feel good about the additions were going to get today and tomorrow. Its not saying that the guys we have here arent capable of doing the job. Theyve been in here busting their butts; this game is all about competition. Well see what happens.
On how he feels about drafting an offensive lineman with the Cardinals first pick: (RG): Thats where the most players are. When the offense is out there, there are five spots that are considered part of that offensive line. Theres a lot of talent on this football team and again we thought he was the best player there and hes somebody were happy to have.
On Brown being the son of a former Marine: (RG): There are all different kinds of ways to coach. Hes a disciplined kid; hes had no problems in school. Thats one of those things we talked about with the rookie adjustments, youve got to be able to come out not only handle the change from now to being taken off scholarship to where you have to take care of your own bills, take care of things around the house, youve got to get yourself set up. Then youve got to realize that when you go out in the community there are some things that are expected and there are some things that are taken away just because of who you are. And youve got to be able to handle that as a young kid and we feel confident that he can do that.