Rod Graves' Tendencies Leave Clues for Draft

The Cardinals will look to build upon a solid nucleus of talent in this year's draft. While cornerback and running back are pressing areas of need, GM Rod Graves is in a position to select the best player available. Brad Wilbricht analyzes Graves' tendencies since taking over as general manger and explains how they will affect the 2008 draft.

The Cardinals find themselves in unfamiliar territory as the team picks outside of the top-ten for only the second time in the last five years. Historically, GM Rod Graves has valued filling immediate team needs while attempting to select one of the best players available.

Arizona is desperate at the cornerback position. The Cardinals are in a similar state as in 2005, when they selected two cornerbacks in the first three rounds. CB Antrel Rolle, who was selected with the eighth overall pick, has since been moved to safety. CB Eric Green should contend for the starting position in 2008 alongside CB Roderick Hood.

Graves could be leery of selecting a running back with a first-day pick. While many believe the Cardinals will pull the trigger on an explosive back to compliment Edgerrin James, Arizona has selected only one running back in the draft since 2003. J.J. Arrington was a second-round pick in 2005, but has been a severe disappointment. Arrington has failed to break the two-deeps on the depth chart behind James and Marcel Shipp.

Nearly all of last year's draft class immediately contributed during the 2007 season. OT Levi Brown, DT Alan Branch and special-teams standout Steve Breaston all saw significant playing time during their rookie seasons and will be heavily relied upon in 2008. Additionally, seventh-round pick TE Ben Patrick is poised for a breakout year.

However, there was one major miss by the Cardinals front office. Third-round pick Buster Davis was waived last September, leaving the team with little to show from one of only five draft picks last year.

One of the Cardinals main tasks will be to acquire more staying power with this year's draft picks. Since Graves took over as general manager in 2003, only 18 of the Cardinals 33 draft picks are still on the roster.

Although the Cardinals have no urgent needs on the defensive line or at linebacker, expect the team to express interest in both positions. Since 2003, Arizona has selected eight linebackers and six defensive linemen in the draft.

It won't be a shock if the Cardinals move up or down depending on how their draft board falls. In 2007, the team traded up to select Branch in the second round. In Graves' first draft as general manager in 2003, the Cardinals traded down from the sixth overall pick with the New Orleans Saints to obtain multiple first-round picks. He used those picks to tab WR Bryant Johnson and OLB/DE Calvin Pace, both of whom left as free agents this offseason.

Outside of Larry Fitzgerald in 2004, the Cardinals first-round draft picks have been suspect at best. The jury is still out on 2005 and 2006 first-round picks, Rolle and QB Matt Leinart. Furthermore, Brown was considered a reach with the fifth overall pick in last year's draft.

Brown was considered a need pick. With increased depth this time around, look for Graves to avoid selecting anyone with that label.


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