Cardinals Draft Plan Comes to Fruition

GM Rod Graves stayed true to his word and took the best player available in all seven rounds, helping the Cardinals land top stars who most experts felt were out of Arizona's reach. Team expert Amberly Richardson breaks down what worked for the Cardinals and why a former offensive coordinator was so excited to load up on defense.

Typically, a head coach with an offensive background tends to drown the draft in picks on that same side of the ball, but Ken Whisenhunt's reign with the Pittsburgh Steelers must have taught him that the defense wins championships.

First on the agenda was the best corner available, which turned out to be Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who most thought would be long gone by the 16th overall pick.

The defensive reinforcements continued in the second round and deep into day two. Whisenhunt stock-piled three pass-rushers over the weekend, which marked the Cardinals' philosophical switch to drafting multiple players in a position of need in order to make sure you get what you need. No longer are the Cardinals taking an "all of our eggs in one basket" approach.

With the additions of second-round defensive end Calais Campbell, fourth-round defensive end Kenny Iwebema and sixth-round outside linebacker Chris Harrington, the Cardinals have added several talented prospects to an already crowded mix.

The Cardinals dealings further mark a full commitment to the 3-4 scheme.

"One of the things that we talked about earlier was that, later in the year, we wore down and that was because we were getting so many reps," Whisenhunt said. "This gives us a chance to work some other guys in, hopefully have some competition at that position."

Arizona continued down its road of taking players from big schools who have proved their worth against top competition, with the exceptions of Rodgers-Cromartie and Timothy Hightower (Richmond). The Cardinals thought they would pick Hightower up in the fourth round, but were confident he would still be available in the fifth round, which freed up the pick up for Iwebema.

Although Hightower wasn't the home-run back the Cardinals were looking for in a player like Chris Johnson, Arizona is content with the draft happenings.

"We felt like we upgraded our team," Whisenhunt said. "Sure, we would have loved to come away with a couple of positions that may have provided more spark for us, but we can't be disappointed at the way things fell for us."

Amberly Richardson is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a correspondent for Scout.com. She has contributed to the official Web sites of several NFL players for Sixthman Communications. Her analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.


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