Draft Remix: Could Graves Have Done Better?

The Cardinals failed to address key needs in the draft, such as speed at the skill positions and depth across the offensive line. Rod Graves shrugs this off as inevitability and insists he took the best player available with each pick. But could he of filled his needs and still gotten good value? Michael Lombardo takes a closer look in this draft remix.

If the Cardinals were given a draft weekend do-over, would Graves do anything differently? Could he have somehow netted a more encompassing draft class? Here is a look at what the Cardinals could have done, using only players who were available at each respective slot in the draft.

Round 1: Rashard Mendenhall, RB, Illinois- The biggest question mark on Arizona's roster is quarterback Matt Leinart, and what better way to stack the deck in Leinart's favor than by adding an explosive back like Mendenhall? Mendenhall averaged an incredible 6.5 yards on his 388 career carries, racking up 22 TDs along the way. He would keep Edgerrin James fresh while opening up the play-action pass for Leinart.

Round 2: Terrence Wheatley, CB, Colorado- Wheatley doesn't have a lot of size (5'9", 187 pounds), but he has just about everything else. He is fast, athletic, intelligent and experienced enough to play on opening day. His slight stature would keep him out of the starting lineup, but he could have been an ideal nickel back between Eric Green and Roderick Hood.

Round 3: Cliff Avril, OLB, Purdue- The Cardinals chose an outside linebacker in round six, choosing Texas A&M's Chris Harrington, who had just two sacks last season. Avril, who has 13.5 sacks over the last two season, would have been a much better fit in the 3-4 defense. Avril is similar to Shaun Phillips, another former Purdue defensive lineman who moved to linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. Phillips has 20 sacks over the last two seasons for the San Diego Chargers.

Round 4: DeMario Pressley, DL, North Carolina State- The Cardinals drafted a pair of defensive ends in the draft, which seems like overkill with Darnell Dockett, Antonio Smith, Bert Berry and Bryan Robinson on the roster. The team could have gotten away with waiting until the fourth round for Pressley, who played tackle and end in college. His rare combination of size (6'3", 301 pounds) and athleticism makes him an ideal end in a 3-4 defense.

Round 5: Kevin Robinson, WR, Utah State- The Cardinals wanted to add speed to their receiving corps, and they failed to do so by addressing the position Early (Doucet). A better choice would have been Robinson, who became the NCAA career all-purpose yards per play record holder late in the 2007 season (16.16 avg). Known for his deadly return skills, Robinson would have injected the offensive with a big-play element out of the slot.

Round 6: Steven Justice, C, Wake Forest- The Cardinals drafted depth at tackle in the form of Northern Iowa's Brandon Keith. However, the interior line could have used some increased competition, as well. Justice would have been a steal this late because of his technically proficient skill-set and high football IQ.

Round 7: Kirk Barton, OT, Ohio State- The Cardinals had the right position in round seven, but it may have been the wrong player. Although Barton is not as naturally talented as Keith, he makes up for it with his nasty demeanor and relentless style of play. Pairing Barton with offensive line coach Russ Grimm would have produced a grizzly player capable of starting as early as 2009.

Michael Lombardo is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports.


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