Cardinals Draft Grade: Ro-Cro Sets The Curve

Whatever nickname sticks for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, one thing is for sure: he has energized the Cardinals' fan base. The Ro-Cro pick had Cards fans smiling on day one of the draft, but the grins weren't quite as big on day two. Team expert Amberly Richardson takes a look at the popular and the questionable choices Arizona made.

The Cardinals were expected to take the top available corner in the first round. Most thought Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie would be long gone, so the Cardinals jumped on his train. With Adrian Wilson back in full effect and Antrel Rolle joining him as a safety, the Cardinals secondary will have a balanced attack with big playmakers.

His skills, size and ball skills made Rodgers-Cromartie the easy choice for the Cardinals, despite Mike Jenkins also being available. Rashard Mendenhall, who many media outlets had the Cardinals pegged for in the first round, was also still on the board.

"We certainly respect the other players available at that point," Ken Whisenhunt said. "There was a large amount of discussion about that, but we feel very comfortable with this pick and we are excited that (Rodgers-Cromartie) was there for us."

It seems the Cardinals still had Chris Johnson out of East Carolina on their mind for round two, but he didn't make it past the first round, so they opted to hold out until round five to address the running back issue.


Coach Ken Whisenhunt
Chris Graythen/Getty

Whisenhunt has said they needed a back to lighten Edgerrin James' load and add a big-play element to the rushing game. All fingers were pointing to a home-run back that Tim Hightower certainly isn't. However, a good individual workout with the Cardinals and a chip on his shoulder made Arizona think Hightower would be a good addition to the running back crew.

Time will tell, but it seems likely J.J. Arrington and Marcel Shipp have one more season to step up as backups before the Cardinals use a first-round pick on a running back who can be groomed to replace James. For now, the Cardinals are banking on James still producing a 1,200-yard season and happy they were in the position to draft on talent rather than need.

The Cardinals addressed the offensive side of the ball two other times on day two. Early Doucet out of LSU was a steal for the Cardinals. He can step in right away for the departed Bryant Johnson. Brandon Keith was picked up for the O-line, but will likely take a season to adjust to the aggressiveness of the next level.

Then there are the pass-rushers, three to be exact. DE Calais Campbell (6'8", 290 pounds) was too good of a player to pass up, but what about the picks: Kenny Iwebeme, a defensive end from Iowa, and Chris Harrington, an outside linebacker from Texas A&M?

"(Defensive end) was a position for us that was thin going into the draft and we feel like we did a very good job addressing that, not only from the standpoint of young players that add depth, but also where we can have a little bit more of a rotation at that position during the year," Whisenhunt said.

"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. This gives us a chance to work some other guys in, hopefully have some competition at that position."

AZRedReport.com final draft grade: A solid B for great first- and second-round picks and being in the position to pick "best availables," even though they left some on the board.

Tom Marino is a former pro scout with more than 30 years in the league. Here's his take on the Cardinals' choices:

"A very solid draft from beginning to end. The Birds shored up some very big holes on the defense, both up front and on the back end, while making three excellent picks on the offensive side of the football.

"Doucet should contribute quickly as an inside receiver. Hightower, who had 1,924 yards as a senior and zero fumbles in over 700 carries as a collegiate player, and Keith, an Oklahoma transfer with great feet and athletic ability, are late-round value picks.

"College Director Steve Keim and veteran area scouts Jerry Hardaway and David Razzano are quality football people. Outstanding Pro Director Jim Stanley, a veteran of more than 45 years in the college and professional game, retires at the end of May. He'll be greatly missed."

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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