If you look at the 2008 Draft class for the Arizona Cardinals, one very obvious trend should dawn on you: the team has a starter entrenched at every single position they picked!
And no, I don’t mean that they have someone penciled in these spots. I mean the Cards have firmly established starters at Cornerback, Defensive End, Linebacker and Running Back. This coaching staff was committed to providing real depth on a very thin line up. We have to remember that this team had 7 starters go on Injured Reserve last year, with only the Buffalo Bills losing more players (8) for the season. Coach Whisenhunt and his staff were committed to picking up some solid picks to bring along slowly behind established veterans in order to learn the NFL game and eventually step into that starting role.
This is a huge shift in how the Cards’ front office have used this year’s draft this year unlike every season before. Every year, save the 1999 Draft, the team has picked in or around the the top 10, and in most cases the top 5. This has led to several draft busts and unbelievably high expectations for every kid we have picked to be the savior of our fledgling franchise. To date, the team’s only top 10 pick that has flourished in the desert has been WR Larry Fitzgerald (the book is still out on Leinart). So the amount of pressure placed on the class of 2008 is considerably less than any other group of kids has faced here in Arizona.
These young men are walking into an 8-8 franchise, that was two plays away from making the playoffs (both came against the 49ers, DAMMIT!). That is a far cry from when Fitz or Anquan Boldin arrived to joing struggling 5-11 or 4-12 teams in their respective rookie years. They are walking into a situation that allows them to learn and develop, not be thrown into the fire right away. That can be a huge lift to a player’s confidence level, which could ultimately make or break someone’s career when it is just getting started.
BOTTOM LINE: Despite whatever grade you may give the Cards for their picks, the 2008 Draft has marked the true beginning of the Ken Whisenhunt era in Arizona. It is his first draft class, and it gives us a clear indication of where he envisions this team to be in the next 2-3 years. Coach Whisenhunt knows he has the foundation of players to make a serious run, and now he has just added some more cement to the building. We’ve got the talent………and now we’ve got the depth.