When the Arizona Cardinals drafted wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald in the first-round (No. 3) of the 2004 NFL Draft, many people were questioning whether he was mature enough to play at the NFL level. A player that only played two years of college football while at Pittsburgh, Fitzgerald petitioned to the NFL to make an exception, a case he would later win, and thus be draft eligible.
With the Cardinals owning the third pick in the draft then head coach Dennis Green wasted no time in the player they were targeting. Having built rapport with Fitzgerald when he was a ball boy for the Minnesota Vikings, Green vouched for his services, and the move proved to be the right one.
After nine seasons in the league, Fitzgerald has racked up 764 receptions for 10,413 yards and 77 touchdowns. In addition to those gaudy stats, Fitzgerald has been named to seven Pro Bowls and four All-Pro teams. Regarded as one of the most complete receivers in the league, Fitzgerald has the rare combination of hands, speed, and strength. Some say he has the best hands in the NFL since Cris Carter retired. That is high praise considering Carter is known to be possess one of the best, if not the best, pair of hands the league has ever seen.
Fitzgerald routinely makes tough catches look easy. Whether he is out jumping defenders on a hail mary or making one handed grabs down the sideline, Fitzgerald is as good as they come and fun to watch. I remember watching him his rookie season as he just shredded the San Francisco 49ers secondary. Sitting front row and watching him make one handed catches in warm-ups, made me realize this kid was something special. In a high scoring affair the 49ers eventually won in overtime but not before Fitzgerald put on a ESPN highlight reel finishing the game with five catches for 94 yards and one touchdown. It was a rookie performance I would never forget as the other was quarterback Peyton Manning’s.
Aside from being a sure handed receiver, Fitzgerald has elite speed to take it to the house. This was evident in Super Bowl XLIII where he absolutely broke away from Pittsburgh Steelers defenders on his way to a 64-yard touchdown. A player with speed, Fitzgerald also has the strength to break free from tacklers, allowing him to gain extra yards. At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, Fitzgerald is a rare specimen that can just man-handle defensive backs. When you turn on the game film you will notice Fitzgerald making the secondary look like a scout team. Apparently his peers feel the same way as Fitzgerald was voted by his peers ranked No. 22 on the NFL Top 100 players of 2013. And although he did not have the stats to warrant the ranking, his presence alone is enough to command the respect.
With Fitzgerald on the list, look for him to have a career-season in 2013 as he has a new toy to work with, in quarterback Carson Palmer.