Was 2004 draft class Arizona Cardinals’ best?
The drafts of the Arizona Cardinals have been both good and bad but the class of 2004 may have been their most successful
In 2004, the hierarchy of the Arizona Cardinals was relatively new. Rod Graves was in just his second year as the club’s GM. Newly anointed head coach Dennis Green was taking over a team that went 4-12 in 2003.
When April’s NFL Draft arrived, the organization held the third overall pick in the first round. There was quite a dilemma about what should be done with the selection. The Cardinals’ quarterback situation was muddled after they had cut ties with Jeff Blake, leaving Josh McCown as the best option on the roster.
When it came time for the front office to make their decision, a signal-caller with franchise potential was on the board. North Carolina State’s Philip Rivers was there, waiting for his phone to ring. As it turned out, he would have to wait a little longer.
Arizona decided to go with a wide receiver from the University of Pittsburgh named Larry Fitzgerald. While many argued that quarterback was the pressing need, it was hard to argue with the Fitzgerald selection. 13 seasons later, the wideout has carved out a career that will undoubtedly end with a Hall of Fame induction.
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In the second round, the front office came up big again with linebacker Karlos Dansby. The Auburn product has had a stellar career, totalling 1,322 tackles, 42 sacks, 75 passes defensed, 19 interceptions and six touchdowns. In his 13 years in the league, seven have been as a Cardinal (2004-09, 2013).
The hits kept coming in the third round when defensive tackle Darnell Dockett became a Card. The Florida State standout played for 10 years in the desert, appearing in three Pro Bowls. He tallied 459 tackles, 40.5 sacks, 15 passes defensed and four interceptions.
Another solid player was taken in the fifth round, Oklahoma State defensive end Antonio Smith. In 13 campaigns (five as a Cardinal), Smith amassed 315 tackles, 47.5 sacks and 10 passes defensed. He played with three more franchises after fleeing the Valley.
Four very good players out of one draft, one a shoo-in for Canton. As far as the 2004 group being the organization’s best is up for debate. For what it’s worth, it would certainly get my vote.