Fifth-round draft selections are not assured of a place in the NFL, but quite a few have found success as Arizona Cardinals
When the NFL Draft rolls around for the Arizona Cardinals every Spring, the first couple rounds of the event garner most of the attention. The first-round pick, especially, is firmly under the microscope. It’s assumed that the best prospects are selected early on, but that’s not always the case.
Throughout the years, by sheer coincidence presumably, the Cards have been able to nab some extremely productive contributors in the fifth round. The ability to land good players that late in the proceedings takes a substantial amount of skill. Or, at the least, some tremendous luck.
Back in 1990, when the team was referred to as the “Phoenix” Cardinals, the front office scored big in the fifth stanza. Who would’ve thought that a fullback, Larry “Self” Centers, would have such an impressive impact in the league. As it turned out, the Stephen F. Austin product went on to become one of the franchise’s most productive and popular members.
Centers played nine seasons with the Cardinals, and was voted to two Pro Bowls (1995-96) during his stay in the “Valley of the Sun”. The 6’0″, 225 pounder became known for his pass-catching ability. Centers hauled in 101 balls in 1995, and another 99 in ’96.
Another running back, Tim Hightower, was a fifth-round pick of the Cards in 2008. The Richmond University runner tallied 1,733 rushing yards, caught 118 passes and scored 23 times in three seasons with Arizona. Hightower scored the game-winning touchdown in the Cardinals’ NFC Championship victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in January of 2009.
Wide receiver Steve Breaston, a 2007 fifth-rounder, produced well for four campaigns behind starters Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. The 6’0″,189 pounder totalled 187 receptions, 2,528 yards and seven touchdowns for Big Red.
John Skelton was by no means star-material, but the Cards got some decent play out of the strong-armed quarterback. Drafted in 2010’s fifth round, the Fordham University alum started 17 contests in three years with Arizona. Skelton’s finest showing was in ’11, when he was able to engineer five wins in seven starts.
The Cardinals have found fifth-round talent on the defensive side of the ball, as well. Antonio Smith, taken in 2004, spent five campaigns with the organization. The defensive end registered 125 tackles and 14.5 sacks in his 39 starts for the Cards.
Hopefully, general manager Steve Keim can strike gold during this Saturday’s fifth round. The players mentioned in this article are proof that it’s possible to do so. With some skillful evaluating, and a little bit of luck as well, perhaps Arizona will be successful in round number five again.