Many of you probably have read the piece that I posted over at azcardinals.com on trends that are beginning to form within the way the Cardinals draft in the Whisenhunt era. I am not wanting to recreate that entire post here, but will reference some of the trends that I posted an also make some additions to the trends to try and put forth an aid to creating an accurate mock for the team or some players to watch out for come draft day.
To recap what was in the original post;
The first major draft trend that is simple to pick up within the 4 drafts that Whis and Graves have put together is this. Senior, Senior, Senior.
24 of our 27 draft picks in the past four seasons have been Seniors. Whis and Co love experience, they like to play vets over rookies, they like to draft seniors over underclassmen. They generally draft underclassmen in a boom or bust range in the draft. The three they have taken were all considered top 10 picks at one time or another and fell a long way, Beanie Wells to 31, Alan Branch to 33 and Calais Campbell to 50.
What that could mean in 2011, it means we are very likely to draft a Senior player at #5 overall, this is a relatively weak senior class with Miller the only real standout with the likes of Amakumara and Fairley the next best seniors on the board.
The 2nd major trend is one that probably follows on from the first, The Senior Bowl. Of our four first round picks so far, three of them (DRC, Brown and Williams) were all standout players at the Senior Bowl. The extra time to meet and interview the players the chance to see them compete against the best of the best to really see how they might translate to the NFL is obviously valued by the drafting staff. But this trend goes beyond the first round and has become stronger in the past two seasons.
Levi Brown, Buster (Aptly named) Davis, Steve Breaston, DRC, Early Doucet, Cody Brown, Rashad Johnson, Herman Johnson, Will Davis, Trevor Canfield, Dan Williams, Daryl Washington, Andre Roberts, O'Brien Schofield are all draft picks that were at the Senior Bowl for all or part of the week, even of Schofield did not play, he was there he was able to be interviewed and meet with teams. Over half of our draft picks went to the Senior Bowl, I suggest you go have a look at the rosters for 2011, it is likely another three of four future Cardinals are on those rosters.
I mentioned this trends was getting stronger, it is, 9 of our last 14 picks were Senior Bowl guys, over the past two seasons both our 2nd and 3rd round picks were at the Senior Bowl.
Another, albeit slightly weaker trends are coming from Small Schools or from the Big 10. The Big 10 seemed to be an early year trend, but every draft of the last four years we have taken at least one Big 10 player, in the 09 draft we secured two and in 07 we drafted three (Brown, Branch, Breaston) Other's include, Kenny Iwebema, Beanie Wells, Will Davis and O'Brien Schofield. Small schools is simlar, we take at least one every year and more depending on your definition of small school. In 2010, Jorrick Calvin (Troy), John Skelton (Fordham) and Andre Roberts (Citadel) were all small school draft picks, 09 was shorted, but Greg Toler from St Pauls was drafted out of a "Small School" Others in the past include DRC (Tennesse State), Tim Hightower (Richmond), Brandon Keith (Northern Iowa) and Ben Patrick (Delaware). Some of these guys were well known Small Schoolers (DRC, Roberts) others hardly known (Keith, Calvin, Hightower)
Now for the extra additions;
Trading up in the 2nd round. If the staff see a prospect they like falling in the first round, do not be surprised to see them move back into the lower part of the 1st round to snag a guy they really like. In 2007 they traded up to snag the falling Alan Branch, in 2010 they traded up again in the 2nd round to snag Daryl Washington. A candidate I could see us trading up for in 2011 could be Cameron Heyward from Ohio State.
OL Late. Apart from our 1st pick in 2007 the Cardinals in three years of poor OL play and having OL close to the top of their "needs" have still not selected a player along the OL prior to the 5th round. Brown is the exception, the late round OL players include Herman Johnson, Trevor Canfield and Brandon Keith. Whether this is how the board falls or Whis trusting Grimm to turn lessor players into OL studs remains to be seen, but be braced for more yelling at whatever apparatus you are following the draft on when we do not address OL on the first couple of days of the draft.
Last round pet projects. Round 7 is pet project time. 2007 saw our 7th round picks used on a small school TE by the name of Ben Patrick, 2008 it was Brandon Keith, 2009 we saw Trevor Canfield selected and in 2010 we saw Jim Dray as the 7th round selection. Two TE's and two OL players in the 7th round. More than mere coincidence when two of our decision makers in the draft room (Whis and Grimm) are a former TE coach and our current OL coach. We have picked up a compensatory pick in the 7th round in 2011, look for that pick to be used on a big hulking offensive lineman that Grimm can mold, my money is on Trevis Turner from Albeline Christian, Turner is 6-7 342 and might just gain the interest of Russ Grimm.
The Russ Grimm seal of approval. Russ clearly has a hand in all things OL and that includes the draft. You are not 315+ you are not on the good side of Russ Grimm. Everyone of the OL we have drafted in the past four years has weighed over 315 pounds. Russ loves his big guys on the OL.
Getting Defensive. The 2nd round is defense central, Alan Branch (07), Calais Campbell (08), Cody Brown (09) and Daryl Washington (10) are the four 2nd round picks the team have used in the past four years, all four play defense. Enough said really, if the team drafts Miller round one, look for defense, defense in the first two rounds, possibly a player along the DL or a CB. This can also be extrapolated to the first three rounds. In all four drafts so far we have taken two defensive and one offensive player in the first three rounds of the draft. And even the first four rounds, where we have taken three of our first four players on D in three of the four drafts. The fourth, no 4th round pick.
Catching on in the 3rd. Wide receiver in the 3rd round is a strategy that has been employed in two of our third round picks. Doucet and Roberts were both third round picks for Arizona. Rashad Johnson and Buster Davis were the other two third round picks, and they were both with offense taken in the first round (Wells and Brown) Not so much a trend just an observation, we could be taking a WR again this season with the uncertainty over the future of the position and the 3rd round could be as good as any to draft one.
Fourth like the Second? In four drafts we have had three fourth round picks. All four (Schofield, Toler and Iwebema) have been defensive players. It could be a reflection of how our board is falling, but it is beginning to turn into a trend, a defensive pick in the 4th round, and possibly a boom or bust defensive player. Schofield and Toler both had big questions (Injury and Competition) but both have big potential.
Special Teams Matters. It really does, especially later in drafts. LSH was drafted in the 7th round, not becasue of his running game, but becasue he was a willing and able contributor on special teams. Steve Breaston in the 5th round was a draft pick aimed at boosting our return game (Todd Haley has been quoted as calling Breaston "Nothing but a return-man" we drafted him anyway, Special Teams matters. Jorrick Calvin was our 6th round pick in 2010, why? Because he was a very very good returner of the football. Special Teams matters.
BPA Late. Apart from special teams value and maybe pass rusher (Davis and Harrington, both 6th rounders), I cannot find any real trend between most of our 5th and 6th round picks and that leads me to beleive they just go for the best player on their board. It could have merit. In 2008 they double dipped at DE/OLB with Will Davis in the 6th round, possibly due to BPA. Other theories are potential and upside (Skelton, Davis, Harrington, Calvin, Breaston, Hightower) all had significant upside another is small schooles (Skelton, Calvin and Hightower are all small schoolers drafted in this area)
Well that is basically it. Hope you can take something out of this. I might publish a reply, edit this or just post another fan post with players we may target in the draft in specific rounds based on these trends or criteria.