Previous Draft Recaps: 2005, 2006 and 2007
The Cardinals entered the 2004 draft coming off of a 4-12 season and held the third overall pick. There was some optimism though as Dennis Green was the new head coach would be overseeing his first draft.
First Round Pick: Larry Fitzgerald WR - Pittsburgh
Fitzgerald entered the draft and was called just about everything except the 'best thing since sliced bread.' Everyone thought he was headed to NFL greatness and at least to this point in his career, his play on the field has done little to prove anyone wrong. Some people may have a problem with his contract or his personality and a perceived lack of leadership but on the field there aren't many who can beat him. In four seasons he's averaged 83 receptions, 1,136 yards and 9 touchdowns and he's been voted to the Pro Bowl twice. As long as Fitz can stay healthy and the front office can find a way to appease Q, this offense will be explosive for years to come.
Other possible selections: Phillip Rivers, Kellen Winslow, Ben Roethlisberger
Second Round Pick: Karlos Dansby LB - Auburn
Dansby slid a little bit in the draft falling the Cardinals at 33rd overall but he's been a solid starter since his rookie season. He's turned into a leader of the defense and has averaged 81 tackles, 5 sacks and nearly 2 interceptions a season. The past three seasons he's ranked first (2007), fourth (2006) and second (2005) on the team in tackles. Dansby should be in line for the biggest season of his career in 2008 as he'll benefit from a system that's designed for the middle linebackers to clean up the trash.
Other possible picks: Travis LaBoy, Bob Sanders, Greg Jones
Third Round Pick: Darnell Dockett DT - Florida State
Dockett also slid in the draft once a slightly pulled right groin slowed him down in the Combine and prevented him from being able to work out at his Pro Day (here's a draft journal written by DD from 2004 that's pretty interesting). After three seasons of productive but unspectacular play, Dockett exploded onto the scene in 2007. He had eight sacks and 35 tackles in his first eight games but injuries to the rest of the defense would not only wear him down but also allow offenses to focus on him. He finished the 2007 season with 58 tackles and 9 sacks and was selected to the Pro Bowl. If DD can swallow his pride and play under his current contract for another season or two he could become one of the 3-4 defensive ends in the league.
Other possible picks: Nick Hardwick, Randy Starks, Chris Cooley
Fourth Round Pick: Alex Stepanovich C - Ohio State
Dennis Green made some waves when he released eight year veteran Pete Kendall during the 2004 training camp, opening the door for Stepanovich to take over at center. He got out of the gates quickly starting all 16 games his rookie season but injuries would limit him to 14 games during the next two seasons. The Cardinals decided not to tender him a contract after his third season making him a free agent. He signed with the Bengals and signed with Atlanta this off season.
Other possible picks: Jerricho Cotchery, Mewelde Moore, Jared Allen
Fifth Round Pick: Antonio Smith DE - Oklahoma State
Smith didn't become a full-time starter until 2007, but he'd been productive in a limited role and looks poised for a breakout year in 2008. Smith was a spot starter during 2005 & 2006 while totaling over 40 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 16 starts (played in all 32). Smith started in 13 of the 16 games in 2007 and had his best season to date 43 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Together Smith and Dockett should be quite a pass rush force in 2008.
Other possible picks: Jacob Bell, Gibril Wilson, Michael Turner
Sixth Round Pick: Nick Leckey C - Kansas State
Leckey would start the games when Stepanovich was injured but in the end neither of them was the answer at center. Leckey would start 20 games for the Cardinals but would sign with the Rams after the 2006 season. He may never be a full-time starter in the this league but he's got plenty of value as a backup.
Other possible picks: Rex Hadnot, Corey Williams, Andy Lee
Seventh Round Pick: John Navarre QB - Michigan
Navarre held nearly every passing record at Michigan before Henne broke them last season and he'd go on to start one game his rookie season. In early December of 2004 Navarre went 18 of 40 for 168 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions in a 26-12 loss to the Lions. In retrospect it probably wasn't the smartest game plan for a seventh round rookie to chunk the rock around 40 times. He would play in one other game the following year and was pretty decent going 14 of 24 for 174 yards and one touchdown and one interception. He's been a free agent for almost a year so it's probably safe to say his career is over.
Other possible picks: Shane Olivea, Patrick Crayton
This draft has been about as good as you can expect, in my opinion. The Cardinals got four solid starters, two of which have already made a Pro Bowl team. Every single pick in the draft started at least one game and all but one started at least double digit games in the desert. The Cardinals could be on the verge of losing two of these guys after this season (Dansby & Smith) and have their hand full with DD at the moment, but for the first fours years this class has been nothing short of stellar, A plus.