The 2003 NFL draft was action packed and kept fans on the edge of their seat as each of the first three selections was involved in some sort of trade. To make a long story short, the Cardinals traded their sixth overall and their early second round pick to New Orleans for New Orleans' two first round picks and their second round pick. So instead of the Cardinals picking 6th overall and 5th in the second round, they Cardinals got the 17th and 18th overall pick and the 22nd pick of the second round.
First Round Pick (17th Overall): Bryant Johnson WR - Penn State
The Cards reached a bit on the Penn State product and Johnson was pretty much the same receiver that his draft profile would suggest. The book on him coming into the draft was that he had decent speed and ran good routes, but that he would had mental lapses that would lead to dropped passes. Johnson was a solid player for his five seasons in Arizona but he wasn't the game changer that they were hoping for out with the 17th pick. He started at least 8 games in four of his five seasons but never really stood out for an extended period of time. His best season was in 2006 when he caught 40 passes for 740 yards (18.5 ypc) and four touchdowns. Johnson didn't get nearly the contract offers that he was hoping for this off season and signed just a one year deal for $2 million with San Francisco in March.
First Round Pick (18th Overall): Calvin Pace DE - Wake Forest
The Cards again reached on a guy who had an early second round
projection and Pace underwhelmed the franchise for four seasons. Luckily for Pace though, he had his best season as a pro during 2007 and he parlayed it into a lucrative contract with the Jets. Pace started his rookie season and finished the year with just over 30 tackles and a single sack. He'd lose his starting job the following season and would spend the next three seasons as a spot starter and he'd total 52 tackles and 5.5 sacks before exploding in 2007 under the Cardinals new 3-4 defense. Pace returned to a starting role at outside linebacker and finished the season with 98 tackles, 6.5 sacks and his first interception. Pace will remain as an outside linebacker with the Jets so we'll see if his breakout season was the result of a defense that finally suited him or a desire to get a big payday.
Other possible first round selections: Kevin Williams, Terrell Suggs, Marcus Trufant, Troy Polamalu
Second Round Pick: Anquan Boldin WR - Florida State
Boldin overcame a horrible combine performance (4.72 forty) and what he felt was a slip on draft day to explode onto the NFL scene in his first game with 10 receptions for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns. He'd go on to finish his rookie campaign with 101 receptions for 1,377 yards and 8 touchdowns en route to his first Pro Bowl. Boldin has went on wreaking havoc on the rest of the NFL for the next four seasons and injuries seem to be the only thing that can slow him down. Since his rookie season, he's missed 12 games but has still managed two more seasons with over 1,000 yards and set new career highs in both receptions (102 in 2005), yards (1402 in 2005), yards per catch (14.5 in 2006) and touchdowns (9 in 2007) since his rookie season. Boldin's list of acolades through five seasons include two Pro Bowls, a Rookie of the Year award and he's set records for most receiving yards for a rookie in his first game, most receptions in first 26 games (157), fastest WR to 300 receptions (47 games) and fastest WR to 400 receptions (67 games).
Other possible picks: Osi Umenyiora, Lance Briggs, Jason Witten
Third Round Pick: Gerald Hayes LB - Pittsburgh
Hayes took a while to get acclimated to the NFL, starting just three games during his first two seasons, then a knee injury ended his third season before it even got started. His fourth season though would be his coming out party. He started 14 games and finished the season with 93 tackles, one sack and three interceptions. Hayes improved on those numbers in 2007, starting every game and finishing just shy of 100 tackles and added four sacks, an interception and his first touchdown. Hayes isn't a flashy player but he fits perfectly into weakside linebacker role of Clancy Pendergast's 3-4. Hayes is solid against the run, can punish opposing ball carriers and his style of play should allow him to keep racking up tackles for quite some time.
Other possible selections: Nate Burleson, Kevin Curtis, Chris Brown
Fifth Round Pick: Kenny King DT - Alabama
King played in 11 games, even starting one, his rookie season and totaled 17 tackles and two sacks but he wouldn't play in another game for the Cardinals over the next three seasons. King missed the entire 2004 and 2005 season with a wrist injury and the same injury caused him to miss most of 2006 as well. He left after the 2006 season and most recently failed a physical with the Ravens.
Other possible selections: Justin Gage, Brian St. Pierre, Dan Koppen
Sixth Round Pick: Reggie Wells OT - Clarion
Not many NFL starters come out of Clarion University but Wells has been the starter for at offensive guard for the past four seasons. He's become one of the most consistent starters on the offensive line and at this point is a veteran who not only tutors the young players but also leads by example. Wells is signed through the 2010 season and even though he'll likely never reach Hawaii, he's a solid contributor that the Birds can count on and an absolute steal in the sixth round.
Other possible selections: Gerome Sapp, Cato June
Sixth Round Pick (Compensatory Selection): Tony Gilbert LB - Georgia
Gilbert didn't make the 53-man roster out of camp in 2003 but the Cardinals signed him to the practice squad. He didn't last long on the p-squad though as the Jaguars signed him to their active roster in October. Gilbert has gone on to star on the Jags special teams units, playing in 56 games and totaling 38 special teams tackles. He's also added 23 tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on defense. He signed a new contract with Jacksonville after the 2007 season.
Other possible selections: David Tyree, Yeremiah Bell, Tully Banta-Cain
All in all, another solid draft for the Cardinals. They'll enter the 2008 season with 3 above average starters (Boldin, Hayes and Wells) and the 2003 draft combined to start over 230 games for the Cardinals and played in a total of 350 games. A draft with that kind of production can't be any lower than a very solid A.
Some might consider this blasphemy, but the selections after Boldin really intrigued me, especially Osi and Witten. If we re-drafted the 2003 draft would you still take Boldin over those two or someone else that catches your eye?