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2020 A Draft Odyssey for Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Per Webster’s dictionary an odyssey is “a long wandering or voyage usually marked by many changes of fortune.”

When I think of what an odyssey means, because the term is named after Odysseus, the King of Ithaca, it is a lengthy journey that ends back in the place where it began—-as it did in Odysseus’ case, when it took him 20 years to return home to Ithaca from the Trojan War.

So—-for the sake of this endeavor, how about going back with me to take a close look at what many Cardinals’ fans have claimed was Arizona’s best draft in the 21st century:

Arizona Cardinals 2004 NFL Draft:

  1. Larry Fitzgerald, WR, Pittsburgh
  2. Karlos Dansby, LB, Auburn
  3. Darnell Dockett, DT, Florida St.
  4. Alex Stepanovich, OL, Nebraska
  5. Antonio Smith, DT, Oklahoma St.
  6. Nick Leckey, OL, Kansas St.
  7. John Navarre, QB, Michigan

This was Denny Green’s first draft for the Cardinals and he made the selection at #3 of WR Larry Fitzgerald, his former ballboy in Minnesota, his top priority, despite the fact that the team lacked a franchise QB. Green’s QB1 that season was Shaun King with Josh McCown as QB2. Three future Hall of Fame candidates at QB were taken early in this draft: Eli Manning (#1), Philip Rivers (#4) and Ben Roethlisberger (#11).

Of course there are two other fascinating aspects of the 2004 draft—-1—-the Chargers taking QB Eli Manning at #1 and then having to swap him for the Giants’ #4 pick QB Philip Rivers because the Manning family did not want Eli to play for the Chargers. And—-2—-that the Raiders and Cardinals, despite neither team having a franchise QB, passed on Rivers in favor of the Raiders taking T Robert Gallery at #2 and the Cardinals taking WR Larry Fitzgerald at #3.

Consensus All-American and 2003 Outland Trophy winner T Robert Gallery (Iowa) was the buzz of the combine when he ran a 4.88 40 at 6-7, 325.. He was considered a can’t miss prospect—-and yet after his first two years of playing at an average level at RT, he was moved to LT his 3rd year and struggled so badly (giving up 10.5 sacks that year) that the team moved him to LG in his 4th season.

Gallery was a slightly above average LG, but never made a Pro Bowl. After 7 seasons with the Raiders (the last 4 at LG), he signed a 3 year $15M contract with the Seahawks in 2011, but was released after one season. The Patriots signed Gallery to a one year deal in 2012, but Gallery retired before the season began.

Of course, Larry Fitzgerald, despite catching passes from 24 different QBs throughout his 16 year career with the Cardinals is widely considered one of the top 3 WRs to ever play the game. His production in the 9 playoff games of his career has been about as stellar as stellar gets. Thus, Denny Green was 100% correct about Larry Fitzgerald, and perhaps if Green had drafted QB Aaron Rodgers instead of S Antrel Rolle in the 1st round of the 2005 NFL Draft, Green’s tenure as head coach in Arizona may not have been so brief.

In light of the recent debates as to whether the Cardinals should take a WR in the 2020 NFL Draft with the #8 pick, or a promising young tackle from Iowa, it made me harken back to the 2004 draft.

Thus, with the 2020 NFL Draft a month and a half away, what if the Cardinals used the 2004 NFL Draft as a model for their 2020 draft—-in other words, what could the draft look like if the Cardinals drafted at the same position in the same rounds?

The result is fascinating:

Plan 1A:

  1. CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma—-a reunion for Kyler Murray and CeeDee Lamb, with Fitz as mentor.
  2. Patrick Queen, LB, LSU—-like Karlos Dansby, Patrick Queen is a highly athletic SEC LB who can run, tackle and cover.
  3. Justin Madubuike, 34DE, Texas A&M—-perhaps the closest type of quick, penetrating DT in this draft to Darnell Dockett.
  4. Lucas Niang, T, TCU—-1st-2nd round talent with length and surprising agility at 6-6, 315, who is rehabbing from a hip flexor injury. Interesting factoid—-Niang played high school football in New Canaan CT with the Cardinals’ 2019 3rd round pick, Zach Allen.
  5. Jalen Thompson, S, Washington St.—-2nd round talent picked up in 5th round of 2019 NFL Supplemental Draft.
  6. Jon Runyan, G, Michigan—physical, tough interior lineman who reunites with Mason Cole and is coached by one of his former Michigan linemate’s father, Sean Kugler.
  7. Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington St.—-highly accurate and productive 6-2, 205 pound Air Raid QB who was a one year starter and has a knack for extending plays, like his predecessor, Gardner Minshew.

Plan 1B:

A symbolic trade—-the Arizona Cardinals trade the #8 pick to the New York Jets for the #11 (Larry Legend’s number) and #79 picks.

The Jets select T Mekhi Becton, Louisville.

The Cardinals’ select WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma at #11 and RB Zack Moss, Utah at #79.

Here we are close to the other end of Fitzgerald’s odyssey 17 years later and the Cardinals finally have a young franchise QB in place in Kyler Murray.

Having the franchise QB in place, makes it easier in many ways for the Cardinals to take a WR at #8, especially one that Kyler Murray knows and yearns to throw to in the NFL.

Plan B (if players in Plan A are off the board):

  1. Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
  2. Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio St.
  3. James Lynch, 34DE, Baylor
  4. Damien Lynch, G, LSU
  5. Jalen Thompson, S, Washington St.
  6. Terrence Steele, T, Texas Tech
  7. Steven Montez, QB, QB, Colorado

Plan C (if players in Plan A & B are off the board)

  1. Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama
  2. Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech
  3. Marlon Davidson, 34DE, Auburn
  4. Ben Bartch, T, St. John’s
  5. Jalen Thompson, S, Washington St.
  6. Michael Onwenu, G, Michigan
  7. James Morgan, QB, Florida International

It appears that sticking to the 2004 script sets up very well in this draft.

Of course, much depends on which players the Cardinals sign in free agency.

Ff this script appeals to you, which players would you want at each position, and what players would you like to see the Cardinals sign in free agency to set up a draft model like the 2004 one?