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A Wild Final Day

Posted Apr 24, 2010

Trade of McFadden and future talk highlights draft finale

 Greg Toler (28) is expected to move into the starting lineup after the Cardinals traded Bryant McFadden Saturday on the final day of the draft.
 
 
The Cardinals expect to have picked two defensive starters the first two days of the NFL draft.

But Saturday’s final day – with rounds four through seven – could end up having just as much impact on the future of the franchise.

The Cards used trades to deal away starting cornerback Bryant McFadden and pick up a potential quarterback in John Skelton. They drafted a pass rushing linebacker (O’Brien Schofield) they felt had so much talent they didn’t mind he just ripped up his knee in January. They selected an intriguing cornerback (Jorrick Calvin) who didn’t play in 2009, before closing out the draft with a blocking tight end (Jim Dray).

“At the end of (Saturday), you’re a little worn out because there were so many twists and turns,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We went into the draft with a plan.

“We felt like every time, with the plan, we moved to a spot where we felt we could get a good player that was a good fit. To have the flexibility to do that, even though we had to create it, that’s all part of the strategy of creating a successful draft. Time will tell.”

The story of the day looked like it would be the Schofield pick, given his recent serious knee injury. Even Whisenhunt called that opportunity – which included a trade down in the fourth round – “one of the bends in the road.”

But that changed when the Cards moved McFadden, who was going to have to hold off Greg Toler as a starter this season and was scheduled to make $4.75 million in salary. When the Steelers expressed interest in bringing McFadden back to Pittsburgh and the Cards had a chance at Skelton – who was the mid-round quarterback they had wanted – the Cards made the move.

It also left the Cards void of much veteran depth at cornerback. Behind Pro Bowler Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Toler, the Cards have Michael Adams, Trumaine McBride (who did start a season in Chicago) and Rashad Barksdale.

“I am surprised,” Toler said. “I didn’t want it to go down this way. But I’m going to keep working. I don’t expect them to hand anything to me.”

That won’t happen, Whisenhunt said, although he noted Toler played well against the Saints in the playoffs. General manager Rod Graves said the team is open to signing a veteran cornerback.

But there was a reason the Cards selected Calvin, the Troy cornerback who fell in the draft because he was academically ineligible in 2009. Calvin said he flunked a class after a death in the family and didn’t let the teacher know he was leaving campus. When he was failed, he couldn’t play football, but both Whisenhunt and Graves felt comfortable Calvin was a good choice, especially late in the sixth round.

“What we look at, did he learn a lesson from that, and will it affect him going forward?” Whisenhunt said.

Calvin sounded sure he wouldn't have any rust either. “Once you know how to play football,” Calvin said, “that never leaves.”

The sudden muddled situation at cornerback came about because of Skelton, a 6-foot-5, 244-pounder whose size and arm strength drew in the Cardinals. He is raw after playing at Fordham, but the three-year starter threw for almost 9,923 yards and 69 touchdowns in his career and should have time to develop behind two other sizable quarterbacks – the 6-5 Matt Leinart and the 6-6 Derek Anderson.

“There is no doubt we’re going to have the biggest quarterback squad in the league with those three guys,” Whisenhunt quipped.

The Cardinals are expected to sign 10 undrafted rookies. Offensive line will likely be addressed – Whisenhunt said the Cards targeted one at a point Saturday but he was selected before Arizona was on the clock – but for the most part, Whisenhunt and Graves came out satisfied.

“We felt good about our method of preparation over the years,” Graves said. “That allowed us to be more aggressive. We feel good about the players we have indentified, and we go after them.

“We don’t draft sitting back in our seats. We draft on the edge of our seats looking for opportunities. Hopefully it will pay off for us.”
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