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Floyd Is Cards' Playmaking Pick

Posted Apr 26, 2012

Notre Dame wide receiver -- and Fitzgerald friend -- is No. 1 choice

The Cardinals' No. 1 draft pick, wide receiver Michael Floyd, poses with a jersey and commissioner Roger Goodell Thursday night in New York.

In the NFL, Larry Fitzgerald explained in a text on why he was happy to see the Cardinals draft Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd Thursday night, teams have to be able to beat press man coverage on third down and make plays in the red zone, which is exactly what a physical pass catcher like Floyd can do.

“And,” Fitzgerald wrote, “he is from Minnesota. Enough said, lol.”

While the Cardinals’ Pro Bowl receiver may relish an addition from his home state, Floyd’s birthplace had nothing to do with the Cards’ selection. The part about making plays – coach Ken Whisenhunt talked about a player “that can change field position” – definitely influenced the decision.

There were opportunities to trade down from 13, general manager Rod Graves said. But in the end nothing was enticing enough to make the Cards eschew Floyd, the highest remaining player left on a Cards’ draft board that included offensive tackle Riley Reiff.

“There’s been a lot of talk about us needing a No. 2 (receiver),” Whisenhunt said. “We’ve added another good young player to the mix.

“One of the things our defense said is when you have a player like that it can create matchup problems.”

The Cards don’t have a second-round pick going into Friday’s Day Two of the draft. The third round would seem to point toward offensive tackle, but as the Cards keep saying – and proved with Floyd – need wouldn’t dictate direction.

Floyd was considered the second-best receiver coming out, behind Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, and probably would have been picked 14th by division rival St. Louis had the Cards not grabbed him.

“I saw the 602 (area code) coming in and I wanted to jump for joy,” Floyd said. “But I kept it calm.”

Floyd has known Fitzgerald since Floyd was in high school – they share the same trainer in Minneapolis – and often trade texts. Floyd’s playmaking ability has been unquestioned, after he had 37 touchdown catches in his four years at Notre Dame.

Off the field, however, Floyd had troubles that nearly derailed his senior season.

Floyd had twice been cited for underage drinking in 2009 and 2010 before being arrest for DUI in the spring of 2011. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly suspended Floyd indefinitely, saying Floyd would either play the entire season after righting his life or sit the whole season.

Floyd got the message, stayed clean and starred for the Irish. He had 100 catches for 1,147 yards and nine TDs as a senior.

“I think it was just the realization that he had to change his life if he wanted to be in that position to make choices,” said Kelly, who lauded Floyd’s work ethic and called him the best practice player he’d ever had. “You have a young man who has been through some adversity, has handled it, has been humbled because of it and has the best in front of him.”

That didn’t stop the Cardinals from asking Floyd blunt questions during their chances to talk to him before the draft, which included a visit to Tempe early last week. Graves said the Cards “had a sense he had matured” and Whisenhunt noted that team president Michael Bidwill had said “we vetted him out.”

“We really put a lot of work into it,” Whisenhunt said, who liked Floyd’s honesty in answering for what he had done.

“I just basically told them it was a bad decision,” Floyd said. “I know I can’t be like every other college student just doing what a college student does, because the spotlight is on me. They wanted to see if I had improvements since that time, and I have. I’ve moved on.”

The Cards were satisfied enough to take him. Whisenhunt said he thinks the culture of the wide receiver corps will help Floyd’s transition. How it will impact the rest of the receivers will be interesting. Floyd will, sooner rather than later, move incumbents Andre Roberts and Early Doucet down the depth chart. But Roberts – who figures to be impacted more than anyone by the pick – stayed positive in a tweet immediately after the choice.

“Michael Floyd was a great pick for us,” Roberts wrote. “Adding another weapon is gonna make us that much more explosive. Who's with me?”

Certainly Fitzgerald is. There were reports in the media before the draft about Fitzgerald’s fondness for Floyd and his desire to see him in Arizona as a teammate.

That isn’t why the Cardinals took Floyd, however, no more a factor than Floyd’s home state. Floyd’s draft grade was much more influential than Fitzgerald.

“I think it says a lot about Larry when one of your best players is engaged with what the team is doing and when a receiver, who wants the ball thrown to him every down, is willing to bring in a guy that will spread the receptions out,” Whisenhunt said, before allowing a slight smile.

“Larry is not as involved in the process as much as a lot of people think he is. But certainly, Larry likes him.”

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