(Yes, I know a trade could be an option, but even if there is a trade, it likely comes after the Cards are already on the clock, so the premise holds.)
The debate of what they should do there will be ongoing until that Thursday night. Some of the decision is about need, some about philosophy. Some of the decision has nothing to do with the Cardinals; the Panthers, Broncos, Bills and Bengals will dictate the first four players off the board. Do the Cards think quarterback? Do they go defense – and if they do, do they go for the pass-rushing linebacker, or the “can-miss” cornerback or even a defensive linemen?
The lone guarantee? The Cardinals will have a crack at a pretty good player. That doesn’t mean that player will absolutely pan out, or become a star. But a look back on the last decade of No. 5 overall picks has mostly produced solid starters if not better:
2010 – Kansas City takes S Eric Berry (the five picks immediately after were T Russell Okung, CB Joe Haden, LB Rolando McClain, RB C.J. Spiller, DT Tyson Alualu). Only a year removed, it’s tough to judge Berry.
2009 – Jets trade up to take QB Mark Sanchez (T Andre Smith, WR Darius Heyward-Bey, T Eugene Monroe, NT B.J. Raji, WR Michael Crabtree). Two AFC Championship appearances in two years, you have to think the Jets have to be satisfied at this point.
2008 – Kansas City takes DT Glenn Dorsey (LB Vernon Gholston, DT Sedrick Ellis, DE Derrick Harvey, LB Keith Rivers, LB Jerod Mayo). Dorsey hasn’t been a Pro Bowler, but he’s been a steady performer.
2007 – The Cardinals take T Levi Brown (S LaRon Landry, RB Adrian Peterson, DE Jamaal Anderson, WR Ted Ginn, DT Amobi Okoye). Certainly this is the one all Cards’ fans know about, as well as the guy who went seventh. Brown has his share of critics, but he has stayed in the lineup and the Cardinals consistently have said they aren’t unhappy with his play.
2006 – Green Bay selects LB A.J. Hawk (TE Vernon Davis, S Michael Huff, S Donte Whitner, LB Ernie Sims, QB Matt Leinart). Hawk never became the star the Packers hoped, but he was good enough to start for a Super Bowl winner and recently signed a new contract.
2005 – Tampa Bay takes RB Cadillac Williams (CB Pacman Jones, WR Troy Williamson, CB Antrel Rolle, CB Carlos Rogers, WR Mike Williams). Cadillac got hurt a lot, but was productive when he played – and certainly did better than most of those players picked immediately after.
2004 – Washington drafts S Sean Taylor (TE Kellen Winslow, WR Roy Williams, CB DeAngelo Hall, WR Reggie Williams, CB Dunta Robinson). Taylor was a star before his untimely murder.
2003 – Dallas picks CB Terence Newman (DT Jonathan Sullivan, QB Byron Leftwich, T Jordan Gross, DT Kevin Williams, DE Terrell Suggs). Newman has been very good. And Cards’ fans rejoiced, thinking they’d get Suggs at No. 6 – until the Saints traded for the pick and took Sullivan, a major bust.
2002 – San Diego selects CB Quentin Jammer (DT Ryan Sims, T Bryant McKinnie, S Roy Williams, DT John Henderson, T Levi Jones). Jammer is under the radar but he has had a good nine-year career, good enough to be named one of the Chargers’ top 50 players of all-time.
2001 – San Diego takes RB LaDainian Tomlinson. (DT Richard Seymour, DE Andre Carter, WR David Terrell, WR Koren Robinson, DE Jamal Reynolds). That worked out pretty well, I think.