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Cornering Fleming In The Third

Cards stick with board in taking Oklahoma DB over offensive lineman


Oklahoma cornerback Jamell Fleming, scoring a touchdown here against arch-rival Texas, was the Cardinals' third-round draft pick Friday (photo courtesy Oklahoma University.)

It may have been over the phone from a couple of time zones away, but the confidence of Jamell Fleming was practically palpable.

The Oklahoma cornerback and third-round selection of the Cards talked about his ability on special teams: "I'm one of the best special teamers in my eyes," Fleming said. "I got a highlight reel just of special teams."

And he said he could play safety too. "I can play wherever they need me to play," Fleming said. "I can play D-tackle if they need me to."

It all made sense – "As a corner you have to be confident," he said, "because once you lose your confidence it goes straight downhill" – and there was little question the Cards had confidence in what Fleming could do for them.

"We certainly feel he can upgrade us at the position," general manager Rod Graves said.

The Cardinals are still looking for an offensive tackle, but as they did after their first round pick, both Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt reiterated the need to pick the best players and not chase need.

"You don't want to do it at the expense of other players that can bring more to your football team," Graves said.

That means the Cards head into the final day of the draft having yet to take a lineman – Graves said the draft isn't the only place the Cards could still address it, noting free agency – although the team does have five picks to make Saturday.

Friday night, the cliché about never having enough cornerbacks seemed to resonate with the Fleming pick, along with the knowledge that A.J. Jefferson still has much to prove, they could be looking to upgrade with Michael Adams, and Greg Toler is coming off a significant knee injury. Only Patrick Peterson and free agent signee William Gay would expect to be locks for playing time at this point.

Fleming, who had seven interceptions the past two seasons, said he didn't think the Cards were the team that would take him. But he was so excited with the news he was out of breath when talking to reporters.

"If offenses are going to be in some kind of sub-package where they have three or four receivers on the field 60 percent of the time, you are going to be running eight or nine defensive backs on the field, so you have to have some of those guys," Whisenhunt said.

Along with his special teams impact, "we think he can come in here and do some of those things," Whisenhunt added.

Arizona has been a good place for Fleming. He won the defensive player of the game in the Insight Bowl last season and MVP of the Fiesta Bowl the previous season. Fleming said his time at Oklahoma has prepared him well for the NFL.

"They always say it's a passing league in the NFL, and that's all we do in the Big 12 is pass," Fleming said.

Fleming will probably have to stick with defensive back, although his offer for defensive tackle was noted. When it was suggested the defensive line was a stretch even if he had an impressive 23 reps in the 225-pound bench press at the combine, Fleming – confidently, of course – insisted otherwise.

"I think some of the D-tackles had what I got (in the bench press), or some of the D-ends," Fleming said. "(Defensive tackle) Gerald McCoy, I think he got 24 the year he came out. I'm ready for it. Speed off the edge. I could do it."

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