Texas linebacker Sam Acho was the Cards' fourth-round draft pick Saturday.
There were no talks, no visits, no nothing between Sam Acho and the Arizona Cardinals, so admittedly, Acho called his fourth-round selection by the Cards "a complete shocker."
Given the events of the first three rounds, though, it shouldn't have been.
The Cardinals opened the final day of the draft Saturday by taking the Texas defensive end with the intention of making him an outside linebacker in their 3-4 defensive scheme. They needed such a player, after going for running back Ryan Williams and tight end Rob Housler with their second- and third-round picks, when pass rusher – aside from quarterback – was perhaps the team's greatest need.
"It was an area we had a need going in," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "The transition from being an end to an outside linebacker is one that a lot of these guys are having to go through now and the reason you feel good about Sam being able to do that is because he is such an outstanding student."
Acho had caught the Cardinals' eye at the Senior Bowl, after totaling 19 sacks his final two years as a Longhorn. With the age of Joey Porter and Clark Haggans, the Cards are hoping Acho can join past picks O'Brien Schofield and Will Davis to impact the outside.
Yet, whether it's a slight change in philosophy or the mere fact the Cards (like every other team) were unable to address any holes yet because free agency and trades have been postponed with the labor problems, the team continued to worry less about exact needs in this draft.
In the fifth round, Connecticut fullback Anthony Sherman was the choice. Sherman is very good on special teams (Whisenhunt said he was one of the top two or three prospects in that realm in the entire draft) and the Cards clearly wanted to upgrade the spot. He wasn't an offensive lineman or even an inside linebacker, however, which seemed like more pressing needs.
"Again," general manager Rod Graves said, "we are allowing our (draft) board to dictate the selections."
Eventually, needs were addressed. The Cards went inside linebacker with the first of two sixth-round picks, taking North Carolina's Quan Sturdivant. They got defensive line depth with the other in UCLA's David Carter.
The draft board favors smart, hard workers. Both Acho – who won multiple awards for academics – and Sherman qualify.
"I'm going to bring my lunch pail to work every day," the 5-foot-10, 242-pound Sherman said. "I am going to give it everything I've got in every practice, every game, every lift, every study session, in everything we do."
Aside from special teams, Whisenhunt also likes Sherman's ability to catch the ball, and would love to have a fullback emerge as important to the Cards as Pro Bowler Ovie Mughelli has done for the Atlanta Falcons.
Defensively, though, the Cards' selections of Acho, Sturdivant and, to a lesser extent, Carter, beefs up what new coordinator Ray Horton has to work with. At first, Acho will be the key, since he will be needed quicker.
"I can learn the position easily," said Acho, who played linebacker his first two years of college before moving to defensive end. "I have a good feel for it.
"My greatest strength is that I'm a relentless player. I'm never going to give up, I'm never going to stop whether it is rushing the quarterback or trying to make a play on the running back."
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