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Larry Fitzgerald The Perfect Draft Pick 20 Years Ago

Cardinals all-time great was third overall selection in 2004

The Cardinals had a new coach in 2004, and Dennis Green found himself doing an interview on Feb. 10, a couple of weeks after he was hired. His new team needed a long-term quarterback -- they had Josh McCown, who had all of three NFL starts -- and the No. 3 overall pick. Among those in the draft that year were Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip RIvers.

But Denny, as was his way, wasn't too much into the pre-draft smokescreen stuff. He said on the record the chances were "slim" the Cards would draft a QB.

"Josh McCown, I think, is going to be a great one," Green said then. "I think people have a hard time believing it, but when I buy into a quarterback, I really do."

Green, in the same interview, said he thought Larry Fitzgerald was the best player in the draft.

Two months later -- today, 20 years ago -- the Cardinals made Fitzgerald their first-round pick.

It was the start of a franchise-changing draft, with linebacker Karlos Dansby added in the second round, defensive tackle Darnell Dockett in the third round and defensive end Antonio Smith in the fifth round. All four players were starters on the 2008 Super Bowl team.

(McCown ended up benched halfway through 2004, was put back in the starting lineup late, and then the Cardinals signed Kurt Warner the following offseason. The Cardinals likely would've taken Roethlisberger had they chosen a 2004 QB instead, and it's fascinating to think how the Cardinals' history would've been different.)

Obviously Fitz was a true generational pick, not only because he was such an amazing player for so long, but also because he ended up playing his entire career in Arizona and earning his spot on the franchise's Mt. Rushmore -- if there were such a thing. Some day, he'll be in the Ring of Honor and in the Hall of Fame.

That's what you want a draft class -- and a first-round draft pick -- to be.

Newly-drafted Larry Fitzgerald (center) holds up a jersey with owner Bill Bidwill (left) and then-coach Dennis Green in April of 2004.
Newly-drafted Larry Fitzgerald (center) holds up a jersey with owner Bill Bidwill (left) and then-coach Dennis Green in April of 2004.

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