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Rodgers-Cromartie Is Top Pick


The Cardinals took Tennessee State cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with their first round pick in the 2008 draft.

The Cardinals were long thought to be leaning toward defense in the first round of the draft, and they fulfilled that idea Saturday when they took Tennessee State cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie with the 16th overall spot.

The Cardinals passed on Illinois running back Rashard Mendenhall to take [


]( They will likely look at a running back in the second round, given the depth at the position in the draft.

"We had quite a bit of discussions and we knew this was a scenario we could be faced with," general manager Rod Graves said.

Cromartie was always the pick in that situation, Graves said.

"We based it on the fact that this is where we would get the greatest margin of improvement due to the position and also we may have opportunities later to address other areas," Graves added.

The Cardinals expect that running backs will be available in the second round.

Some of the Cardinals' possible targets were grabbed up in the picks immediately preceding their choice. The Buffalo Bills took cornerback Leodis McKelvin at No. 11, and then after Denver took tackle Ryan Clady at No. 12, Carolina – which had been eyeing defensive end Derrick Harvey, who went eighth – decided to upgrade their running game with back Jonathan Stewart.

The Bears took Vanderbilt offensive tackle Chris Williams at 14 however, and Kansas City, trading into Detroit's 15th spot, chose Virginia offensive lineman Brenden Albert.

That left both Cromartie and Mendenhall available. Rodgers-Cromartie is raw but has Pro Bowl potential and should step into the third cornerback role behind starters Eric Green and Rod Hood.

"What stands out are his ball skills," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. "I think that is something unique for his size. He comes from Tennessee State so there are always questions about that level of competition. But we felt he excelled in the Senior Bowl.

"Someone that size, that speed, who makes plays on the football, that's become more and more important in this league."

Cromartie said he said a prayer of thanks when he heard his name called. He thought, given the workout a few days ago the Saints put him through, that New Orleans was a more likely destination. But Arizona was fine with him.

"It's a dream come true," Cromartie said. "I'm just glad to be part of an up-and-coming franchise.

"I was thinking about all my high school going through college and how I was basically wasn't on the radar and I thought it happened all over again. Then I saw my name come up and all the emotions just went away."

Graves said the team was not concerned about Cromartie's heath issues. Cromartie has one kidney, but Graves said the Cardinals checked him out during the scouting combine and it was "not a major concern."

The Cardinals got multiple phone calls both before and during the pick in teams interested in trades, but Graves said none of the possibilities were worth leaving the 16th spot and sacrificing a shot at Cromartie.

Cromartie said he patterns himself after Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, in part because he has worked out with Green in the past.

He also thinks he has a chance to improve right away going against Pro Bowlers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald in practice.

"That's one of the first things I thought about when they told me," Cromartie said. "I was like, 'Man, I've got the best.' "

Contact Darren Urban at Posted 4/26/08. Updated 4/26/08.

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