The Cards' third-day draft haul (clockwise from top left): Stepfan Taylor, Ryan Swope, Alex Okafor, D.C. Jefferson, Earl Watford and Andre Ellington.
Bruce Arians wanted to pump up his offense, and Day Three of the NFL Draft gave him a chance to do just that at the skill positions.
The Cardinals addressed their need at running back by adding two – Stanford's Stepfan Taylor in the fifth round and Clemson's Andre Ellington in the sixth round. And they got a speed receiver by nabbing Texas A&M's Ryan Swope in the sixth round.
Swope burned up the combine with a sub-4.4 40-yard dash time, and he's been productive, piling up 161 catches for 2, 120 yards and 19 touchdowns in 26 games the past two seasons. The Cardinals had wanted a deep threat and Swope believes he can be that player.
"I see that instantly," Swope said. "A lot of people had me as just a possession receiver coming in. This was my chance to kind
of shine and turn heads and showcase my speed that people we kind of sleeping on."
Bringing in a running back wasn't a surprise. Two might be, although both Taylor and Ellington are the kind of three-down backs that Arians craves. They are different players – Taylor is a between-the-tackles guy at 5-foot-9, 216 pounds while Ellington is 5-9, 199 – but both are good in pass protection. Both could immediately be in the mix at a position with two players who have struggled to stay healthy: Rashard Mendenhall and Ryan Williams.
"You've got to start from the bottom coming in and prove your worth," Taylor said. "Things aren't handed to you. There are people already on the roster that are fighting for the same spot I am."
General manager Steve Keim said he hadn't planned on taking two running backs. But when the draft board fell as it did and Ellington was still available, the Cardinals could not pass him up.
"Andre brings a different style to the table," Keim said. "His play style is different than the other three backs on our roster."
OKAFOR COULD BE ACHO, PART II
Alex Okafor isn't Sam Acho, but in a lot of ways, the two are carbon copies, all the way down to being drafted in the fourth round with the 103rd selection overall by the Cardinals.
The Cards took Okafor, a defensive end from Texas who will play 3-4 outside linebacker, as their first pick Saturday. The Cards took Acho, a defensive end from Texas who was to play 3-4 outside linebacker, as their first pick on Saturday of the 2011 draft.
The two played together two years with the Longhorns. Acho served as Okafor's mentor in college, and now can do the same in Arizona.
"One of the things you have to transition to in the NFL is making all new friends on the team and getting to know people, but I get to come in with a guy that I played two years with already and that was already a mentor of mine," Okafor said. "It's a perfect situation for me."
Okafor had 12½ sacks last season at Texas. He isn't regarded as a dynamic pass rusher, but then again, neither was Acho, and Acho has been solid at linebacker even if he hasn't piled up sack numbers. Keim said he is a slightly different player than Acho, bigger in size.
Okafor will have to transition from having his hand in the dirt, but he had conversations with the Cards about that at the Scouting combine.
"I sat down with them and they asked me 'You didn't' play much standing up or 3-4 'backer in college, do you think you can play that?' " Okafor recalled. "I looked at them dead in the eyes and said, 'I'm confident in my athletic ability' and I know I can play that position for them. They trusted me, and we'll see how it works out."
SWOPE HEADS OFF INJURY TALK
Swope fell in the draft in large part because of concussion concerns. NFL Network reported he has had four concussions, but Swope said his injuries had been minor and noted he never missed a college game because of a head injury.
"I've always been a fast healer," Swope said. "They've never been real serious. … I couldn't feel better. My head feels great. My body feels great. I'm just ready to go in and compete."
Keim said he was not concerned. Swope hasn't missed time, and that – along with Swope's production and combine work – made the pick an easy one.
WATFORD ADDS INTERIOR DEPTH
The Cardinals used their second fourth-round pick on Watford, their second guard chosen in the top four rounds (joining first-round pick Jonathan Cooper.) The Cards were always expected to try and upgrade the interior of the line, and it leaves the future of veteran starters Adam Snyder and Darn Colledge muddy.
The concern on Watford is his James Madison pedigree. Even he acknowledged all his teammates were with his celebrating after his pick because "going in the fourth round (from) JMU, that's a big deal here." But he said he thinks he has the ability to step in and play right away if needed. Keim said he sees similarities with former Cardinals guard Reggie Wells, although he noted Watford is further ahead at this stage than was Wells.
"I played a lot of good players," Watford said. "It might not be the SEC schools or anything like that, but I played against good competition and I proved I could do well against good competition in the all-star game (East-West Shrine). I'm a hard worker. I'm excited to show what I can do on Sundays."
The Cardinals not only have added Cooper and Watford but still have raw 2012 fifth-round pick Senio Kelemete at guard.
PERSONALITY AND A PROJECT AT TIGHT END
The Cards' final pick of the draft was Rutgers tight end D.C. Jefferson, a highly regarded prep quarterback in Florida who was
moved to tight end in college and sports a 6-foot-6, 255-pound frame. Keim believes Jefferson has huge potential at the position. Already, Jefferson had a mastery of media relations.
Asked on his conference call where he had expected to be drafted, Jefferson said "I expected to be the first pick of the first round." He was, in fact, 219th overall.
Asked , with his former life as a quarterback, if he could play the wildcat, Jefferson said "I can play any cat."
And finally, the man with the given name Lequan was asked why his nickname is D.C. Seems during his quarterback days, he reminded a coach of a famous quarterback from Florida at the time. "I guess I was the big, tall, Black Daunte Culpepper look-a-like," Jefferson said. "That's kind of how it worked out."