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To Start, Maybe Not


Coach Ken Whisenhunt (left) and general manager Rod Graves address the media during Tuesday's pre-draft press conference.

When tackle Levi Brown was the No. 5 selection in the draft last year, it was assumed he would eventually start as a rookie.

Brown did after a preseason injury to Oliver Ross, although it was difficult to think Brown wouldn't have eventually been on the field.

The same can't be said for whomever the Cardinals select with their top pick in Saturday's draft. In part it's because the Cards don't choose until No. 16. But it's also because the Cardinals don't feel there is a glaring need at a position for the first time in a long time.

"You would like for that first pick to compete, you would like for that first pick to [


]( a chance to start, but I don't necessarily think he will," coach Ken Whisenhunt said during a pre-draft press conference held jointly with general manager Rod Graves Tuesday. "He's going to have to earn it.

"A lot of times there is a learning curve and it is a lot easier when you can develop (a draft pick) over time."

Not surprisingly, there was little revealed during the interview session as the Cards try to keep their draft plans a secret.

Graves said the team's draft board is set. Now comes administrative items such as further medical and background checks, along with multiple mock draft scenarios in an attempt to narrow down who will be available at No. 16.

That's assuming, of course, the Cardinals stay at 16. Graves said the team will field phone calls – more likely later in the week – about potential trade talk from other clubs. Already Graves said the Cardinals were almost certain to not trade up, and he said Tuesday if the Cards were to trade down it wouldn't be more than five spots.

Both men were vague when it came to addressing positions, repeating often that they would be looking for the best player available while noting their draft board did take into account how a player would fit in the team's scheme.

Whisenhunt did allow that the Cards have a "couple" of cornerbacks rated highly – ostensibly targets for that No. 16 pick – and a handful of others the team would consider second-round opportunities.

"For instance, (a cornerback playing) a cover-two scheme doesn't fit what we are doing," Whisenhunt said. "That player wouldn't be rated  as highly. There may be a great player on the board that isn't a great fit for our system. We will take that into evaluation."

The Cardinals are expected to look at both cornerback and running back in the draft. Another position that sounds probable is pass rusher, despite the free-agent signings of Travis LaBoy and Clark Haggans and incumbents Bertrand Berry and Chike Okeafor on the roster.

"Last year, as the season progressed we wore down a little bit and it limited our ability to put pressure on the quarterback," Whisenhunt said. "I don't think you can ever have too many (pass rushers)."

Added Graves, "I would be open minded to be willing to address positions we know that are coming off of injury or might be aging in that area."

That would include Okeafor and Berry, both of whom are veterans who missed a lot of time in 2007 because of injuries.

Graves also said current contract situations would not play a large factor in choosing players – for instance, finding replacements for starters like defensive end Antonio Smith and cornerback Eric Green, who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents after the season.

"That would be secondary to what we need to improve our football team," Graves said.

Contact Darren Urban at Posted 4/22/08.

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