Arizona goes for OLB Acho with 4th-round selection
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)
The Arizona Cardinals addressed a need to improve their pass rush on Saturday by selecting outside linebacker Sam Acho from Texas in the fourth round, then nabbed inside linebacker Quan Sturdivant after the North Carolina inside linebacker slipped to the sixth round.
Acho did not expect the Cardinals to pick him.
''I hadn't heard from them in the last couple of months, so it's a complete shocker to me,'' he said.
At 6-foot-1, 257 pounds, Acho played outside linebacker for two seasons in college before switching to defensive end as a junior.
''I can learn that position easily. I played it before,'' he said. ''I have a good feel for it. As a matter of fact, my younger brother who goes to Texas plays outside linebacker, so he and I have worked together. I feel really great about it.''
In the fifth round, Arizona looked to fill a role at fullback and special teams by selecting Connecticut's Anthony Sherman. The Cardinals are among a handful of NFL teams that still use a fullback in their offense.
With their final pick, the Cardinals chose San Diego State wide receiver DeMarco Sampson. The compensatory pick in the seventh round was the 249th selection overall.
Sturdivant, the 171st pick overall and first of Arizona's two sixth-round selections, said he believed ''off-the-field issues'' caused him to fall in the draft, a reference to his arrest for possession of a small amount of marijuana in July 2010.
''I made a bad decision back in the summertime and it came back to hurt me,'' he said, ''but at the end of the day, the Cardinals, I'm blessed to be here with those guys. I made a mistake. I'm just fortunate enough that God gave me another opportunity to get drafted so I'll just make the best of that opportunity.''
The 6-foot-1, 232-pound Sturdivant, who missed five games last season with a hamstring injury, had the Class III misdemeanor dropped when he agreed to 24 hours of community service and other requirements routine for first-time offenders in North Carolina.
Cleared in the NCAA probe that sidelined several of his North Carolina teammates, Sturdivant ended his college career with an interception that sealed the Tar Heels' victory over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.
With its second sixth-round pick, Arizona chose 6-foot-5, 257-pound defensive lineman David Carter from UCLA. Carter, whose older brother Chris was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round, played nose tackle as a senior but prefers the outside tackle or defensive end position. That's where Arizona envisions him playing.
Acho's parents emigrated from Nigeria and each summer he returns there with his brother and father on a medical mission.
He recently was named the nation's top scholar-athlete by the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame. Acho, who is fluent in Spanish, has a degree in business honors and marketing.
He believes his intelligence is a great benefit as a player.
''It helps me immensely, being a smart football player,'' Acho said. ''Ninety percent of the game is mental and so you have to be able to understand plays, understand defenses, understand other teams' offenses and know how to react within a defense. My smarts off the field are really going to help me on the field as well.''
Coach Ken Whisenhunt agreed.
''Where he really kind of caught my attention was at the Senior Bowl,'' Whisenhunt said. ''He had a very productive week there against some good talent as a (pass) rusher. The transition from being an end to an outside linebacker is one that a lot of these guys are having to go through now. The reason that you feel good about Sam being able to do that is he's such an outstanding student.''
Acho, who had 17 sacks the last two years, was the second defensive player chosen out of the first four by Arizona, following first-rounder Patrick Peterson, a touted LSU cornerback selected by the Cardinals as the fifth choice overall. In the second and third rounds on Friday, the Cardinals turned to offense, picking running back Ryan Williams and tight end Rob Housler.
Not many colleges use a fullback in their offense, and Whisenhunt said the Cardinals considered Sherman the top player available at that position.
''When you have a role where you're expecting that player to maybe get 15 or 20 snaps or game, he's got to have another significant contribution to your team,'' Whisenhunt said. ''That's how you build the strength of your team. We feel like he was, if not the best, at least in the top two or three in all the college players we looked at as special teamers.''