Arizona gambles on LB, makes trade for Fordham QB
The final day of the NFL draft was far from routine for the Arizona Cardinals.
First, they traded down to select Wisconsin outside linebacker O'Brien Schofield, who blew out his knee before the Senior Bowl, then they dealt starting cornerback Bryant McFadden back to Pittsburgh in order to select big Fordham quarterback John Skelton in the fifth round.
And in the sixth round, Arizona drafted cornerback Jorrick Calvin, who didn't play football at all last season because he was academically ineligible.
``We were kind of all over the place today,'' coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
In all, the Cardinals made three trades over the three days of the draft, more than general manager Rod Graves could recall in his 14 seasons with the organization.
Graves said that with the way the franchise prepares ahead of time, the Cardinals will be aggressive once the draft begins.
``We don't draft sitting in the back of our seats,'' he said. ``I think we draft on the edge of our seats, and we're looking for opportunities.''
Schofield was considered one of the top pass rushers in the draft before he tore his left ACL in his first practice for the Senior Bowl. The injury scared away everyone until the Cardinals chose him in the fourth round at No. 130 overall.
``We felt like he had first-round talent,'' Graves said. ``... We gambled a little bit, but we felt like it was well worth it.''
Arizona reportedly had its sights on Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka. He went to the Philadelphia Eagles one pick ahead of Arizona's in the fourth round, so the Cardinals traded out of that pick. In exchange for its No. 123 overall pick, Arizona got New Orleans' fourth-round pick (No. 130 overall) along with the Saints' sixth-round selection (No. 201).
Schofield, who played defensive end in college, said he hopes to be able to play this season.
``It is just a privilege to get picked this high and the Arizona Cardinals taking a chance on me,'' he said in a telephone conference call, ``knowing the person that I am, that I will work hard to get back and be able to produce on the field.''
With Kafka gone, the Cardinals went for the 6-foot-5, 258-pound Skelton, choosing him at 155th overall. To get the pick, Arizona sent McFadden and a sixth-round choice to the Steelers. Skelton said he knows he needs ``a little polish.'' He compared his playing style to that of Ben Roethlisberger.
``I have the leadership qualities to come in and be a starting quarterback in the NFL,'' Skelton said. ``I have a strong arm. I can make all the NFL throws. With Kurt Warner's retirement, I know that Matt Leinart is in there but I'm ready to help the team in any way I can.''
He is the second player from a Football Championship Subdivision team (formerly NCAA Division I-AA) to be chosen by the Cardinals in this draft. Arizona picked speedy punt returner-wide receiver Andre Roberts of The Citadel in the third round.
Arizona used the sixth-round pick it got from the Saints to select Calvin, who was one of the top defensive players and kick returners in the Sun Belt Conference before he was ruled academically ineligible for last season. He said he continued to work out with the team and has no doubt he can play in the NFL.
He said he had ``a couple of deaths'' in his family and missed an assignment while dealing with that. He wasn't worried about being rusty despite a year away from games.
``Once an athlete always an athlete,'' Calvin said. ``Once you know how to play football, that never leaves you.''
With their seventh-round pick, the Cardinals chose 6-foot-5 tight end Jim Dray of Stanford. Dray came back from a severe knee injury 2 1/2 years ago that required two surgeries to become a significant part of the Cardinal offense.
The final day of maneuvering came after Arizona addressed significant needs with its first three selections. The Cardinals got nose tackle Dan Williams of Tennessee in the first round and inside linebacker Daryl Washington of TCU in the second, then selected Roberts in the third.
Williams and Washington have a chance to step into a significant role because the team has not re-signed starting nose tackle Bryan Robinson and lost inside linebacker Karlos Dansby to Miami in free agency.
Roberts is looked upon as a replacement for Steve Breaston as a punt returner. The coaches want Breaston out of that role because he will be playing more as the team's No. 2 receiver following the trade of Anquan Boldin to Baltimore.
The Cardinals signed McFadden as a free agent before last season but he had a disappointing year, finishing without an interception. His departure opens the way for second-year pro Greg Toler.