Cardinals: Top draft picks not performing

GM Rod Graves (Getty)

Since 2008, the Cardinals top draft picks have underperformed, a trend they'll look to end this April.

Three-year breakdown

How the Cardinals have done in the draft since 2008:

Total picks: 22
2010 starters: 7
2010 backups: 10
Other teams: 4
Out of NFL: 1

The Cardinals' success in the last three drafts has been spotty. They have had more luck in the latter rounds and are still waiting for some of their higher picks to come around.

The future of the organization depends upon those top picks producing. That includes first-round picks such as running back Beanie Wells (2009) and nose tackle Dan Williams (2010), as well as second-rounders like defensive end Calais Campbell (2008) and linebacker Daryl Washington (2010).

Some of the team's late-round picks have been productive, including running back Tim Hightower, a fifth-round selection in 2008, running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, a seventh-rounder in 2009 and tight end Jim Dray, a seventh-rounder in 2010.

The Cardinals, however, desperately need their top picks to start making an impact. Wells has been hampered by injuries, while Williams and Washington were inconsistent in their rookie seasons.

Best pick: Running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, 2009 (seventh round, 240th overall): Stephens-Howling went late in the draft because of his size (5-7, 185 pounds), but he's had a big impact on games. He immediately became an effective kick returner. In 2010, he returned two kickoffs for touchdowns and became an effective third-down back. Stephens-Howling won't ever be a back who plays on every down, but he's a tremendous role player. And he's one of the best special teams cover men in the game.

Worst pick: Outside linebacker Cody Brown, 2009 (second round, 63rd overall): The Cardinals would like to run a 3-4 defensive scheme similar to that of the Steelers, but haven't been able to draft well enough at outside linebacker to effectively do it. Brown was the biggest flop. The Cardinals thought he had to the skills to play the right side, where he would be used as a pass rusher. But Brown didn't impress with his play or attitude. The Cardinals cut him before the 2010 season.

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