A nice face, but is it the face of AZ's future?
The 2006 NFL Draft marked the Arizona Cardinals last one before the Whisenhunt Era. It's safe to say the 2006 class didn't live up to expectations, but there are a few players who have weathered the storm. While none of the Cardinals fourth-year players will graduate with honors, Arizona's success in 2010 depends on them.
1. Deuce Lutui: Out of all the Cardinals fourth-year players, Lutui marks the only member of the 2006 draft class to appear and start in all 16 games (second consecutive season). The former second-round selection came into his own in his senior year. His high penalty count was a thing of the past, and he provided solid protection for Kurt Warner. Set to be a free agent, he likely won't go anywhere. The local product is set to block for his fellow Trojan this year. He and Matt Leinart should finish what they started years ago.
2. Matt Leinart: Although Dennis Green described Leinart as a gift from heaven, he's been in purgatory for much of his career. Leinart's been in limbo sitting behind a future Hall of Fame quarterback. When the 10th overall selection addressed the media after the draft, he alluded to being in Warner's shadows and his plans of learning from the great quarterback. The Cardinals certainly hope he's taken more than just notes. Leinart has appeared to have matured, looks comfortable in the pocket and the huddle and his arm strength continues to impress. But there are certainly still big question marks that surround Leinart's ability to lead an NFL team, but so far the Cardinals have expressed confidence in Leinart and given him the go-ahead.
3. Gabe Watson: The defensive lineman appeared in all 16 games last season but started in none. He's become a reliable backup but with some changes expected on the line, he'll have to do more to earn his keep.
4. Stephen Spach: The tight end out of Fresno State found his way to the desert by way of the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. Spach's seen his most production in red, starting a total of 11 games for the Cardinals. But he hasn't found his niche in the Cardinals offense. Anthony Becht takes the cake for best blocker at that position, while Ben Patrick- when healthy and following league rules- helps more in the receiving game than the other tight ends.
Cardinals 2006 Draft Class
1. Matt Leinart QB USC
2. Deuce Lutui OG USC
3. Leonard Pope TE Georgia
4. Gabe Watson DT Michigan
5. Brandon Johnson OLB Louisville
6. Jonathan Lewis DT Virginia Tech
7. Todd Watkins WR Brigham Young
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