With free agency slowing down after the initial flurry of activity, it’s time to put the focus back on the draft. With that in mind, we return to our series on the best Cardinals draft picks. This week we’re looking at the defensive ends.
Defensive end can often be a fluid position in the NFL depending on the defensive alignment a team runs. Defensive ends play very different roles in a base 4-3 vs. a 3-4. Looking back through the draft history of the Cardinals shows just how much the position has changed, and how much bigger the players have become.
The defensive end position has not been a glamorous one for the Cardinals. My search of Cardinals’ draft history starts in 1977 and goes through last season. For about the first twenty years there is not a whole lot to talk about with the exception of Freddie Joe Nunn. Nunn was drafted in the first round by the Cardinals back in 1985 with the 18th overall pick. Nunn played the majority of his career with the Cardinals and finished his career with 450 tackles and 67.5 sacks. All but one of those sacks came as a member of the Cardinals.
Some of the other defensive end highlights include Mike Jones who was drafted in the second round in 1991. Jones spent his first three years with the Cardinals and finished his career with 428 tackles and 27.5 sacks. Kyle Vanden Bosch was drafted in the second round of the 2001 draft and spent his first three seasons with the Cardinals before his career took off with Tennessee. Vanden Bosch finished his career with 335 tackles and 58 sacks to go along with three Pro Bowl appearances.
Current Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell will certainly be near the top of this list when his career is finished. The Cardinals took Campbell in the second round of the 2008 draft and so far Campbell has already piled up 245 tackles and 36.5 sacks. Campbell has yet to make the Pro Bowl, but I don’t think it will stay that way for long.
So who is the best Cardinals’ draft pick at defensive end?
That honor goes to Simeon Rice. The Cardinals drafted Rice with the third-overall pick in the 1996 draft. He spent the first five seasons of his career in Arizona before leaving for Tampa Bay. When he retired, Rice had amassed an impressive 392 tackles and 122 sacks. He is currently 15th on the all-time list for sacks. He landed on one All-Pro first team and made it to three Pro Bowls in his 12 year career. He was also voted AP defensive rookie of the year in 1996.
It’s too bad the Cardinals only got to enjoy five years of Rice’s great career. He could have been remembered alongside Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams as one of the all-time great players in Cardinals history.