It’s Thursday again, that means it’s time for the next part in our weekly series leading up to the draft of the worst players ever drafted by the Cardinals in their franchise history. We have moved over to the defensive side of the ball and this week we’re breaking down the worst defensive end by the Cardinals in their franchise history.
The Cardinals have taken eight defensive ends in the first two rounds of the NFL draft since 1980, five of which we’re taken in the first round of the draft. The highest the Cardinals have ever selected a defensive end is third, which they did twice in a matter of three years taking Simeon Rice with the third pick of the 1996 NFL Draft and Andre Wadsworth with the third pick of the 1998 NFL Draft. Other notable names among the eight are current Cardinal and pro bowler Calais Campbell, taken in the second round with the 50th selection in 2008, Kyle Vanden Bosch, who was taken with the 34th selection of the 2001 draft, and Good ole’ Freddie Joe Nunn, taken 18th by the Cardinals in the 1985 draft.
Most of the Cardinals high draft selections at the defensive end position in the past 30 years or so have become very productive players in the NFL including Campbell who has become a staple and leader of the Cardinals defense and recorded 36.5 sacks over the past five years. Simeon Rice put together a hall of fame caliber with a staggering 122 sacks over 13 years in the NFL. He recorded 51.5 sacks in five years with the Cardinals, including a career high 16.5 in 1999, and 69.5 sacks in six seasons with the Buccaneers. Kyle Vanden Bosch had 58.5 sacks over 11 NFL seasons, although only four of those sacks were with the Cardinals. Freddie Joe Nunn was a very dependable player for the Cardinals for nine seasons with 66.5 sacks and one second team all-pro appearance. Curtis Greer, whom the Cardinals took with the 6th pick of the 1980 draft recorded 50.5 sacks in his last 5 seasons with the team. That leaves only a pair of high selections which are worthy of consideration of the dubious title of worst defensive end ever drafted.
Calvin Pace was taken with the 18th selection of the 2003 NFL Draft. It is worth noting here that the Cardinals traded out of the sixth pick that year and the opportunity to draft local phenom and surefire Hall of Famer Terrell Suggs, in order to take wide receiver Bryant Johnson and the aforementioned Calvin Pace. Still maybe the worst decision by the Cardinals in my lifetime and one that totally ruined my trip to Disney World in 7th grade. Pace had a rough start to his career to say the least, recording only 7.5 sacks and 68 tackles in his first four seasons in 22 starts. He was able to turn his career round mid-career though as he transitioned to a 3-4 outside linebacker and became a serviceable starter/role player for the Jets after having one productive year as a Cardinal. That leaves one extremely highly drafted defensive end who struggled mightily and who’s career was cut short by injuries.
And the winner is…… Andre Wadsworth (Round 1: Pick 3, 1998)
Career Stats: 3 seasons, 8 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 72 tackles, and 30 starts
Ah yes Andre Wadsworth, maybe the biggest bust in Cardinals draft history in general. He was a highly touted phenom from Florida St. whom the Cardinals selected with the third pick of the 1998 NFL Draft. The Cardinals had plans of pairing Wadsworth with Simeon Rice to create a nightmarish pass rushing duo that would strike the fear into opposing quarterbacks for many years.
Unfortunately that never materialized as the Cardinals lost Rice to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2001 (another classic example of the Cardinals organizations extreme frugality that doomed the franchise until the mid 2000s), and Wadsworth mustered only eight career sacks in three seasons and 30 career starts before his career was cut short from a mixture of injuries and lack of production in 2001. Wadsworth’s name will live in infamy for Cardinals fans as a sign of the dark years and is sure to show up on some all-time draft bust countdowns. Needless to say he is worthy of the honor of worst defensive end ever drafted by the Arizona Cardinals.