It’s hard to believe that the NFL draft is still over a month away. To help fill the time between the beginning of free agency and the draft, Cover32 is running a series on the best and worst draft picks in the history of each franchise. This week the focus is on the outside linebacker position.
The outside linebacker has evolved over the years in the NFL depending on what base defense is being run. If you’re favorite team runs a 3-4 base defense like the Cardinals currently do, then the outside linebackers are often the best pass rusher. In a 4-3 base the outside linebackers are used more in setting the edge and in pass coverage. Looking back at some of the best Cardinals draft picks at outside linebacker offers up a little of both.
The Cardinals have been pretty successful finding quality outside linebackers high in the draft. All four of the players on this list were selected in the first round and all of them were taken within the top 18 picks overall. Take a look at the careers of top Cardinals outside linebacker selections.
EJ junior: 1981 (5th overall) 36.5 sacks, 12 interceptions, 2-time Pro Bowler and 1st team All-Pro once. (The NFL didn’t keep track of tackle stats at this time)
Ken Harvey: 1988 (12th overall) 89 sacks, 763 tackles, 1 interception. 4-time Pro Bowler.
Jamir Miller: 1994 (10th overall) 36 sacks, 480 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1-time Pro Bowler and 1st team All-Pro once.
Calvin Pace: 2003 (18th overall) 52 sacks, 421 tackles, 3 interceptions.
As you can tell by looking at the guys above, the Cardinals have done a pretty good job of landing quality outside linebackers with high picks in the draft. They almost did it again in 2011 when the Cardinals had the fifth overall pick in the draft. The team was very high on Von Miller out of Texas A&M. He ended up going number two overall and tearing up the league as a rookie for the Denver Broncos. The Cardinals ended up doing alright for themselves that year by selecting superstar corner Patrick Peterson.
So based on the four players above, who is the best Cardinals pick at outside linebacker in modern history?
That honor would have to go to Ken Harvey who racked up some pretty unbelievable stats while making it to four Pro Bowls. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Harvey made all four of those Pro Bowl teams as a member of the Washington Redskins.
Could the Cardinals possibly draft another outside linebacker with this year’s first-round pick? Stay tuned on May 8th for the answer.