The NFL Draft is only two weeks away, which means it’s time for part 12 of our series of the worst draft picks by position in Arizona Cardinals history. After breaking down the cornerback position last week, it’s time to venture in the draft vault and see how the Cardinals have done in drafting the strong safety position in order to find out the worst draft pick they have made at the position in their history.
According to my research the Cardinals have only selected 10 players which were designated as being strong safeties coming into the draft in the past 50 years, and none since 2001. The Cardinals have done pretty well in their fairly limited experience drafting the position as three of the strong safeties they have drafted in the past 54 years have been superstars and perennial Pro Bowlers including Adrian Wilson (Round 3: pick 64 2001) who started for the Cardinals for 11 seasons and made five Pro Bowls, Tim McDonald (Round 2: Pick 34, 1987) who started 13 seasons in the NFL including six Pro Bowl appearances, three of which with the Cardinals, and Hall of Famer and 8x Pro Bowler Larry Wilson, who was taken in the 7th round of the 1960 NFL Draft.
The Cardinals have spent three first round picks on the strong safety position including Leonard Smith who was the 17th pick of the 1983 draft. Smith started 10 seasons in the NFL, six with the Cardinals, and made 2nd team All-Pro in 1986 as a Cardinal. They also took Ken Greene with the 19th pick of the 1978 draft who ended up starting for seasons for the team. In all the 11 strong safeties they have drafted since 1960 have combined for over 60 seasons of starting experience in the NFL which is pretty impressive. It is also the reason it is tough to pick a candidate for worst player ever drafted at the position.
The runner-up for worst draft pick at the strong safety position in Arizona Cardinals history goes to Tim Gray. The St. Louis Cardinals selected Gray with the 21st pick of the 1975 NFL Draft. Gray only lasted one season with the team and didn’t start one game before becoming a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Although it is tempting to pick Gray as the worst strong safety pick for the Cardinals, the fact that he managed to start four seasons in the NFL after leaving the Cardinals and tallying 13 interceptions (six in 1978) and two defensive touchdowns means he was for a short time a very productive player in the NFL. That leaves one man for the dubious distinction of worst strong safety drafted in Arizona Cardinals history, the man who the Cardinals took in the 2nd round of the 2001 NFL Draft, the pick before all-time great strong safety Adrian Wilson.
And the winner is…… Michael Stone (Round 2: Pick 54, 2001)
Career Stats: 5 NFL Seasons, 3 starts, 52 tackles.
Stone was an under the radar prospect out of Memphis who stayed under the radar in the NFL. He lasted three seasons with the Cardinals, never able to work his away for any playing time as he was beaten out for the starting position by the player drafted 10 picks behind him in the 2001 NFL Draft future Hall of Famer and Cardinals legend Adrian Wilson. Who coincidentally we recognized as the best strong safety drafted in Cardinals history. After flaming out with the Cardinals, Stone played one season with the Patriots, appearing in 13 games and starting three, and one season with the Houston Texans. Stone has become a very successful business man post football career, as he is the CEO of his own company the Professional Athlete Franchise Initiative to help athletes succeed in business after their playing careers are over.