Now that the seemingly never ending countdown to the 2014 NFL Draft is only two days away, I figured it was the perfect time to unveil the best draft pick as well as the best draft class in Arizona Cardinals franchise history. Although the Cardinals have had their fair share of misses, bad luck and head scratching decisions on draft day over the years (a kicker in the 1st round in 1977, Calvin Pace and Bryant Johnson over Terrell Suggs, Levi Brown over Adrian Peterson, etc.), they have also hit the jackpot on some selections that have altered the course of their franchise for the better in different eras of Cardinals football. So before I breakdown the absolute best draft selections in Arizona Cardinals history as well as the best draft class in franchise history I thought it was only right to include a few honorable mention players who didn’t quite make my list.
Ottis Anderson (Round 1: Pick 8, 1979) 8 seasons as a starter, 2x Pro Bowl, 1st Team All-Pro 1x, franchise’s leading rusher
Anquan Boldin (Round 2: Pick 54, 2003) 7 seasons as a starter, 3x Pro Bowl, more than 7,500 receiving yards as a Cardinal
Larry Centers (Round 5: Pick 115, 1990) 7 seasons as a starter, 3 Pro Bowls, more than 6,500 yards from scrimmage
Dan Dierdorf (Round 2: Pick 43, 1971) 10 seasons as a starter, 6 Pro Bowls, 1st Team All-Pro 3x, Hall of Fame inductee
Darnell Dockett (Round 3: Pick 64, 2004) 10 seasons as a starter and counting, 3x Pro Bowl
Roy Green (Round 4: Pick 89, 1979) 9 seasons as a starter, 2x Pro Bowl, 2x 1st Team All-Pro, nearly 10,000 receiving yards as a Cardinal
Luis Sharpe:(Round 1: Pick 16, 1982) 13 seasons as starter, 3x Pro Bowl
5. Adrian Wilson (Round 3: Pick 64, 2001)
Wilson solidified the strong safety position in Arizona for more than a decade, and was a huge part of the franchise’s resurgence in the past decade. Wilson was an ultimate warrior on the field zooming around and laying the lumber on opposing offenses and playing through numerous injuries such as a torn bicep (yes you read that right). He also was extremely accomplished as a 5x Pro Bowler and a 1st Team All-Pro selection in 2009. He is a member of the highly exclusive 25 interception and 25 sack club which only has four members. He was an absolute steal in the 3rd round and is without question my personal favorite Cardinals defensive player of all-time. Let’s hope the Cardinals bring him back to finish his career here.
4. Roger Wehrli (Round 1: Pick 19, 1969)
Wehrli is an NFL Hall of Famer and a Cardinals ring of honor member for his incredible career playing for the Cardinal franchise. Wehrli started an incredible 13 seasons for the Cardinals, and was a 7x Pro Bowler and a 3x 1st Team All-Pro in that team. He was quite the ball hawk as he had an extremely impressive 40 interceptions in his career. Wehrli is without question the best cornerback in Cardinals franchise history.
3. Larry Wilson (Round 7: Pick 74, 1960)
Four decades before Adrian Wilson was zooming around the gridiron terrorizing opposing offenses, another hard-nosed pail and hardhat toting safety by the name of Wilson was doing the same thing: Larry Wilson of course. Wilson was the 12th player the Cardinals selected in the 1960 NFL Draft (you know what they say the 12th times a charm right?) and was by leaps and bounds the most accomplished. He is also an NFL Hall of Famer, as in his 13 year career for the Cardinals he was an 8x Pro Bowler, 5x 1st Team All-Pro, and had an eye popping 52 interceptions in his career. Larry Wilson was the original Cardinals defensive superstar and was the best Cardinals player of the 1960s a real gem with the 74th pick.
2. Larry Fitzgerald (Round 1: Pick 3, 2004)
Larry Fitzgerald will probably go down as the best Cardinals player of all time by the time his days in Arizona are over and may be the all-time fan favorite amongst Cardinals players and with good reason. Fitzgerald has more than lived up to his billing as the 3rd pick of the 2004 NFL Draft and already has more than 11,000 receiving yards at the age of 30, the fastest any player in NFL history has reached that milestone. He is also the fastest player to reach 800 catches in his NFL career and has an outside chance to challenge the great Jerry Rice’s receiving records if he can maintain his level of production for another 8-10 years. He also had the best postseason for any receiver in NFL history during the Cardinals magical run to the Super Bowl in 2009, as he had 30 catches for 549 yards and 7 touchdowns. With all of that said, at this point I still can’t put him at number one on this list.
1. Aeneas Williams (Round 3: Pick 59, 1991)
Aeneas Williams is the best draft pick in Arizona Cardinals history, end of discussion. This former 3rd rounder started 14 seasons in the NFL (10 for the Cardinals) was an 8x Pro Bowler, 3x First Team All-Pro and would have made more 1st Team All-Pro teams if he wasn’t starring for a decade for a perennial cellar dwelling team in Arizona. He also was a Pro Bowl and 1st Team All Pro player in his mid-30s for a Super Bowl Champion St. Louis Rams team with the great Kurt Warner. Williams was also recently inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014 and had an incredible 58 interceptions in his career. When you combine all of Aeneas Williams career accomplishments with the fact that he was a 3rd round pick, you have a strong case for his designation as the best draft pick in Arizona Cardinals history and one of the biggest steals in NFL history.