Arizona Cardinals draft: Team picking from unfamiliar territory
Such is life when you're perennially one of the league's lesser teams.
However, things may be changing in the desert, as under head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Steve Keim the Cardinals won 10 games last season and narrowly missed reaching the playoffs for the fourth time since moving to Arizona.
But they did earn something that is almost as rare: a first-round draft pick in the 20s or later.
Barring a trade, the Cardinals will be the 20th team to pick on May 8. Including this year, the Cardinals franchise -- including its time in Chicago and St. Louis -- will have had its first-round selection fall in that range or lower just six times.
Here's a look at the previous five:
1975: No 21 overall
The 1974 St. Louis Cardinals won the NFC East with a 10-4 record but lost in the divisional playoff round to the Minnesota Vikings. This left them with the 21st pick in the draft, and they used it to select defensive back Tim Gray out of Texas A&M.
Gray lasted just one season with the Cardinals, though, appearing in all 14 games but failing to record an interception. He returned one kick for 20 yards
1976: No. 22 overall
The 1975 Cardinals reached the postseason for the second straight year with an 11-3 record along with another NFC East title, but saw their season come to an end by way of a 35-23 loss to the L.A. Rams in the divisional round. That left them with the 22nd pick in the draft, and they spent it on defensive tackle Mike Dawson out of Arizona.
Dawson lasted nine NFL seasons -- seven of which were spent in St. Louis. He appeared in 88 games with the Cardinals, including 84 starts. He tallied 3.5 sacks in 1982, which was the first year the NFL kept track of the statistic.
1999: No. 21 overall
The 1998 season saw the Cardinals rally to earn a Wild Card berth, getting them to the postseason for the first time since the franchise moved to Arizona. They even knocked off the Dallas Cowboys 20-7 in the Wild Card round before losing to the Vikings 41-21 in the divisional round. This earned them the 21st pick in the draft, which they used on Eastern Michigan tackle L.J. Shelton.
Now to be fair, Shelton was not the first player the Cardinals took in 1999. By way of a trade they made the previous draft with the San Diego Chargers, they also held the eighth pick, which was used to take Ohio State receiver David Boston. But that was San Diego's pick, not Arizona's.
Shelton was supposed to be Lomas Brown's replacement, but those plans were delayed when a contract holdout led to him missing the first two games of the regular season. Once with the team, however, Shelton proved to be a pretty solid acquisition.
In all, Shelton spent six seasons with the Cardinals, playing in 82 games with 77 starts. Mostly a left tackle, 2004 saw the lineman move to the right side.
2009: No. 31 overall
No doubt the Cardinals would have rather been picking one stop lower, the second-to-last pick is reserved for the team that loses in the Super Bowl. But alas, that's where the Cards were in 2009 after falling to the Steelers 27-23 in Super Bowl XLIII, using the 31st pick to select Ohio State running back Beanie Wells.
And after a rookie season that saw Wells rush for 793 yards and seven touchdowns, it appeared like the Cardinals may have found something. But injuries slowed his progression and while Wells ran for 1,047 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2011, he failed to establish himself as an every-down NFL back.
Wells rushed for just 234 yards and five touchdowns in eight games in 2012, and was waived the following offseason. Just 25 years old, Wells' career is not necessarily over, but a torn Achilles tendon during a workout for the Baltimore Ravens last October definitely won't help him get back on the field.
2010: No. 26 overall
The 2009 Cardinals finished with a 10-6 record but lost in the divisional round to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints. This earned them the 26th pick, which they used on Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams.
Williams has had a somewhat inconsistent four years in Arizona, battling weight issues and injuries to the tune of 54 games played. However, he seemed to come on strong in 2013, recording 23 total tackles along with his first career sack and interception (which he returned for a touchdown).
Adam Green, Web Content Editor - ArizonaSports.com
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