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Peterson gives Cardinals nice return on investment

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted April 28, 2011 @ 10:19 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Forget about pure needs. Pure and simple, LSU's Patrick Peterson was the best athlete available left on the board at the fifth spot overall, and the Cardinals wasted no time making him their first pick.

Cornerback was not even considered among the five top needs for the Cardinals by most daily team observers. Quarterback and an outside pass rusher in particular were considered far greater priorities.

But the Cardinals seldom stray from the best-available-athlete approach, and the selection of Peterson - who many draftniks considered the best available athlete in the draft overall regardless of position - was no exception.

What could double the Cardinals' pleasure is Peterson's ability to return kicks, a skill that figures to be quickly utilized.

But first things first.

Peterson is a shutdown corner who is going to start right away. Mark him down first on the depth chart at right corner in pace of Greg Toler, who got an opportunity to start last season but never quite came through as well as the Cardinals had hoped.

Toler is still considered to have major upside, and he should still get plenty of playing time as the third corner.

With Peterson starting on the left side and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie starting on the right side, the Cardinals suddenly could have one of the best starting CB tandems in the league, provided DRC steps up his game after a very disappointing season in 2010.

Operating opposite Peterson, who has a work ethic to die for, Rodgers-Cromartie is not going to want to be overshadowed. With Peterson, who is going to love practicing against Larry Fitzgerald on a regular basis, pushing DRC, it's highly doubtful the Cardinals will rank 26th in average gain per pass play, as was the case last season.

Now about that return factor. The Cardinals already have one of the best kickoff returners in the league in LaRod Stephens-Howling. But their punt returner at season's end, 2010 third-round pick Andre Roberts, left a lot to be desired.

So what you got in Peterson is a player who provides major upgrades in two spots.

One more factor very much worth noting. That the Cardinals did not draft a quarterback, which was by far their major need, with their first pick suggests the new starting QB in Arizona will be arriving soon via free agency (Marc Bulger?) or trade (Kevin Kolb?)

In the meantime. Look for the Cards to keep drafting the best players available the next couple of days.

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