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Cardinals' second-round pick a real head-scratcher

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted April 29, 2011 @ 8:39 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Are there limits to adhering to the "best available player" draft formula?

That just might be the case with the Cardinals' extremely curious second-round selection of Virginia Tech RB Ryan Williams.

In Day One of the NFL draft, it was hard to find fault with Arizona's "BPA" selection of LSU CB Patrick Peterson, even though cornerback was not considered nearly as big a need as more than a few other positions, with quarterback and pass-rushing outside linebacker at the top of the list.

Peterson was proclaimed to be a top-five pick by most draft observers, a dominant defensive talent if there ever was one. Mark him down right now as a top Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate in 2011.

Ryan Williams is a different breed of cat altogether. While it's true he might have been the best running back left on the board — although that's quite debatable — he certainly was not the best available player overall.

The next Adrian Peterson — whom the Cardinals foolishly passed up the last time they had the fifth overall pick in the first round five years ago in favor of OT Levi Brown — he is not.

Williams is a very confident, multipurpose back who runs with reckless abandon. But with former first-round pick Beanie Wells, solid Tim Hightower and third-down dynamo LaRod Stephens-Howling also on the roster, he really seems like excess baggage.

Unless, of course, the Cardinals are actually thinking about some serious personnel changes in the backfield. According to PFW draft expert Nolan Nawrocki, Williams "might have to be part of a duo to preserve his long-term durability."

Having been drafted in the second round, he figures to be used extensively from the get-go.

So does that mean either Wells or Hightower could be high-tailing it out of town? Hightower is a potential free agent who has issues holding onto the ball, but for the most part, he has been a solid all-purpose performer and consummate professional seemingly in very good standing with the Cardinals' powers-that-be.

Wells' relationship with the team hasn't been nearly as compatible, but he is only three years removed from being the team's top pick and continues to have a tremendous upside, unless his inability to stay healthy has become too big a cross to bear.

Which brings us back to Williams, who it turns out has quite the checkered medical record himself. He had a knee injury as a Virginia prep. He had an ankle injury as a sophomore at Virginia. He missed four games last year with a torn right hamstring.

Do the Cardinals really want more potential damaged goods like that?

Apparently so.

Suddenly, unless I'm missing something, the Cardinals' ground game has become a major mystery.

I really don't have a clue what they could be thinking.

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