The Cardinals traded away cornerback Aeneas Williams three years ago today.
The position has been in flux ever since.
The starters remaining after Williams was dealt — Tom Knight and Corey Chavous — are long gone. The draft pick taken in the second round that day, Michael Stone, has been a bust and since was moved to safety. The Cards developed David Barrett, but he left after this season as a free agent. And the high-profile free-agent signing of Duane Starks hasn’t worked out, with Starks missing 22 of 32 games because of injuries.
The Cards hope Starks will be able to return from his torn knee ligaments. They signed free agent David Macklin, and Renaldo Hill is coming off his best pro season.
But, said vice president of football operations Rod Graves, “It is still an area where we have concerns.”
That’s why conventional wisdom has the Cardinals selecting a cornerback with their second-round pick, the first pick of the round. The position is, in Graves’ opinion, one of the three deepest in the draft, along with receiver and quarterback.
The pass coverage shortcomings of the past couple of years haven’t solely been the fault of the cover men. The Cards’ lack of a pass rush has often been too much for the cornerbacks to counter. It is risky, however, to lean on Starks as the top corner. Macklin was a backup in Indianapolis this past season. And as well as Hill played last year, he is still better suited to be a No. 3 cornerback than a No. 2.
“I don’t think (cornerback) is a big need,” Hill said. “I think we have quality guys already. If they bring someone else in, it will just make us a better bunch. We just have to try and show these coaches they already have reliable guys.”
That argument might become more important if receiver Larry Fitzgerald isn’t available at the No. 3 pick. If that happens, one of the players Arizona is considering with its first-round choice is safety Sean Taylor.
Safety isn’t an area the Cards need to upgrade. They signed Dexter Jackson as a free agent a year ago, and the team still hopes Adrian Wilson can fulfill his potential. But Taylor is a possibility. His arrival likely would mean a position switch for Wilson, from safety to cornerback. It's a switch he'd rather not make.
But Cardinals coach Dennis Green believes Taylor could become the best safety in the league, a ballhawk who will make interceptions and impact games. “It’s hard to find a guy like Sean Taylor, who is phenomenal,” Green said. “He is incredible because of his playmaking ability.”
Fitzgerald is still the more likely pick. The Cardinals will probably have to find their cornerback later and hope there isn’t a run on the position late in the first round.
“(Teams) are going to have a bunch to choose from, but I think the league does need some corners,” said South Carolina’s Dunta Robinson, expected to be a first-round pick. “It’s a need (for everybody).”
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