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Why the Cardinals selected a running back

Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams' addition to the Arizona Cardinals' backfield stands out as one of the biggest surprises through three rounds of the 2011 NFL draft.

WellsWellsBeanie Wells, Tim Hightower and LaRod Stephens-Howling already gave Arizona a three-man rotation. Wells' status as a recent first-round selection made the choice seem even less likely -- even though Wells hasn't broken out yet.

What gives?

The Cardinals said they had Williams ranked 15th on their board listing the top 120 players the team would consider drafting. They felt they had little choice but to select him with the 38th choice, although trading out of the pick might have made more sense if Wells had been more productive to this point.

"He brings a lot of things to the table as a running back that are pretty unique -- size, speed, the way he runs," coach Ken Whisenhunt told reporters Friday. "I think he’s a very good receiver out of the backfield, which if he can handle the protection aspect of it, gives us a good element."

Sure, the Cardinals could have used a pass-rusher more than they could have used a running back, but Whisenhunt made it clear the team wouldn't have been getting a player nearly as talented as the one Arizona selected. And if Williams' addition pushes Wells and the other backs to perform better, that's a bonus.

"I don’t necessarily think that any one of those guys is afraid of competition, and I know that bringing in a player like Ryan Williams will only make us better," Whisenhunt said. "Let’s face it, we were 5-11 last year. We’ve got to get better as a football team. When you take the best players available, in your opinion, we’ve put a lot of work into this, we feel like it makes us a better football team. That’s really what it’s all about."