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Thursday, April 23, 2009
GM profiling: Graves and the linebackers

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals' search for quality outside linebackers continues. As Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic pointed out, none of the team's drafted linebackers has earned a Pro Bowl berth since E.J. Junior in 1985.

Division rivals Seattle (Lofa Tatupu) and San Francisco (Patrick Willis) have each drafted a Pro Bowl linebacker in the last four years. Perhaps the Cardinals' turn comes this year. The team figures to target the position, if practical, somewhere in the first few rounds. The Cardinals will look for players to fit the 3-4 tendencies Arizona will likely show under new defensive coordinator Bill Davis.

Draft Rd. Pick Graves' Team Linebacker
College Conference
2004
2 33 Cardinals
Karlos Dansby
Auburn SEC
2000
2 41 Cardinals Raynoch Thompson
Tennessee SEC
2002
2 49 Cardinals Levar Fisher
NC St.
ACC
2007 3 69
Cardinals Buster Davis
Florida St.
ACC
2003
3 70 Cardinals Gerald Hayes
Pittsburgh Big East
2005 3 95
Cardinals Darryl Blackstock
Virginia
ACC
2006 5 142
Cardinals Brandon Johnson
Louisville
Big East
2005
5 168 Cardinals Lance Mitchell
Oklahoma
Big 12
2008
6 185 Cardinals Chris Harrington Texas A&M
Big 12
2003
6 210 Cardinals Tony Gilbert
Georgia
SEC
2000
7 215 Cardinals Sekou Sanyika
California
Pac-10

The chart -- showing every linebacker the team has taken this decade, with general manager Rod Graves in a leadership role the whole time -- adds perspective.

The Cardinals haven't drafted a linebacker higher than 33rd during that span. Going back further, Graves' teams twice used the 11th choice for the position -- John Thierry (1994) and Wilber Marshall (1984) in Chicago -- but eight of the 35 linebackers Graves' teams have drafted since 1984 have fallen among the 33rd through 51st picks. That was nearly three times the rate for the rest of the league during the same span.

Steve Muench of Scouts Inc. offered a few thoughts on the Cardinals' search for an outside linebacker in this draft: