NFC West: Michael Hicks
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando
The item about Cardinals general manager Rod Graves and the running backs his teams have drafted elicited an underwhelming response.
windknot02: Not an impressive list. On the other hand, maybe Rod is due.
cman548: That list isn't terrible, but it speaks to the importance of offensive line. Any success these backs had came with teams that weren't the Cardinals.
With an assist from Steve Muench of Scouts Inc., perhaps we can give Cardinals fans a little more to talk about. He sees Andre Brown of North Carolina State as a likely starter teams might find available in the second round. He also explained why he likes Donald Brown despite initial misgivings and why he wouldn't draft Chris Wells early.
I followed up with Muench on Andre Brown because we do not hear his name as frequently as we hear others. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt has said he would like two running backs with divergent styles. Current Cardinals back Tim Hightower is 224 pounds. Brown is 228. The similarities might be limited, however.
Muench: Andre Brown is 228 pounds, but he is a lot faster than Hightower. Shonn Greene and Rashad Jennings and Javon Ringer all fall into the category of Hightower-type backs. They are quicker, but they are big backs, not a lot of wiggle. Kory Sheets is an interesting name in the middle rounds. He can catch it out of the backfield. He can complement.
Having spent all last season watching NFC West teams -- and not college prospects -- this was a conversation I wanted to continue. Muench felt the same way; he's spent all his time watching the college prospects. This was a chance for us to bring together our perspectives in trying to figure out what might make sense.
The Cardinals would like to find a potentially dynamic running back in the upcoming draft, as we have discussed.
Their general manager, Rod Graves, will guide decisions on the matter with input from college scouting director Steve Keim, head coach Ken Whisenhunt and presumably others in the organization.
For perspective on decisions the team might make in the 2009 draft, I've singled out the halfbacks Graves' teams have drafted since 1993, when Graves was with the Bears. His teams also drafted fullbacks Joel Makovicka, Dennis McKinley and Ron Janes, but halfback is the position we'll consider for this exercise.
None of the players listed in the chart became long-terms starters for Graves' teams. Raymont Harris started most of three seasons for the Bears.
With that in mind, I checked the Steelers' drafting history at running back during the years Whisenhunt was an assistant for them.
Willie Parker was undrafted. Jerome Bettis entered the NFL with the Rams. The Steelers did not draft a running back before the fifth round (166th overall) while Whisenhunt was with the team from 2001 to 2006. The team did draft fifth-rounder Verron Haynes and seventh-rounders J.T. Wall, Noah Herron and Cedric Humes.
Perhaps the Cardinals and Whisenhunt can start a new tradition drafting for the positon in Arizona. Tim Hightower showed some promise as a rookie in 2008, but not enough to keep the starting job.