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Cardinals w/ Options in the 09 Draft at Running Back

No Knowshon? No Problem.

No matter who is throwing the passes for the Cardinals in 2009, the running game must improve. Despite the fact that the Cardinals met with free agent running back LaMont Jordan on Monday, the draft seems like the most immediate way to achieve this goal. Finding a running back, however, will pose a number of challenges for the Cards; uncertainty is at the top of the list.

The uncertainty stems from the reality that the Cardinals’ 31st overall pick places the team in unfamiliar territory. Darren Urban, a writer for the Cardinals’ official website, reports that former offensive tackle L.J. Shelton- the 21st pick of the 1999 draft- was the latest first-round pick by the Cardinals since the team moved from St. Louis to Arizona. This unique situation brings a distinct challenge for the Cards. Specifically, it is difficult to predict exactly who will be available for the Cardinals when they are on the clock.

Though it may be somewhat unlikely, the Cards should be licking their chops at the prospect of stealing Knowshon Moreno as the 31st overall pick. With Edgerrin James’ eventual departure still likely, Moreno would be an excellent compliment to Tim Hightower. Moreno has been described as a natural leader; he commanded the respect of his teammates at Georgia when he cracked the starting lineup as a freshman. Also, Moreno runs decisively, is an underrated receiver, and has exceptional lateral quickness that draws comparisons to Barry Sanders. Though he may not have great speed (4.62 forty yard dash at Combine) or prototypical size (5’10”, 217 lbs.), his explosiveness and ability to finish runs will no doubt serve him well in the NFL.

Moreno may be a pipedream, however, as Kiper and Stafford have him going to the Chargers as the 16th overall pick, presumably to remedy a sour situation with LaDainian Tomlinson. While mock drafts are anything but certain, it’s difficult to imagine Moreno falling to the 31st overall pick. If Moreno is in fact gone, there are other options for the Cards. Chris “Beanie” Wells has excellent size, strength, vision and balance rolled into one 6’1”, 235 lb. package. Beanie rushed for 1,197 yards and eight touchdowns on 207 carries in just ten games in his final season at Ohio State. Like Moreno, however, it is relatively safe to assume that Wells will be gone before the Cards are up.

So who’s left for the Cardinals that may miss out on Moreno and Wells? It will probably be LeSean McCoy of Pittsburgh. Ironically, McCoy and Moreno have many similarities. McCoy, like Moreno, is ultracompetitive, hits the hole quickly, and is very shifty. In addition, both are very similar in size and strength, which is a source of criticism for both; McCoy stands 5’10” and weighs 210 lbs. We will have to wait, however, to compare the two running backs’ 40 yard dash times; McCoy did not run at the combine, citing flu-like symptoms.

While we may have to wait until McCoy’s pro day to determine his measureable speed, I was able to see McCoy’s abilities at work against the Irish from my seat at legendary Notre Dame Stadium this past season. McCoy racked up 169 rushing yards, one touchdown, and two receptions for 23 yards in a 36-33, 4-OT win. The effort was impressive, even though it was against a regrettably weak Notre Dame team. Can we expect to see this in Cardinal red in 2009? We will find out together.

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