The Arizona Cardinals have dropped strong suggestions that they will not draft a quarterback with the fifth overall choice in the 2011 NFL draft.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt followed up on the subject during the Cardinals' pre-draft news conference Thursday. Before laying out those comments, I'd like to revisit what Whisenhunt told XTRA910 radio in Phoenix late last month:
"There is nobody that really stands out like Sam Bradford did last year. There are a lot of guys that are intriguing athletically like Blaine Gabbert, like Cam Newton, because of the skill set, some of the things they can do. But I don’t think they have shown the ability to do some of the things that you have seen in the past by some of these guys like a Matt Ryan or, obviously, like a Sam Bradford."
That seemed like a reasonable thing to say based on the evidence. It did not mean the Cardinals had ruled out selecting a quarterback fifth overall -- they were still gathering information at that point, anyway -- but it suggested the team had at least some reservations.
Now, on to what Whisenhunt said Thursday:
"When I made the assessment that I didn’t see a Sam Bradford-type player early in this [draft], I was talking more about what he had done on the college level, from the consistency, from the number of years of experience that he had played. When you talk about Cam Newton or Blaine Gabbert, those are both guys that I think played very good football for their teams, but there is not a lot to base it off of other than this year.
"That is what I meant when I compared them to a Sam Bradford. Do I think that these are talented football players? Yes. I have been impressed with both of these young men because I have spent time with them. Like you all know, we have worked out them out, seen them work out, and spent time in an interview with them. They are talented football players and I think that they are going to be good quarterbacks in the league."
Despite what Whisenhunt said previously, plenty of mock drafters think the Cardinals will select Missouri quarterback Gabbert. Rob Rang, Nolan Nawrocki, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay all sent Gabbert to Arizona in recent mock drafts.
Whisenhunt's initial comments seemed to reinforce what regular followers of the team -- myself, Arizona Republic reporter Kent Somers and azcardinals.com reporter Darren Urban -- already thought about the situation. We've all downplayed the idea that Arizona would likely select a quarterback with the fifth overall choice.
I'll stick with that thinking based on overall feel more than anything Whisenhunt has said specifically. Not that any of us will know anything for certain until next Thursday night. The Cardinals might not even have a final decision at this point.