When the Arizona Cardinals selected running back Ryan Williams with the 38th pick in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, many people were surprised. The Cardinals defense was seen by most to be a bigger priority and there were still two available edge rushers that most experts had going in the first round of the draft, Brooks Reed and Da'Qaun Bowers.
The Cardinals then drafted their third skill player of the draft in the third round with tight end RobHousler at 69. Coach Ken Whisenhunt explained the picks to the media late in the day on Friday.
"To be quite honest with you, we're looking at pick 38 and we've got the 15th-ranked player starting us back in the face so that's something you really have to consider," the Cardinals' head coach explained.
It seems like the Williams pick means that either Beanie Wells or Tim Hightower won't be coming back. Wells, 22, in his second season with the Cardinals saw his productivity drop and his durability became an issue as he missed three games and only carried the ball 116 times. Of course many, including Wells, felt like he wasn't given enough opportunities to run the ball.
Tim Hightower, 24, played in all 16 games and started 13 of them. He posted a career-high 4.8 yards per carry but he also continued to fumble the ball at key times. Hightower is a free agent this offseason. Late in the season young LaRod Stephens-Howling, also 23, started to get more opportunities. He finished with 23 rushes and an impressive 4.9 yards per carry.
No one knows what the Cardinals are going to do with their group of running backs now that Ryan Williams is in the mix. Whisenhunt provided no answer to that question other than to say that the pick wasn't designed to send a message to any of his existing players.
Wells for his part sent out a tweet about the Williams pick, "Excited about him! Think he will be great fit for the cards!"
Whisenhunt added more thoughts on Williams, "He brings a lot of things to the table as a running back that are unique -- size, speed, the way he runs. I think he's a very good receiver out of the back field, which, if he can handle the protection aspect of it, give us a good element."
As for the third round pick of tight end Rob Housler, Whisenhunt admitted the young man out of Florida Atlantic needed to work on his blocking game but is confident he has the desire and ability to improve that. Adding another element to the offense was the prime reason for taking Housler.
"As much as we run three wide receiver sets, that when you add a combination of a guy that has that type of speed and receiving ability he can make you a very dynamic offense," Whisenhunt said.
Video of Ken Whisenhunt talking to the media provided by Arizona Sports.com.