BY BRETT MURDOCK, Couchsideshow.com contributor
The Arizona Cardinals made the right decision in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Instead of trying for a quick fix with their quarterback issues, the Redbirds went the defensive route, electing to take defensive back Patrick Peterson with the No. 5 overall pick. And the rookie has yet to make them regret that decision.
But first, why did the Cardinals decide to go with Peterson over the multitude of prospects that could have also helped them immediately? Simply put, its because Peterson is a freak of nature — in a good way. Listed as cornerback, he has a safety’s build at 6-foot-0 and 219 pounds and cornerback’s athleticism, possessing a 4.34 40-yard dash time and a 39 inch vertical. He was widely regarded as the best athlete in the draft, and many had him going first overall. When he fell to No. 5, Arizona did not have much of a choice.
Peterson compiled an impressive career as an LSU Tiger, playing every game of his collegiate career. The Florida native recorded seven interceptions, four in his junior year, and returned two punts for touchdowns. He spent only three years in Baton Rouge but his final year was stellar and earned him the SEC Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American nod. Peterson also received the Thorpe (best defensive back) and Bednarik (best defensive player) awards for his performance.
But, when he got to the big time, his process was halted by an ugly, heated standoff between NFL players and owners, thus reducing the amount of time Peterson would have to get used to the professional level. But the cornerback never seemed to miss a beat, adapting to Ray Horton’s defensive schemes quickly and earning a starting nod come opening day, where he made a grand debut by returning a punt 89 yards for the eventual game winning touchdown to beat the Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers.
Peterson would not stop there. The rookie returned three more punts for touchdowns, including a 99-yarder in overtime against the Rams to give the Cards their second win of the year. The four return touchdowns tied an NFL record for a season and he nearly got a fifth in the final game of the year against the Seahawks.