TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Early draft picks are as common as sunshine in the desert for the Arizona Cardinals.
That's what happens when a franchise has one winning season since moving from St. Louis in 1988.
The Cardinals have the No. 5 pick overall in Saturday's first round, and what they do with it rests largely on what happens ahead of them.
``We don't have a specific need that we have to address,'' new coach Ken Whisenhunt said, ``so that gives you the flexibility to take the player who is the best fit. Who that is going to be is determined by who is in front.''
t would take to re-sign him.
Arizona signed free agent Mike Gandy to play the position, but if Joe Thomas of Wisconsin, the consensus top tackle in the draft, is still around when the Cardinals pick, he would be an obvious choice.
Even if Thomas is gone, the Cardinals could go for Levi Brown of Penn State, perceived as the No. 2 tackle in the draft.
That brings up another possibility - trading down a few spots and still being able to get Brown.
``Certainly we don't want to take ourselves out of range to get a very good football player,'' said Rod Graves, Arizona's vice president for football operations. ``While there are a lot of good football players in the draft, we do think that there is a shelf there, an imaginary shelf if you will, and we just don't want to take ourselves out of that.''
Trading down also could be attractive if it meant more choices in later rounds. Arizona has six picks this year.
No team is calling yet, Graves said, but that could change on draft day.
``After the fourth selection is made, I think that is going to determine how things heat up in terms of the fifth pick,'' he said.
The Cardinals can only hope to be half as fortunate as they were a year ago, when Matt Leinart was unexpectedly available when Arizona made the No. 10 pick overall.
So the Cardinals don't need a quarterback, and if two of them - JaMarcus Russell and Brady Quinn - are selected among the first four on Saturday, that greatly increases the chance Thomas will be there when Arizona picks.
Thomas plans to go fishing with his father rather than be at draft headquarters in New York. Expect him to be in cell phone range, though.
Selection of the 6-foot-5, 311-pound Thomas would give the Cardinals a franchise tackle to go with their franchise quarterback. He would play under offensive line coach Russ Grimm, who came from the Steelers with Whisenhunt.
Whisenhunt, Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator before taking the Arizona job, wants to run the ball often, and that means someone needs to spell Edgerrin James. That leads to speculation the Cardinals might consider Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson.
The new coach didn't mention Peterson by name, but he addressed whether the team needs another high-profile running back to share the load.
``Well, Willie Parker wasn't a high-profile running back when we got him'' in Pittsburgh, Whisenhunt said, ``and that's not to discount any of the other running backs in the draft that are good football players. I don't think you pick necessarily for a certain position.''
Finally, there is the possibility Arizona will go for a defensive lineman, especially if Clemson end Gaines Adams is available.
Graves said that much of what happens will depend on what Oakland and Detroit, both unpredictable in past drafts, do with the top two choices.
``The one thing we do know,'' he said, ``is we want smart guys, we want physical guys.''
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