NFL Draft: Arizona selects Penn State lineman Print
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Saturday, 28 April 2007 13:59
NFL Headline News

 TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -The Arizona Cardinals got a big, talented offensive tackle in the first round of the NFL draft, even though he may not have been the one they wanted most.
Arizona chose Levi Brown of Penn State as the fifth selection overall on Saturday. The Cardinals also went big in the second round, trading up to get defensive tackle Alan Branch of Michigan.
Brown, 6-foot-5, 323-pound lineman, was the second offensive tackle to go in the first five picks. Joe Thomas of Wisconsin, perhaps the Cardinals' top choice, went to the Cleveland Browns as the No. 3 selection overall.
``We had both of those players ranked very close, almost right together,'' new Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt said.
Whisenhunt wants to stress tough, physical play and running the ball, and that means a makeover for what has been one of the league's worst lines. He and Brown say it's a good fit.
``That's what I like, man,'' Brown said by telephone from his home in Norfolk, Va. ``I'm not the kind of guy who likes to sit back and the let the defensive lineman come hit me. I want to go hit him.''
The Cardinals made a trade with Oakland to move up five spots to get the first pick in the second round, and used it to select Branch.
Despite the addition of running back Edgerrin James, the Cardinals finished last in the NFL in average yards per carry and 30th - out of 32 teams - in yardage rushing last season.
That helped lead to the firing of coach Dennis Green and the hiring of Whisenhunt, offensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whisenhunt brought offensive line coach Russ Grimm with him.
The Cardinals let left tackle Leonard Davis - the No. 2 pick in the 2001 draft - leave for free agency at the end of last season because they felt he underachieved and wouldn't be worth the money it would take to re-sign him.
Arizona signed free agents offensive tackle Mike Gandy and center Al Johnson this offseason, but decided one more tackle was a major need. Most projections had Brown going a bit later in the first round.
``Obviously there will be varied opinions about whether we should or should not have,'' said Rod Graves, the Cardinals vice president of football operations. ``The fact of the matter is we had him graded very, very highly. He's an excellent fit we believe for our football team, and I believe if you like him you take him.''
That the Cardinals thought so highly of him seemed to be news to Brown.
``I was actually very surprised in that I didn't have any kind of contact with the Cardinals the whole process,'' he said. ``Working out on my pro day, but that was it.''
That pro day workout under Grimm's direction was memorable, though.
``I know he's a tough guy,'' Brown said of Grimm. ``He really tried to kick my butt. I'm ready for him to be my coach. We'll go out there and get some things done. I'm sure he'll make me a better player.''
The big lineman has a reputation as a strong run blocker but needs work as a pass blocker.
``That's cool, man,'' Brown said. ``I mean, everybody has something to work on. If that's what I need to work on, that's what I'll work on.''
Brown's father is a former Marine.
``You think Russ is tough, you've never met nobody tougher than my dad,'' Brown said.
Brown was an Associated Press second-team All-American as a junior in 2005. He started 45 games for the Nittany Lions, all but one at left tackle.
He missed two games his senior season after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, something that obviously didn't concern the Cardinals.
Count quarterback Matt Leinart among those happy with the added protection.
He sent Whisenhunt a text message that read, ``Nice pick, coach.''
Arizona traded up five spots with Oakland to get the 6-5, 334-pound Branch with the first pick of the second round, the 33rd overall. In exchange, the Raiders received the Cardinals' second- and fourth-round picks.
Some had projected Branch going much earlier, but he said he ``couldn't be happier'' to go to the Cardinals.
``I feel like I got some love from them. I feel like they really want me that badly to make the trade,'' Branch said from his home in Rio Rancho, N.M. ``I'm just going to try my hardest to make sure they didn't do it in vain.
``I'm not disappointed in the least bit.''
Branch will compete for playing time with ex-Michigan teammate Gabe Watson, who played in 12 games, five as a starter, as a rookie for Arizona last season.
Saturday's trade leaves the Cardinals with only two picks in Sunday's final four rounds, in the fifth and seventh.
 

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