Cardinals draft Alex Okafor and Earl Watford in fourth round

Arizona Sports News online

The Cardinals addressed a need at the start of day three taking a pass rushing defensive end out of Texas, Alex Okafor.

“I knew they were interested,” said Okafor. “I met with them at the Combine and the second day of the draft they called me and told me to hang on…I am glad they picked me.”

In his senior season season, the 6-4, 261 pound Okafor had 12.5 tackles for loss including seven sacks and caused interceptions on four of his 11 quarterback pressures. In addition, he has 50 tackles and two forced fumbles. He was named an All-American by the American Football Coaches Association and was an All-Big 12 conference pick as well.

It is not the first time the Cardinals have selected a Texas pass rusher 103rd overall in the fourth round. They took Sam Acho with the exact same pick in 2011. If they didn’t seem similar enough just based on the same school, position and spot taken in draft, their numbers at Texas were almost identical as well as Acho had 23.5 sacks and 148 tackles at Texas. Okafor had 23 sacks and 150 tackles.

“It’s nuts,” Okafor mentioned. “It’s crazy around the same time in the draft, same team and they come after me. It’s just a blessing.”

“Couldn’t be happier my bro @aokafor80 (Alex Okafor),” said Sam Acho on Twitter. “The @AZCardinals and the #BirdGang are gonna love this guy… Opposing Quarterbacks won’t”

Okafor was a defense end at Texas but with the Cardinals 3-4 defensive scheme, he could be looked at at outside linebacker just like Acho. That is something Okafor discussed with the Cardinals at the NFL Combine.

“I looked at them dead in the eye and said I was confident in my athletic ability and I know I can play that position for them,” Okafor stated.

That was only the beginning for the Cardinals in the fourth round. Their second pick at 110 was originally owned by the Chargers but was dealt to Arizona in the trade that brought Manti Te’o to San Diego. The Cardinals then used that draft pick and traded it as well. Sent it to the New York Giants who drafted quarterback out of Syracuse Ryan Nassib. In return the Cardinals received the 116th overall pick in the fourth round and a sixth round pick at 187th overall.

With that 116th overall pick, the Cardinals finished their work in the fourth round by selecting offensive guard Earl Watford from James Madison.

The 6-3, 300 pound Watford started every game for the Dukes last season and earned All-American honors from The NFL Draft Report, Walter Camp Foundation, American Football Coaches Association, Associated Press and The Sports Network. He was also named First-Team All-Colonial Athletic Football Association for two consecutive seasons.

“I am super excited,” Watford said. “It’s crazy right now; being able to go in the fourth round, from JMU, that’s a big deal here. Friends, family, teammates, they’re al here celebrating with me.”

The nay sayers out there will say that playing at James Madison, he might not have played against the top-level competition to have him ready for the next level. However, Watford is confident that it will not be a problem.

“I played a lot of good players,” he mentioned. “They might not be guys from SEC schools or anything like that but I played against great competition and I proved that I can play against great competition in the All-Star game. And I am a hard worker and I am excited to show what I can do in the NFL on Sundays.”

Watford became the first player ever from James Madison to receive an invite to play in the East-West Shrine Game in 2013 is also the first player selected from the school since 2010.

“When you first get to college you are told you’re big enough for the NFL and you’re quick enough if you keep working,” Watford explained. “I really didn’t think about it too much until my junior year.”