TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he sweated through the handful of picks ahead of Arizona's wondering if beefy Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams would fall to the Cardinals.
He did, and Arizona was able to fill one of its primary defensive needs with a player Whisenhunt said the Cardinals had at No. 11 overall on their board.
``I think going into the draft today the idea of Dan Williams being available at our pick was something we hoped for but not something we realistically thought was going to happen,'' Whisenhunt said .
Williams played in a 4-3 defense as a senior, but the 6-foot-3, 327-pound lineman will shift to nose tackle in Arizona's 3-4 alignment.
The team needed defensive help at several positions, and nose tackle was certainly one of them. Last year's starter, Bryan Robinson, was not re-signed and Alan Branch was shifted to defensive end. That left Gabe Watson the only nose tackle on the roster.
Williams started all 13 games for the Volunteers last season with 70 tackles, 36 solos.
Williams could start alongside Pro Bowler Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell on the Cardinals' defensive line.
He said he doesn't know much about Arizona's defense, but does know a lot about Dockett.
``I always watch Dockett all the time. He's one of the best defensive tackles in the league. The way he plays the game, I try to mold myself after him,'' Williams said.
In a telephone news conference from NFL draft headquarters in New York, Williams said he didn't know how interested the Cardinals were in him.
I didn't go in for a visit or they didn't work me out,'' he said.I guess I showed them enough for them to believe in me and be confident enough to select me.''
The Cardinals hope Williams works out as well as the first-round picks have the past three seasons - offensive tackle Levi Brown in 2007, cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in 2008 and running back Beanie Wells last year.
Every year, coaches say they were surprised their pick was still available, but Whisenhunt's pleasure seemed genuine.
The coach said two things stand out in watching Williams - his number of plays and his number of tackles.
This guy has 70 tackles,'' Whisenhunt said,so for me that shows an ability to redirect, chase plays to make tackles, a very active guy. When you combine that with his size ... That's really something that's intriguing to us. As I made the comparison to basketball the other day, to me he's like a 7-footer who can play.''
General manager Rod Graves said there were other players the Cardinals liked who were still available ``but we felt like Dan's grades were just too high for us to ignore.''
``It fills a need for us and he's an exceptional player, exceptional character, and we feel like he'll fit our football team very well,'' Graves said.
Williams said he didn't think he would have trouble shifting to nose tackle but acknowledged when asked for a scouting report on himself that he needs to work on his pass rush.
Whatever coach wants me to do I'm willing to do,'' he said.I'm going to do it 110 percent and show them that I'm a guy who is willing to work and willing to improve each and every day.''
Williams credited his breakthrough season as a senior to one-on-one work with graduate assistant Chester McGlockton, who taught him not only about football but about life off the field.
I can't really express how much I am thankful for the Lord putting Chester in my life,'' he said .It really helped open my eyes.''