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Cardinals Draft Primer 2017: Running Back

Posted Apr 20, 2017

With David Johnson in the fold, running back not a big draft priority

The Cardinals didn’t make a big splash in free agency, preferring to add lower-priced veterans to the roster before turning their attention to the draft. The prospect pool is considered deep this year, and General Manager Steve Keim will aim to add pieces that can make an impact in 2017 and beyond. The three-day draft will kick off with the first round on Thursday, April 27, where the Cardinals have the No. 13 overall pick. Position primers will be rolled out daily as it approaches.

More draft primer analysis: CB I WR I LB

Draft primer: Running Back

Players under contract: David Johnson; Kerwynn Williams; Elijhaa Penny

Need: Low

The Cardinals’ situation: David Johnson emerged as one of the best running backs in the NFL last season and is entering his prime. He will get the lion’s share of the work and will be the focal point of the offense. Kerwynn Williams is a nice complement as a runner, although he isn’t a great receiver or pass protector. Elijhaa Penny was on the practice squad last year and will fight for a roster spot. The Cardinals are thin at this position and will likely add a player or two in the ensuing months. Chris Johnson is unsigned and the Cardinals would like him back, so that remains a possibility, and there are several other veterans on the market. Additionally, Andre Ellington has been moved to wide receiver this summer but could always switch back.

The draft class: LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey are the three running backs expected to go in the first round. There was a lull in first-round picks at the position in recent years, but it has since picked up. Joe Mixon is the most divisive name at running back, a playmaker for Oklahoma who pled guilty to assault for punching a woman during college. There is a wide range of running backs projected to get taken in the later rounds of the draft, including San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey and Texas’ D’Onta Foreman.

The conclusion:  The Cardinals won’t be in the market for a running back early on. If they add one to back up Johnson, it will almost surely come in the late rounds or through undrafted free agency, since there are other positions that would benefit more from the early picks. Johnson is a superstar, so the Cardinals can afford to skip the running back spot entirely in the draft unless they are enamored with a player who they believe will add value to the team.

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