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David Johnson's Mysterious Draft Drop

Posted Dec 28, 2016

Notes: Other coaches regret passing on Cards RB; Arians and Fassel reunite; Vets rest

Cardinals running back David Johnson quickly proved he was taken too low in the draft.

Another opposing coach joined a conference call with the Arizona media on Wednesday and talked about how much he liked David Johnson coming out of college.

John Fassel gets a pass, as the Rams’ interim coach was only in charge of special teams back then and didn’t have a big voice in the decision-making process. But multiple coaches have spoken glowingly of Johnson over the past two seasons, yet bypassed the running back in the 2015 draft.

The Cardinals finally selected the Northern Iowa product in the third round, after six other running backs had been taken.

“I think every team that didn’t pick him is probably regretting it,” Fassel said. “I can’t answer why – maybe small school. Maybe because teams don’t value the running backs as higher draft picks. That’s kind of been a trend. Other than that, I don’t know. He clearly has been fantastic. Even coming out, you watch his tape in college and the Senior Bowl, he was fantastic. I think everybody regrets it, and I can’t explain why he didn’t go earlier.”

Johnson leads the NFL in yards from scrimmage this season with 2,074 and has set a franchise-record with 20 touchdowns in just his second year. He has 33 touchdowns in 31 career games and is on the verge of becoming the first player in NFL history to exceed 100 yards from scrimmage in all 16 games of a season.

Now that Johnson has become a star, coach Bruce Arians has heard a lot of revisionist history from other teams.

“Hell, they all say they had him high on the board now,” Arians said. “Why didn’t they take him in front of us if they had him so damn high?”

Johnson said his small-school roots were the main factor. He broke numerous school records in college, but evaluators were worried about the level of competition. Johnson said any lingering doubt in his own mind was extinguished when he went to the Senior Bowl and excelled.

“I always had confidence in myself,” Johnson said. “The biggest thing is when I went to the Senior Bowl and I realized – I didn’t question myself, but I wanted to size myself up against those guys. I didn’t have a chance until I went to the Senior Bowl. But after the Senior Bowl I knew for a fact I was going to be able to be successful.”

ARIANS AND FASSEL REUNITE AFTER VIDEO FAME

Fassel didn’t have much of an NFL playing career, but was invited to Colts training camp as an undrafted free agent receiver in 1999. Arians was there as the team’s quarterbacks coach, and the duo joined Peyton Manning to create a developmental tape for young signal-callers.

Fassel ran routes as a wideout, running back and tight end as Manning zipped him passes and Arians directed.

“I didn’t drop any,” Fassel said. “Peyton put them on the dot, so I had no choice but to catch it. I still have the video. Every once in awhile, about once a year, I’ll bust a couple clips out and show some of our special teams guys that old coach still had it way back in the day.”

Arians enjoyed the trip down memory lane, but neither coach remembered being rewarded handsomely for their efforts.

“I got a Gatorade and a sweatshirt,” Fassel said.

“I didn’t get anything,” Arians said. “I might have gotten a beer. It was hot as hell that day.”

REST DAY FOR VETERANS

Quarterback Carson Palmer, wideout Larry Fitzgerald and defensive tackle Frostee Rucker had their customary veteran’s day off on Wednesday. Left tackle D.J. Humphries (concussion) is still in the concussion protocol and won’t play against the Rams.

Wide receiver John Brown (illness) and defensive tackle Ed Stinson (illness) missed practice, while cornerback Marcus Cooper (back/calf) was limited.

For the Rams, wide receiver Kenny Britt (shoulder), tackle Rob Havenstein (ankle) and cornerback Lamarcus Joyner (ankle) missed practice. Safety Maurice Alexander (concussion) and wide receiver Michael Thomas (hip) were limited.

CARDINALS ADD TWO DEFENSIVE BACKS

The Cardinals signed safety Christian Bryant off the Giants practice squad and cornerback Brian Dixon off the Saints practice squad on Wednesday. Bryant had a stint with the Cardinals earlier this season.

The team needed some depth in the secondary because safeties Tony Jefferson and Tyrann Mathieu were recently placed on injured reserve.

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