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Dorian Johnson Cardinals' Pick In Fourth

Posted Apr 29, 2017

Guard says liver condition he's lived with his whole life will not impact his playing career

The Cardinals took Pittsburgh guard Dorian Johnson in the fourth round.

Dorian Johnson thought he’d be drafted earlier.

The guard out of Pittsburgh could have gone in the second round, but definitely the third round. His play dictated such.

But as the final day of the draft opened Saturday, it came out that Johnson has a liver condition that scared teams off. When Johnson was finally picked, in the fourth round to the Cardinals, Johnson admitted he had been surprised it was an issue.

“I’ve had this condition my entire life,” Johnson said, admitting he couldn’t remember its specific name off the top of his head. He described it as having “five times” the amount of normal enzymes in his liver.

“I guess a lot of teams saw it as a red flag,” he said.

Johnson, however, does not.

“I have no issues with it,” he said, adding, “I’m absolutely not worried about it at all.”

Johnson admitted he was surprised it became a problem for teams. But it dropped a talented player to the Cards, who not only add depth in the short term but could help their long-term offensive line outlook as well.

General Manager Steve Keim said the Cardinals were “fortunate” to get Johnson, not believing he would still be there in the fourth round. The Cards did their due diligence talking to doctors and medical staff about Johnson’s situation, and while Keim said he couldn’t speak for what it meant to other teams, “we don’t forsee it being an issue.”

Johnson played primarily left guard in college, starting 39 straight games. The Cardinals have a left guard now in Mike Iupati, although Iupati turns 30 this year and his salary cap number climbs to $9.7 million in each of the next three seasons. The Cards also have uncertainty at right guard this season. As of now, second-year man Evan Boehm, drafted as a center, is slated to open the offseason as first-string right guard.

Keim acknowledged the need to develop younger offensive line talent – “You can’t pay everybody” – as the roster evolves.

The 6-foot-5, 300-pound Johnson not only met with the Cardinals at the Combine, but also had a private workout and meeting with Cardinals offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Harold Goodwin following Pittsburgh’s Pro Day.

Unlike many offensive linemen in college, Johnson played a lot more pro-style offense rather than spread, which should lead to an easier transition to the NFL. The untrained, spread-offense lineman is a situation Goodwin often laments with rookie picks.

“Dorian was a huge-part of our record-setting offense,” Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi said in a statement. “He was a great player who was incredibly durable and dependable during his career. The Cardinals are getting a very mature person who won’t be outworked.”

The Cards’ offensive line will have. D.J. Humphries moving to left tackle and Jared Veldheer flopping over to right tackle as the offseason starts. Iupati is the left guard and A.Q. Shipley will be at center. The top candidates for reserve guard include Cole Toner and John Wetzel. Wetzel can also play tackle.

Johnson said he will go into his work believing he should be pushing for playing time – and indirectly, he’ll show why his medical background shouldn’t matter.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Johnson said. 

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