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A Cardinal As Mr. Irrelevant

Notes: Louisville tight end is last pick in draft; Riddick added for pass rush; Speedy Nelson arrives


The NFL draft was information overload the past three days, so it's no surprise the Cardinals' seventh round selection, Louisville tight end Gerald Christian, was buried by all the other news.

It won't be long until he's the center of attention.

Christian wasn't just the Cardinals' final pick but the last one of the entire draft, and as 2015's Mr. Irrelevant, he will have five days dedicated to him later this summer in Newport Beach, Calif. He joins quarterback Chandler Harnish as the pair of

Mr. Irrelevants on the roster, with Harnish making the announcement on television from the Big Red Rib & Music Festival at University of Phoenix Stadium.

Christian said he didn't know much initially about the lavish activities planned for Mr. Irrelevant, but was already getting up to speed minutes after he was chosen.

"I'm hearing now I get to go be in a parade and all sorts of stuff," Christian said. "I'm going to enjoy it, man. I get to go to California. I've never been over there or anything."

"Irrelevant Week" is scheduled to begin on July 7 this year with Christian as the main attraction. While the Mr. Irrelevant fame is nice, Christian's greater goal is to make the team in Arizona. He was getting several phone calls from other NFL teams hoping to add him as an undrafted free agent, but the Cardinals swooped in at the last minute.

He caught 60 passes for 800 yards and nine touchdowns over the past two seasons at Louisville, and could find a spot on the 53-man roster because of his versatility. Christian can play the hybrid tight-end, h-back role, lining up on the line of scrimmage or in the backfield. He is also a solid special teams player, which coach Bruce Arians considers essential for his backups.

Christian could be the team's fourth tight end, joining Darren Fells, Troy Niklas and John Carlson. He will likely have to battle Ted Bolser, Ifeanyi Momah and any free-agent pickup for the final positional spot on the roster.

ACADEMIC FORESIGHT HELPS FIFTH-ROUND PICK RIDDICK ON FIELD

College football players are pushed to finish their degrees because it sets them up for success later in life. For Cardinals fifth-round pick Shaq Riddick, it paid off immediately.

Riddick became one of the best FCS players in the nation in his three years at Gardner-Webb, but wanted to transfer to a

bigger school to test himself against better competition. Luckily for Riddick, he earned his bachelor's degree in three years, which allowed him to play at West Virginia as a senior without sitting out. Riddick's academic focus started back in high school.

"I graduated high school with an Associate's Degree, so that already had me 70 (credit) hours ahead of most people who come out of high school," he said. "It put me ahead and allowed me to graduate in three years with my Bachelor's in Administration. After that, I knew about the quick transfer rule."

Riddick played defensive end with the Mountaineers and accumulated seven sacks and 11 tackles for loss in 13 games, but feels more comfortable as an outside linebacker in the Cardinals' 3-4 defense. Arians said Riddick could have had 15 sacks last season if he played linebacker.

"I just feel like outside linebacker, I'll be more of a bully compared to where I was with my hand in the ground," Riddick said.

FIFTH-ROUND PICK NELSON A FAN OF JOHN BROWN

Cardinals second-year wide receiver John Brown was an unknown when the Cardinals picked him in last year's third round out of Pittsburg State. After a rookie season in which he had 48 catches for 696 yards and five touchdowns, he's become

much more visible – so much so that Cardinals' fifth-round pick J.J. Nelson tries to pattern his game after Brown.

Nelson said Brown and Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson are the players he compares himself to because their play-making ability overshadows their slight builds.

"They go out every day undersized, but they don't let any of that matter," said Nelson, himself just 5-foot-10 and 156 pounds.

Nelson ran a 4.28-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting combine, which was faster than Brown's mark of 4.34 seconds last year and better than anyone in 2015. Arians loves the speed element – he believes Nelson will be the fastest player he's ever coached -- and Nelson is a natural candidate as a returner after averaging 38.3 yards with four touchdowns on kick returns last year.

"He plays fast, especially on kickoff and punt returns," Arians said. "Dynamic. When you think of a track guy, you don't think of change of direction, but he makes so many people miss on punt returns and kickoff returns. And as soon as you miss him, no one can catch him."


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