Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah is just one of many running back talents in a deep draft class.
The NFL draft will be held from April 30 through May 2 in Chicago. The Cardinals addressed several needs in free agency and are now zeroing in on their draft targets. We'll take a look at each position over the next few weeks.
More draft analysis: LB
Draft primer: Running back
Cardinals under contract: Andre Ellington; Kerwynn Williams; Stepfan Taylor; Marion Grice; Robert Hughes; Zach Bauman
A list of running backs projected to be chosen in the NFL draft
Analysis: The Cardinals did not make a play for a running back in free agency, which means they should target one in the draft barring any pre-draft moves. General Manager Steve Keim would like to add a physical running back to pair with the shifty Ellington, and there are a host of players to choose from. Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon are the two running backs projected to go in the first round, and
one or both could possibly be on the board at No. 24 overall when the Cardinals choose. Jay Ajayi, Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson and Tevin Coleman are all projected as second-rounders, so there is no shortage of possibilities if the Cardinals want to pick a running back early. Coach Bruce Arians has talked about the overall depth of the running back class, noting that useful players can be found in later rounds. This position has been devalued around the NFL over the past few years – no running back has been taken in the first round since Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and David Wilson in 2012 -- and it will be interesting to see how the Cardinals and the rest of the teams grade out this year's crop.
Ellington led the NFL with a 5.5 yards-per-carry average as a rookie, but he had 201 rushes for only 660 yards (3.3 yards per carry) in 2014, missing the final the final five games with a core muscle injury while being limited all year with various other ailments. The braintrust remains confident in Ellington, but wants a second back to use between the tackles and in short yardage situations.
If the Cardinals draft a running back, it will lead to a healthy competition at the position in training camp. The Cardinals have generally carried four running backs on the roster under Arians, and currently have five – Ellington, Williams, Taylor, Hughes and Grice – who saw regular action a year ago.
Gordon and Gurley are the cream of the crop this season, and two pivotal questions remain heading into the draft: Will either last to the No. 24 overall selection? If so, will the Cardinals spend a first-rounder on a running back, or wait until the later rounds to add one?