Cardinals fill needs at OLB, RB in second, third rounds
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Cardinals third-year general manager Steve Keim has made a habit of moving down in the NFL Draft to acquire more picks. The pattern held on Day 2 of the 2015 version.
Two picks before they were due to select in the second round, the Cardinals traded their No. 55 pick to Baltimore for the Ravens' second-round (58th overall) and fifth-round (158th) picks. With the first of those two selections, Arizona addressed its need for an edge rusher with a mild surprise, taking 260-pound Missouri outside linebacker Markus Golden who, at 6-2, is a bit undersized.
Arizona addressed its need for a big running back in the third round by taking 6-foot-1, 224-pound back David Johnson from Northern Iowa, which was Kurt Warner's college.
"I texted (Kurt) and told him he's now second best," Keim said. "He hasn't responded yet. I don't know if he liked that."
Golden had 10 sacks and 20 tackles for loss last season for Missouri while playing in the shadow of more highly touted linebacker Shane Ray, whom the Denver Broncos selected in Thursday's first round. Only four of Golden's sacks came in SEC play, but Golden had a hamstring issue from September through November.
"Markus Golden is a guy who jumps off the tape with his chase, his effort, his motor," Keim said. "From a size and movement standpoint he's a little bit like LaMarr Woodley was like coming out and he plays with great leverage with his size and his explosiveness through his hips."
Golden played defensive end for the Tigers, but he said he has played linebacker most of his life and is happy he won't have to play end any more. While some analysts had him going as low as the fifth round, Golden said he always expected to go in the second or third round.
"They saw me on film," he said of the Cardinals. "They know I'm a football player. They know I can get after it. They know I'm going to bring excitement and come in and go hard every day, every game."
Golden, who spent a year playing junior college ball at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College before joining Missouri in 2012, totaled 16.5 sacks the past two seasons.
Johnson had 287 carries for 1,553 yards (5.4 average) and 17 TDs last season. He posted three straight seasons over 1,000 yards and totaled 49 rushing TDs in four years at Northern Iowa, where he originally started as a wide receiver before adding weight.
"They said they were looking for a bigger back," Johnson said. "I definitely bring that bigger size and also with that bigger size -- something that a lot of teams don't look at with bigger running backs -- is my ability to catch out of the backfield."
Johnson caught 141 passes in his four-year career for 1,734 yards and 14 TDs. He also had 12 kickoff returns for 438 yards (36.5-yard average) and a TD. Arians said he would be in the mix at that position as well.
"I was holding my breath that he was going to make it down there (in the third round)," coach Bruce Arians said. "His pass receiving skills are off the charts but he's a guy that if you wanted to stand there and hand it to him, 20-25 times, he's used to it."
Arians doesn't anticipate Andre Ellington's role changing with Johnson coming in, but it's clear the Cardinals missed a short-yardage back last season when Jonathan Dwyer was suspended -- a guy who could run the more punishing yards between the tackles.
With the trade the Cardinals made on Friday, they will have six picks on Sunday in rounds 4-7.
Keim has traded down to acquire more picks in each of his three seasons as GM. In his first two years, those moves helped the Cardinals net safety Deone Bucannon (first round, 27th overall, 2014), receiver John Brown (third round, 91st, 2014) and running back Andre Ellington (sixth round, 187th, 2013).
"I'm not the smartest guy," Keim said. "I just sort of realize the more lottery tickets you have the better chance you have to hit. In a couple years here when you guys tell me how many picks I missed, the more picks I have the better shot I've got, right?"