A rundown of the players that the Cardinals selected on Sunday in the 2009 NFL draft.
Pick: 3rd round, 95th overall
2008-2009 stats: 89 tackles (60 solo), 5 tackles for loss, 5 interceptions
Why the Cardinals chose him: He’s hardly assured of seeing significant playing time given the Cardinals secondary is pretty set, but he could see time as a nickel or dime-package safety.
Both coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves said teams can never have enough defensive backs, and the Cardinals like his ball-hawking skills and special teams potential. Johnson grew up in a town of 1,500 and the ‘Bama walk-on never received a Division I offer, but he worked his way up through special teams and thrived under Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. Johnson was a two-time team MVP for the third-ranked defense in the nation (265.3 yards per game).
Pick: 4th round, 131st overall
School: St. Paul’s College (Division II)
2008-2009 stats: 51 tackles, 6 interceptions, 3 blocked kicks, 19 passes defended
Why the Cardinals chose him: He impressed a handful of teams (including the Cardinals) during his Pro Day workout, and, in the future, the Cardinals hope this 24-year-old rookie can bring shades of Dominique Rodgers Cromartie. He ran a low-4.4 in the 40-yard dash at his workout but that was through wind and rain. Any character issues appear to have been put to bed by him graduating college next month.
Pick: 5th round, 167th overall
Position: Offensive lineman
2008-2009 stats: 64 knockdowns, 14 touchdown-resulting blocks, 3.5 sacks allowed
Why the Cardinals chose him: Fortunate to have their five starting lineman all play the entire season last year, the Cardinals know they can’t count on that happening again, so the hope is Johnson joins young linemen Elliot Vallejo and Brandon Keith in development, and, along with Elton Brown, provide depth. He was 15 pounds, 14 ounces at birth, reportedly the largest baby ever born in Louisiana, and didn’t play football until late in childhood. He’ll take time to develop and needs to gain strength (and shed some pounds), but because he’s 6-foot-7, Cardinals coaches don’t think he’ll need to lose a large amount of weight from what’s listed.
Pick: 6th round, 204th overall
Position: Outside linebacker
2008-2009 stats: 36 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks
Why the Cardinals chose him: Similar to Cody Brown’s selection in the second round, the Cardinals are trying to groom young defensive end/linebacker hybrids for their 3-4 defensive scheme under new coordinator Bill Davis. A converted tight end, he was a standout as a junior but took a step back as a senior, partially due to an ankle injury that robbed him of his speed. Pass-rushing is his best attribute so he’ll have to learn to play more coverage, but his intellect, character and athletic ability fit the Cardinals mold this year. He also has plenty of self-confidence which the Cardinals like.
Pick: 7th round, 240th overall
Position: Running back
2008-2009 stats: 77 carries, 312 yards, 5 touchdowns; 23 returns, 493 yards
Why the Cardinals chose him: From the school which brought Larry Fitzgerald comes another explosive playmaker, this time in shorter form. Perhaps because he’s been told he’s too short to succeed all his life, he was overcome with emotions upon receiving the call from Arizona and in a conference call with media a few minutes later, so this means something to him. Stephens-Howling wound up sharing playing time to LeSean McCoy starting his junior season, but his size and quickness led to a “in the mold of Darren Sproles,” comment by NFL.com. The Cardinals aren’t about to go that far, but he has kick return/special teams abilities they’re trying to upgrade.
Pick: 7th round (compensation pick), 254th overall
Position: Offensive lineman
2008-2009 stats: 39 consecutive starts
Why the Cardinals chose him: More bodies up front, and Canfield can play both guard spots, or (eventually) center if needed. He was a three-time, second-team all-Big East lineman, including his junior year when he switched positions midway through the season. He was ready to field calls from Chicago or Cincinnati as an undrafted free agent. “They put a huge smile on my face,” he said of the Cardinals. He possess a mean streak and never takes a snap off.