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Cardinals’ Johnson, Golden forever linked to Lions’ Abdullah

(AP Photos)

TEMPE, Ariz. – Sometimes, plans change. And sometimes, that’s for the better.

Two years ago, the Arizona Cardinals were poised to select Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. They didn’t, of course, and it’s the why and what happened next that may have turned the fortunes of the franchise for years to come.

As documented in the first episode of the Amazon series “All or Nothing,” inside the Cardinals’ draft war room, vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough was on the phone with Abdullah.

“So are we excited?” he asks Abdullah. “I know we’ve done so much work on you, from all the times we talked to you, we definitely are one of the places you wanted to be.”

The camera cuts to general manager Steve Keim, who is seen laughing and clapping.

“We’ve been talking about this pick since the combine,” he says, with team president Michael Bidwill adding he likes Abdullah “a lot.”

Then, Abdullah lets McDonough know Detroit is calling. Moments later, the Lions select Abdullah with the 54th overall pick. The Cardinals held pick No. 55.

“You’re kidding me. You gotta be kidding me,” Keim is shown saying.

Quickly, the Cardinals responded by moving down three spots and drafting Missouri linebacker Markus Golden at No. 58. They then found their running back in the third round, taking Northern Iowa’s David Johnson with the 86th overall pick.

On Sunday, when the Cardinals play at Detroit, that May 1 evening two years earlier will be revisited once again when all three players — Abdullah, Golden and Johnson — will be on the same field, playing against one another.

“Me and him always joke about that and always talk about how different our lives just, also off the field, and playing if we would’ve been on a different team,” Johnson said Wednesday, referring to Golden.

“I’m just really glad that I am here.”

Losing a player to another team like that on draft night happens a lot perhaps more times than one might expect, according to head coach Bruce Arians.

“It’s happened to me, at least eight or nine times,” he said. “Sitting there thinking, ‘Oh, we’ve got this guy,’ and boom, he’s gone either the pick right before or two picks before. He’s gone.”

Pulling the curtain back on the 2015 NFL Draft was one of the more talked-about scenes of the eight-episode series.

“It was very interesting. That was crazy,” Johnson said. “It really just showed me how the draft is; how quick scouts and how quick the front office has to be on making changes with what happens with people going before they wanted them to go.”

Asked whether he had seen that episode of “All or Nothing,” Golden responded, “No, I didn’t watch it but then once you start Googling your name, it popped up everywhere, too, around when it came out, so I know about it, man. But that’s the business, that’s the business side of it. I bet everybody’s happy that that didn’t happen.”

The Cardinals most certainly are. They appear to have gotten the better end of the deal that night.

Johnson and Golden each had breakout seasons in 2016, while Abdullah played in only two games due to injury.

Johnson has emerged as one of the game’s best all-round running backs, setting his sights on becoming only the third player in league history to gain 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving in a single season; and Golden placed his name among the elite pass rushers a year ago. His 12.5 sacks ranked third in the NFL and were the highest single-season total in franchise history by a linebacker.

In 18 career games, Abdullah has 698 yards rushing and 240 yards receiving with four total touchdowns.

“It’s funny how things like that work out,” Arians said.

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