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Cardinals load up on running backs on final day of 2013 NFL Draft

Last season, the Cardinals did not run the football very well.

In fact, they were very bad at running the football.

Awful, really.

No team rushed for fewer yards (1,204) or at a fewer per game average (75.3) than the Cardinals did in 2012.

Four of the team’s six selections Saturday were with an eye towards bolstering the ground game, including the drafting of a pair of running backs: Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor (5th round, 140th overall) and Clemson’s Andre Ellington (6th round, 187th overall).

“For me, you can’t have enough,” head coach Bruce Arians said of the running back position.

Taylor finished his career as Stanford’s all-time leading rusher, totaling 4,300 yards on 843 carries. His 40 rushing TDs are second-most in school history.

“Not a burner with tremendous top-end speed but a guy who runs with balance, strength and fits Bruce’s offense very well with his ability to protect in pass-pro situations,” general manager Steve Keim said.

Ellington totaled 33 rushing touchdowns, the third-most by a Tiger, and averaged 5.5 yards per attempt, the sixth-best in school history.

“Obviously after taking Stepfan Taylor we didn’t anticipate taking a back at this time, but sticking to our board and staying true to it, we wanted to take the best player available,” Keim said.

“The fact that most likely we’re going to keep four backs on our roster; we feel that Andre is a guy who can bring a different style to the table. His run style, his elusiveness, his play speed and athleticism is different from the other top three backs on our roster.”

The Cardinals lost their top two running backs from a year ago: LaRod Stephens-Howling (357 yards) signed a free agent deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers; while Beanie Wells (234 yards) was released in March.

That leaves William Powell (216 yards), Alfonso Smith (0 carries in 2012) and Ryan Williams (five games in two seasons) along with Rashard Mendenall, whom the Cardinals added in free agency.

“Picking up Rashard was huge for us,” Arians said. “A guy that’s done it and been in the Super Bowl; getting Ryan healthy; the other young men we have here that we looked at minicamp. Then to add two players with the caliber being three-down backs: being able to pass protect, be excellent receivers and great runners. I mean, our backfield is solid.”

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