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ESPN: Cardinals’ David Johnson has ‘graduated to stardom’

Jan 25, 2017, 3:30 PM
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) scores a touchdown as New England Patriots defens...
Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (31) scores a touchdown as New England Patriots defensive end Jabaal Sheard (93) defends during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

A year ago at this time, David Johnson was obviously an intriguing, talented piece of the Arizona Cardinals’ roster.

As a rookie, Johnson ran for 581 yards and eight touchdowns on 125 carries and added four more scores in the passing game. Pressed into a starting role late in the season, he exploded for 187 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in a nationally-televised Sunday night Week 15 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

One great game or one stellar season doesn’t make you a star in the NFL.

According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano, Johnson is one now.

The writer included the former third-round pick in his Class of 2016: Players who have graduated to stardom. Graziano gives a thumbnail of what the thinking was on Johnson heading into the season, what he accomplished and who he is now as a player.

Who he was in August: A 2015 third-round pick who finished that season exceptionally strong, and whose offseason had his team dreaming big dreams about what he might accomplish in 2016.

What he did: Rushed for 1,239 yards and 16 touchdowns. Caught 80 passes for 879 yards and four more touchdowns. Tied Barry Sanders’ NFL record with 100 or more yards from scrimmage in 15 straight games, which could have become 16 had he not been injured in the season finale.

Who he is now: One of the top all-around offensive weapons in the entire league — a player through whom the Cardinals’ offense can run, regardless of game plan or matchup. Had Arizona finished over .500 and been in contention this season, Johnson’s numbers would’ve made him a leading MVP candidate, even in this season’s strong field.

As Graziano mentioned, Johnson is matchup-proof, helped by the fact that he’s an outstanding receiver out of the backfield. In fact, Pro Football Focus named Johnson the league’s best receiver in 2016, despite him not playing that position.

Johnson was one of 15 players to reach stardom as named by the piece, and one of three running backs. Miami’s Jay Ajayi and Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott were the others.

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ESPN: Cardinals’ David Johnson has ‘graduated to stardom’