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ESPN’s NFLrank includes Johnson, Peterson among top-15 players

Before the 2016 season, Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson appeared poised for a breakout season.

He’d already proven dynamic as a rookie, first as a return man and then as a running back with wide receiver abilities once veteran back Chris Johnson went down with a season-ending injury. Still, Johnson wasn’t among the top-100 players in the 2016 version of ESPN’s NFLRank.

It appears the respect is catching up to him.

Fifty-three panelists placed Johnson as the highest-rated Cardinal in the 2017 iteration of NFLRank, just ahead of 14th-ranked Patrick Peterson.

Of course, Johnson led the NFL in yards from scrimmage last season, falling 121 receiving yards short of becoming the third player to record at least 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards in a single season. His 1,239 rushing and 879 receiving yards included 15 straight games of 100-plus yards before an MCL injury put a premature end to his season finale.

Just behind Johnson in the rankings, Peterson moved up two spots after appearing 16th in the NFLRank for 2016.

The key stats, according to ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss:

He led the NFL in most coverage snaps per target with 8.5, according to Pro Football Focus. Perhaps more impressive, he did this while covering No. 1 wide receivers more frequently than any other cornerback (259 coverage snaps).

The only other Cardinal to appear on this year’s NFLRank was Chandler Jones, who fell in the rankings three spots, from 61st last year to 64th heading into this season. He enters his second season in Arizona with a fresh new contract following an 11-sack, four-forced fumble 2016.

Last year, seven Arizona players were ranked about the top-100.

Peterson, safety Tyrann Mathieu (T-23), quarterback Carson Palmer (37), Jones, receiver Larry Fitzgerald (64), defensive tackle Calais Campbell (T-66) and offensive lineman Mike Iupati (68) all made the cut.

Mathieu struggled through an injury-plagued year coming off an ACL tear, Palmer suffered a down season and Campbell is now with the Jacksonville Jaguars (he made the list ranked 86th for 2017). Iupati’s production might have waned a tad as well.

Fitzgerald’s absence on the 2017 list comes after he led the NFL with 107 receptions last season for 1,023 yards, the 20th-most in the league.

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