Ranking all 42 of Steve Keim’s Arizona Cardinals draft picks
During his tenure with the Arizona Cardinals, Steve Keim has been involved in a lot of drafts.
However, since he was promoted to general manager in 2013, Keim has captained the Cardinals in six different drafts, selecting a total of 42 players during that time.
Here’s one man’s ranking of all 42 of those picks.
Note: This piece originally appeared on ArizonaSports.com in April of 2018 but has been updated to include the six members of last year’s draft class. Many of the rankings have changed based on last year’s performances as well.
1. David Johnson (2015 – 3rd round, 86th overall) – Keim should send a fruit basket annually to the Detroit Lions, who took running back Ameer Abdullah in the second round, which threw a wrench in the Cardinals’ plans. Johnson was still available 32 picks later and Keim nabbed him. In his rookie season, Johnson made an immediate impact, becoming the first player in NFL history with a rushing, receiving and kick return touchdown all in his first two games. He then took over starting duties later that season when Chris Johnson went down to an injury. In 2016, Johnson led the league in yards from scrimmage with 2,118 but suffered a season-ending wrist injury in Week 1 of 2017, which limited Arizona’s offense the rest of the season. Johnson came back in 2018 and contributed 1,386 total yards and 10 touchdowns for the struggling Cardinals’ offense.
2. Tyrann Mathieu (2013 – 3rd round, 69th overall) – The Cardinals drew criticism for taking the talented but troubled safety in the third round. After all, he had been kicked off the LSU team by coach Les Miles and had done jail time. Mathieu, like Johnson, made an immediate impact and proved while he was healthy, he was one of the most productive defensive players in the league. The problem was, he wasn’t fully healthy all that often. He rejected a revamped contract offer from the Cardinals in March of 2018, and signed a one-year deal with the Houston Texans. After a solid year in Houston, Mathieu inked a big free agent deal with the Kansas City Chiefs this offseason.
3. Budda Baker (2017 – 2nd round, 36th overall) – The versatile defender out of Washington made his mark on special teams as a rookie in 2017, earning First Team All-Pro and Pro Bowl recognition. Baker started 13 games at safety in 2018, and ranked second on the team with 102 total tackles and added two fumble recoveries and two sacks. His future remains bright heading into year three.
4. Deone Bucannon (2014 – 1st round, 27th overall) – Keim traded down in the first round of 2014 to select the Washington State safety. Bucannon, known as a hard-hitter in college, transitioned to linebacker in the pros and the success he had proved to be a blueprint for other teams (the Bucs, the Giants and Rams to name a few) to follow. The 2018 season was a real struggle for Bucannon, who couldn’t regularly find playing time in the defensive system of Steve Wilks and coordinator Al Holcomb. He started six games, seeing the field on only 34.9 percent of the defensive snaps for the Cardinals. Bucannon has reunited with former head coach Bruce Arians and coordinator Todd Bowles in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers after signing a one-year deal in March.
5. Christian Kirk (2018 – 2nd round, 47th overall) – Kirk, who played his high school ball in the Valley at Scottsdale Saguaro before starring in college at Texas A&M, might have been the brightest spot in a bleak offensive season for the Cardinals in 2018. Kirk tied for third among NFL rookie wide receivers with 43 catches, and he would have been higher had he not suffered a broken foot and missed the last quarter of the season.
6. Markus Golden (2015 – 2nd round, 58th overall) – The former Missouri Tiger came to the league with a reputation for having a non-stop motor, and he showed it in his first two years in the league. In his first two seasons, Golden racked up 16.5 sacks (12.5 in 2016) and 61 total tackles. His third season saw him play only four games due to injury, and the St. Louis native didn’t get to the quarterback. It didn’t appear that Golden was back to full health in 2018, as he played on only 35 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, managing just 2.5 sacks. Like Bucannon, Golden opted to reunite with a coach with whom he’s had success — New York Giants defensive coordinator James Bettcher.
7. D.J. Humphries (2016 – 1st round, 24th overall) – Humphries’ first year was a wash — in fact, he was the only first-round pick in the ’16 class that was healthy and didn’t get on the field. He famously received the nickname “Knee Deep” from then-head coach Bruce Arians.
“A knee in his (expletive) every day. A foot wasn’t going to do it. That’s why he’s nicknamed ‘Knee Deep’,” Arians explained.
Humphries rebounded in year two, earning the starting right tackle job and played in 13 games. Slated to move to left tackle in 2017, the former Florida star suffered a couple of different injuries and managed to play in only five games. Injuries were prevalent again in 2018. A right knee ailment limited the tackle to just nine games last season.
8. Rodney Gunter (2015 – 4th round, 116th overall) – The Cardinals looked long and hard to find Gunter, who played collegiately at Delaware State — where he was the first player drafted by an NFL team in 14 years. Gunter really took a step forward in 2018, playing in all 16 games (for the fourth year in a row) and racking up a career-high 44 tackles and 4.5 sacks. After testing the free agent market, Gunter returned to Arizona on a one-year deal for 2019, and could turn out to be one of the pleasant surprises of this offseason for Keim and company.
9. John Brown (2014 – 3rd round, 91st overall) – The guy with maybe the world’s most common name had uncommon speed, and Keim and his staff found it in the Pittsburg State standout. Brown showed a penchant for making huge plays as a rookie in 2014, and that continued in his sophomore season. Over that two-year period, he had 123 catches for 1,699 yards and 12 touchdowns. His last two years in Arizona, however, were greatly affected by the diagnosis of sickle cell trait and a spinal cyst. Brown caught 60 balls and scored only five touchdowns before moving on to Baltimore in 2018. After one decent campaign with the Ravens, Brown cashed in on a three-year, $27 million deal with the Buffalo Bills.
10. Josh Rosen (2018 – 1st round, 10th overall) – Keim moved up five spots on draft night to nab Rosen, a former five-star recruit out of UCLA. The plan was for the rookie to sit behind free agent signee Sam Bradford for most, if not all of the season, but Rosen was pressed into duty in Week 3. He led the Cardinals to all three of their wins and despite poor statistics, showed glimpses of promise. With Arizona owning the top overall pick in the draft this week, Rosen’s future in the desert is murky at best, if you believe the months-long narrative that Keim and Kingsbury will take Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray with the top pick.
11. Haason Reddick (2017 – 1st round, 13th overall) – So, the Cardinals wanted a quarterback. But when the Kansas City Chiefs moved up to select Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes, Arizona went defense, picking the former walk-on from Temple. Reddick was decent in his rookie season, racking up 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 16 games (three starts). He was another player who struggled to find a consistent role in 2018, but increased his output to 80 tackles, eight tackles for loss and four sacks.
12. Mason Cole (2018 – 3rd round, 97th overall) – Cole was the only shred of stability on the Cardinals’ offensive line in 2018 as he was the only member to start all 16 games and play all 942 offensive snaps. Cole was named to the All-Rookie Team of ESPN.com writer Jeff Legwold, and his versatility on the o-line could serve Arizona for years to come.
13. Andre Ellington (2013 – 6th round, 187th overall) – Ellington had a strange career in Arizona. As a rookie, he showed burst and big-play ability, averaging 5.5 yards per carry as a backup to veteran Rashard Mendenhall. Head coach Bruce Arians wanted to build the offense around Ellington in 2014, stating he could see up to 30 touches per game. That experiment didn’t work. As Arizona’s feature back that season, Ellington averaged just 3.3 yards per carry — which ranked 67th out of 73 players who had 50 or more carries that season. He also fought through a painful foot injury for much of the season. In the three years that followed, the former Clemson star was a part-time player and never recaptured the promise of his first year, but the Cardinals did get five years of service from a sixth-round pick, and that’s pretty rare in the NFL. Ellington is another former Cardinal who headed to Tampa Bay in free agency this offseason.
14. Kevin Minter (2013 – 2nd round, 45th overall) – The LSU linebacker came into the league with the reputation of being a “thumper” — a hard-nosed player who could really hit in the middle of the defense. But he played sparingly in his first season, registering only four tackles. In the three years that followed, Minter became a more regular part of the defense and averaged 73 tackles per season. Minter signed a free-agent deal with Cincinnati following the 2016 season, then hooked on with the Jets in 2018. Guess what? He’s in Tampa Bay now, too.
15. J.J. Nelson (2015 – 5th round, 159th overall) – Arians first saw Nelson at a high school track meet in Alabama and remembered him because, let’s face it, his kind of speed is memorable. The slightly-built receiver showed flashes in his four years but wasn’t able to capture any kind of consistency. Nelson was the NFC Offensive Player of the Week following a 120-yard performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 2 in 2017, but then caught only 19 passes the rest of the year. Last year was another disappointment for the burner, as he caught a career-low seven passes for 64 yards in 14 games. He signed a free-agent deal with the Oakland Raiders.
16. Chase Edmonds (2018 – 4th round, 134th overall) – Edmonds proved to be a more-than-capable backup to David Johnson as a rookie, gathering 208 yards rushing on 60 attempts and finding the end zone three times. But the fourth-rounder out of Fordham also proved to be a reliable target out of the backfield, catching 20 of 23 passes thrown his way.
17. Kareem Martin (2014 – 3rd round, 84th overall) – Martin never put up big numbers defensively as a rotation pass rusher (51 tackles and 4.5 sacks in four years) but developed a reputation as a solid special teams performer. He did show enough to earn a three-year, $21 million deal from the New York Giants, where he had 48 total tackles and 1.5 sacks in 2018.
18. Earl Watford (2013 – 4th round, 116th overall) – Watford showed the ability to play any position on the offensive line in his time in Arizona but didn’t excel at any of them. He started 13 games from 2015 to 2016 and got a free agent contract from Jacksonville in 2017. But Watford got cut and ended up back in Arizona where he was immediately pressed into duty because of injuries along the Cardinals’ O-line. Watford spent 2018 with the Cleveland Browns, and signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason.
19. Alex Okafor (2013 – 4th round, 103rd overall) – After a somewhat wasted rookie season, Okafor really shined as a second-year player, racking up eight sacks. In 2015, Okafor suffered a mysterious non-football injury during the Cardinals’ run to the NFC Championship Game that was never fully explained. He returned the next season, though, and had 3.5 sacks in 13 games. He left Arizona in free agency, signing on with the New Orleans Saints in 2017. This offseason, Okafor inked a three-year deal with Kansas City.
20. Robert Nkemdiche (2016 – 1st round, 29th overall) – The Cardinals were ecstatic about Nkemdiche’s athletic ability when he fell to the bottom of the first round in 2016. He finally showed glimpses of promise in 2018 (a year dotted by injuries) with 4.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss in 10 games, but blew out his knee late in the year against the Detroit Lions. Nkemdiche is a huge question mark coming into a pivotal 2019.
21. Stepfan Taylor (2013 – 5th round, 140th overall) – Taylor was a steady spot performer at running back and special teams during his four years with the Cardinals. He hasn’t played in the league the last two seasons.
22. Korey Cunningham (2018 – 7th round, 254th overall) – Because of massive injuries on the offensive line, Cunningham was pressed into duty in the late part of the 2018 season and made six starts at left tackle.
23. Evan Boehm (2016 – 4th round, 128th overall) – Boehm was waived in September of 2018 by the Cardinals, and hooked on with the Indianapolis Colts, where he started four games at center in place of the injured Ryan Kelly.
24. Ed Stinson (2014 – 5th round, 160th overall) – The former Alabama player had 26 tackles and a sack in three years in Arizona. He was cut in September of 2017 and hooked on with the Jets, for whom he played four games in 2017. Stinson didn’t play in the league in 2018.
25. Chad Williams (2017 – 3rd round, 98th overall) – Some believed Williams was a reach in the third round by the Cardinals, and he didn’t do much to prove those people wrong as a rookie. The Grambling State product saw action in only six games in his rookie year, catching three passes for 31 yards and totaling 33 yards on two carries. The 2018 season was more of the same for Williams, but he did catch 17 passes for 171 yards and scored his first NFL touchdown in a Week 4 loss to Seattle. This season will be an important one for Williams’ future in the NFL.
26. Harlan Miller (2016 – 6th round, 205th overall) – Part-time player over the last two years, who has supplied one highlight — a 52-yard interception return in a win over the Rams in the 2016 season finale.
27. Brandon Williams (2016 – 3rd round, 92nd overall) – The Cardinals plucked the converted Texas A&M running back pretty early in the ’16 draft. He played well in his first preseason — well enough to earn a starting spot for the Cardinals’ much-anticipated season opener on Sunday Night Football against the Patriots. Williams struggled in that game and for the rest of the season. In his second year, he played 254 snaps — 253 of which were on special teams. Williams got in on 85 snaps on defense and over 300 on special teams last season, but this was a swing and a miss on a third-round draft pick.
28. Jonathan Cooper (2013 – 1st round, 7th overall) – After the Cardinals drafted Cooper, Keim proclaimed him as the team’s best offensive lineman “as soon as he walked through baggage claim.” Cooper showed ability in the 2013 preseason, until a broken leg suffered against the Chargers ended his rookie season. He started only 11 games in an Arizona uniform, but was a big part of the trade package that brought Chandler Jones to the Cardinals, so this pick wasn’t a total waste. Cooper spent last year in San Francisco and Washington and is currently a free agent.
29. Will Holden (2017 – 5th round, 157th overall) – He struggled at times but saw action late in 2017 as a rash of injuries hit the Cardinals’ offensive line. Holden played every offensive snap over the last three games of his rookie season and was pressed into starting duty for two games again in 2018.
30. Troy Niklas (2014 – 2nd round, 52nd overall) – Once described as looking like “a 12-year-old boy who swallowed a grizzly bear,” Niklas never could stay healthy enough to make any kind of impact for the Cardinals. Niklas played in only 41 of a possible 64 regular-season games and caught only 19 passes for 203 yards and three touchdowns in four years. He signed with New England in 2018 and was released.
31. Rudy Ford (2017 – 6th round, 208th overall) – A late-round pick who played exclusively on special teams as a rookie but saw action in 13 games in 2018.
32. T.J. Logan (2017 – 5th round, 179th overall) – Logan suffered a wrist injury in his first preseason game as a rookie, but averaged over 6.0 yards per carry and 35.5 yards per kick return before exiting. He would miss the rest of the season. He returned in 2018 and saw spot duty on offense and averaged 24.7 yards per kickoff return in 10 games.
33. Cole Toner (2016 – 5th round, 170th overall) – A depth offensive lineman who played 19 total snaps as a rookie and was cut in training camp in 2017. He is currently on the roster of the Los Angeles Chargers.
34. Logan Thomas (2014 – 4th round, 120th overall) – The first quarterback ever drafted by Keim. Thomas got pushed into duty in a Week 4 loss to the Denver Broncos and completed exactly one pass — but it was an 81-yard touchdown to Andre Ellington. Thomas converted to tight end after his stay in Arizona was over and has caught 19 passes over the last two seasons for the Buffalo Bills.
35. Gerald Christian (2015 – 7th round, 256th overall) – Mr. Irrelevant of the 2015 draft. Never played a down in a regular-season game for the Cardinals. Christian did spend the 2019 season with the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football, but the league folded after eight weeks.
36. Walt Powell (2014 – 6th round, 196th overall) – Cut in training camp in 2014, but Powell played with the Jets and Bills from 2014 to 2016.
37. Shaquille Riddick (2015 – 5th round, 158th overall) – No impact.
38. Chris Campbell (2018 – 6th round, 167th overall) – Cut by the Cardinals during the final preseason roster construction. Campbell played 85 preseason snaps, making eight total tackles. He’s currently on the roster of the New Orleans Saints.
39. Marqui Christian (2016 – 5th round, 182nd overall) – Cut by Cardinals in his rookie year, he was picked up by Rams and has played 397 defensive snaps over three years.
40. D.C. Jefferson (2013 – 7th round, 219th overall) – Played 49 snaps in 2013. Jefferson was cut his rookie season after being arrested on a DUI charge.
41. Dorian Johnson (2017 – 4th round, 115th overall) – Once thought to be a contender to start at guard as a rookie, Johnson didn’t make it to Week 1. The Pittsburgh product spent time on practice squads for Arizona and Houston and signed a futures contract with Carolina in January of 2018.
42. Ryan Swope (2013 – 6th round, 174th overall) – Retired from football early in his first training camp due to concussion issues.