David Johnson, Josh Rosen highlight ESPN’s three-year NFL predictions

Jul 21, 2018, 6:02 AM | Updated: Jul 23, 2018, 3:29 pm

(AP Photos)...

(AP Photos)

(AP Photos)

Do you have a picture of what the NFL will look like three years from now?

Looking at the league as a whole, ESPN used their “mighty crystal ball” to put together 25 NFL predictions for the next three years.

And some might be a little shocking.

In terms of the Arizona Cardinals, two names cracked the list: Running back David Johnson and rookie quarterback Josh Rosen.

At No. 9, Johnson’s task is a tall one. According to ESPN, DJ will lead the NFL in scrimmage yards over the next three years.

Because Johnson wasn’t a first-round pick, there’s no fifth-year option on him, and his extension likely has to get done this summer. Assuming it does and he doesn’t miss any 2018 games, Johnson is in position to shoulder more of his team’s offense than any other player in the league. As a runner and a pass-catcher, Johnson should be the best friend of whomever the Cardinals use at quarterback — Sam Bradford or Josh Rosen. And if he does get a huge new deal, you can bet the Cardinals will use him as much as they can to justify it. Johnson’s 2017 injury was a wrist, not a leg injury, so there’s no reason to doubt that he can return to his dominant 2016 form.

Johnson has shown he can rack up the yards in both the run and passing games in a hurry.

Prior to his injury in 2017, Johnson was one of the top backs in the NFL.

His 1,239 yards on the ground were seventh best in the league, while taking home the No. 2 spot in touchdowns with 16. Only seven running backs had double-digit touchdowns.

And if he wasn’t running out of the backfield with the rock, he was burning people as a receiver.

Johnson was the only running back in 2016 in the top 40 for receiving yards. He compiled 879 yards on 80 receptions to go along with four scores. His MVP-esque season was almost one for the record books as well. If he would have reached the 1,000-yard mark through the air, he would have joined Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig as the only players to record a 1,000-1,000 season.

But unlike his 2016 season, Johnson is going through something relatively new in 2018.

The running back, who is in his final year of his rookie deal, held out of mandatory mini-camp in June as both sides failed to reach a contract extension.

Rosen, who has already been in numerous headlines during the offseason, is the other Cardinal mentioned.

My offshoot prediction is that, at the conclusion of the 2020 season, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson is the 2018 draft quarterback about whom the league’s fans are most excited. But since I don’t expect Jackson to start at quarterback for the Ravens until 2019, I hedge here against Sam Bradford’s injury history. The Browns, Bills and Ravens don’t want to play their first-round quarterbacks this year, and the Jets probably would rather wait to play theirs as well. The Cardinals, given Bradford’s well-known fragility, may have no choice.

While quarterbacks like Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield have garnered a lot of attention, it looks like they will have to sit and wait for a period of time.

With Sam Bradford’s injury history, Rosen could get his chance sooner than later.

The rookie has already seen time with the first-stringers and has turned heads within the organization with his confidence and command since he arrived.

“He’s smart. This guy is extremely smart. I mean, his ability to see certain things from the defense and pick it up quickly and execute — I don’t want to say this, but he has the mindset of a vet, the way he sees the game,” head coach Steve Wilks said during the second week of organized team activities.

Here are some of the eyebrow-raisers within the 25 predictions:

– Odell Beckham Jr. will change teams.

– The Dallas Cowboys win one of the next three Super Bowls.

– Jim Harbaugh returns to the NFL as a head coach.

– The kickoff will disappear.

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