ESPN’s Barnwell builds the perfect roster with two Cardinals RBs

Aug 15, 2018, 8:50 AM | Updated: 11:43 am
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) celebrates his touchdown with teammate tight end ...
Arizona Cardinals running back Chase Edmonds (29) celebrates his touchdown with teammate tight end Ricky Seals-Jones (86) during the first half of an preseason NFL football game, Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Filling out a talented NFL roster requires finding value via the draft, and in an exercise to put together a 53-man roster under the league’s salary cap restraints, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell found inexpensive impact from two Arizona Cardinals running backs.

David Johnson and Chase Edmonds both made Barnwell’s “perfect” NFL roster, which he created with a few baseline rules to fit under the $177 million salary cap.

Barnwell started by selecting 32 picks from the 2015-18 draft classes, taking one player from each round of each of those pools and then an undrafted free agent. He filled in the rest of the roster by adding players on veteran deals with a few rules.

Current cap figures after any restructuring applied and he built the team around a Josh McDaniels-led offense and Jim Schwartz-oriented defense. Barnwell also limited himself to picking at least one player from each team and selecting no more than three from a single squad.

The running back room was filled with second- and third-day draft selections.

A third-round pick in 2015, Johnson ($2.07 million) is joined by fellow value backs in Chicago’s 2016 fifth-round pick Jordan Howard ($692,000) and New Orleans’ 2017 third-round selection Alvin Kamara ($878,000).

It’s Arizona’s rookie, Edmonds, on a $593,000 deal who is the fourth running back to make Barnwell’s roster. Including fullback Derek Watt ($662,000), who was a sixth-round pick, Barnwell manages to fill the running back room by spending only $4.9 million.

Imagine being able to rotate a Johnson for a fresh Howard, or splitting out Johnson on one side and Kamara on the other and daring teams to try to play man coverage with their linebackers and safeties. These guys aren’t bad between the tackles, either, as Howard is just the 20th back since the merger to rack up 1,100 rushing yards or more in each of his first two seasons. Watt is not a bad receiver in his own right, although it’ll be tough for him to get touches with the weapons we have. Heck, it might be tough for Kamara to see the ball more than a few times per game, and he’s the reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

The attempt at filling out the perfect roster reflects well on the Cardinals’ own philosophy of filling in a key skill position with later-round draft picks.

Coming off a wrist injury that ended his 2017 season after a part of a game, Johnson is one of the most versatile running backs in the game. Edmonds is the smaller, shiftier option behind him who also has the ability to make plays in the passing game and a strong pass-protection foundation. He was the a fourth-round pick out of Fordham.

To aide those two players, Arizona spent money this offseason on veteran offensive linemen Justin Pugh (five years, $45 million) and Andre Smith (two years, up to $10.2 million), mirroring Barnwell’s offensive line spending that went way over the league average.

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ESPN’s Barnwell builds the perfect roster with two Cardinals RBs