ARIZONA CARDINALS

Abdullah, who Cards wanted instead of Johnson and Golden, got waived

Nov 6, 2018, 2:37 PM
Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah rushes during the first half of an NFL football game agai...
Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah rushes during the first half of an NFL football game against the New York Giants, Friday, Aug. 17, 2018, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
(AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

Ameer Abdullah entered the NFL out of Nebraska with all the hype. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in three straight seasons, finishing his senior year with 19 touchdowns to cement himself as one of the best running backs in the 2015 NFL Draft class.

And that’s how many saw him. The Detroit Lions picked Abdullah 54th overall, taking him in the second round as the third running back off the board, behind Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon.

Tuesday, less than four full years into his NFL career, Abdullah found himself — for the time being — jobless.

The Lions waived Abdullah on Tuesday to sign running back Zach Zenner and receiver Bruce Ellington, ending a relationship that began just after the last-minute heartbreak between the Nebraska product and the Arizona Cardinals.

Detroit drafted Abdullah just four picks ahead of the Cardinals’ second-round selection. On draft night in 2015, Arizona vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough had Abdullah on the phone, a moment captured on camera and produced into the Amazon web series “All or Nothing,”

“So are we excited? I know we’ve done so much work on you, from all the times we talked to you, we definitely are one of the places you wanted to be,” McDonough told the draftee.

“We’ve been talking about this pick since the Combine,” adds general manager Steve Keim.

That’s when celebration turned to shock.

The Cardinals listened as Abdullah told them that the Lions were on the other phone line.

Arizona attempted to rebound quickly. It used the 58th overall pick to nab pass-rusher Markus Golden, then took Northern Iowa running back David Johnson with the third-round selection at 86th overall.

Things haven’t gone completely cleanly for any of the players involved.

Abdullah put together seasons of 597 rushing yards in his rookie year (2015) and 552 yards last season. But he also only was able to play two games in 2016 due to a foot injury. This season, he was pushed down the depth chart by veteran LeGarrett Blount, rookie Kerryon Johnson and the versatile Theo Riddick.

Johnson, meanwhile, has for the most part thrived when healthy. He broke out with 581 rushing yards as a rookie, then became the best receiving running back with 879 yards to go along with 1,239 more on the ground in 2016.

His wrist injury cut into all but 11 carries last season, and offensive woes around him have limited what he hoped would become a bounce-back year in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Golden pick after Abdullah came off the board has looked favorable on the Cardinals’ end. He produced 12.5 sacks after a strong rookie season and after playing just four games because of an ACL tear in 2017 has just begun to look like his old self through five games played this year.

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Abdullah, who Cards wanted instead of Johnson and Golden, got waived