Arizona Cardinals draft three-down back in Northern Iowa’s David Johnson

May 2, 2015, 6:02 AM | Updated: 6:03 am
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TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona Cardinals added a running back who wore purple for his former team Friday, but it was not six-time Pro Bowler Adrian Peterson.

Northern Iowa’s David Johnson will have to do.

A four-year starter for the Panthers who had offers to be a receiver coming out of high school, Johnson finished his college career with 4,682 yards and 49 touchdowns on the ground, along with another 1,734 yards and 14 scores as a receiver out of the backfield.

As a senior, he ran for 1,553 yards and 17 scores, while catching 38 passes for 536 yards and two touchdowns.

A 6-foot-1, 224-pound runner, he’s the type of player the Cardinals were looking to add to their backfield.

“They said they were looking for a bigger back,” Johnson said of the Cardinals. “They were looking for a back that could take carries, take the load, and could just be a nice player for the team. They said I’d fit that mold really good, and they were hoping that they could end up drafting me when the day comes.”

It was no secret the Cardinals wanted a bigger back, if not to take away carries from incumbent Andre Ellington than to be a complement to Arizona’s third-year runner. However, Johnson’s talent and track record would indicate that he could be more than just a change-of-pace or goal line option.

He thinks he could be a three-down back, and Cardinals coach Bruce Arians agrees.

“He’s a three-down player. It’s just a matter of coming in and learning the system and, again, competing with the guys who are in the room,” he said when asked how Johnson fits with the team. “It’s a pretty good room. People forget the two biggest games last year that we won against Kansas City and St. Louis: Kerwynn (Williams) was running the ball. He had like 180 yards rushing those two games.

“Nothing is handed to anybody, but we love (Johnson’s) skill set and he will compete.”

Arians said Johnson reminds him of Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte when he was coming out of Tulane back in 2008, adding his newest player may even be a little faster.

Both the coach and general manager raved about Johnson’s measurable, pointing out how, at his size, a vertical jump of 41 inches with a 40-yard dash time of 4.40 seconds and a three-cone time of 6.83 seconds are very impressive.

When it comes to his running style, Johnson, who can also return kickoffs, said he is able to do a little bit of it all.

“I can pound it in if they needed me to, and we’ve done schemes with the read zone at UNI; I’ve done that also. I’ve done short yardage, so with my size and my build, I definitely can get the short yards. Also, with me being a receiver back in the day, I’ll be able to be that shifty guy that they need.”

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