Arizona Cardinals trade up for Rodney Gunter, who says he ‘potentially could be the next J.J. Watt’

May 2, 2015, 6:29 PM | Updated: 6:44 pm

TEMPE, Ariz. — Who is Rodney Gunter?

He is a defensive end who played at Delaware State. He’s 6-foot-5 and 305 lbs. He’s a cousin of former Arizona Cardinals tight end D.C. Jefferson. He can supposedly dunk a basketball, and the Cardinals liked him enough to trade away three picks — 123 (4th round), 198 (6th round) and 241 (7th round) — for number 116, where they took him in the fourth round.

“I’m very versatile,” Gunter said of his game. “I can bring a hard-working guy, and I potentially could be the next J.J. Watt.”

Lofty comparison, yes, but Gunter said his goal is to be the best he can be, so that’s the goal.

Getting drafted is a start.

Gunter said he expected to be picked sometime in round five or later, but it was “a blessing, a dream come true” to go in the fourth to Arizona.

So what exactly are the Cardinals getting?

Gunter can play both defensive end and defensive tackle, and last season, as a senior wracked up seven sacks along with 13 tackles for loss. He is still a bit of a raw prospect, as he only played one year of high school football before moving on to college.

He had a good reason.

“I had to help my mom out,” he said. “She was a single parent, struggling, and I was the oldest boy out of three boys and I had to get a job. I was a dishwasher; I was a waiter. I had to make ends meet.

“I eventually played my senior year in high school. I loved the game so much, it was killing me that I was not playing football.”

Once he got onto the field, he showed enough potential to get onto NFL teams’ radars, and the Cardinals saw enough to convince them he was worth trading up for.

“Man, that says they’re really interested in me, they really believe in me,” Gunter said of what Arizona gave up to acquire him. “I’m going to take that into consideration every time I step on the field or come to meetings, meeting the coaches. They really believe in me. I thank God for that. It’s a blessing, a dream come true. I’m so speechless right now.”

The plan is to let his play do most of the talking.

Gunter said he was underrated coming out of high school and enters the NFL with a chip on his shoulder. With the Cardinals he expects to play as an outside rusher on first and second down, then move inside on third and maybe fourth down.

He’s ready for whatever is asked of him, bringing a level of maturity he thinks other prospects may not possess.

“I’m not coming in complacent,” he said. “I’m coming in a hard worker, coming in with the mind set of a free agent trying to make the roster.”

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Arizona Cardinals trade up for Rodney Gunter, who says he ‘potentially could be the next J.J. Watt’