In 2014, Steve Keim and the Cardinals turned heads by taking an unknown receiver from Pittsburg State, John Brown. In 2015, the Cardinals did the mid-major/small school thing once again in round three by drafting Northern Iowa running back David Johnson.
“I am so excited! I am an Arizona Cardinal!” said Johnson moments after being selected 86th overall.
Johnson had a standout career at Northern Iowa being selected first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference in both 2013 and 2014 and became first player in school history with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. He was selected third-team FCS All-American in 2014 while breaking 15 school records.
Johnson has the size to be a good compliment to Andre Ellington out of the backfield as he stands 6-0 and 224 pounds. He has a big frame which he uses to consistently fall forward on runs resulting on extra yards. Bruce Arians compared him to Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears except possibly faster.
“I definitely bring that bigger size,” he explained. “A lot of things that people don’t look into much with bigger backs is my ability to catch out of the backfield…ultimately, a bigger running back and ready to take the pounding of the NFL and ready to take the load for the Cardinals.”
Runs a 4.40 and had comparable three-cone numbers to what you would see from defensive backs. Keim mentioned that it spotlights his ability to stay low and accelerate. He was part of the Senior Bowl after last season which Steve Keim mentioned was big on their evaluations of him.
“To be able to see them not just in the game but in practice with the drills, it really helps us whether our projections for a guy from a small school,” Keim explained.
“They said they were looking for a bigger back,” mentioned Johnson. “Looking for a back that could take carries, take the load and just be a nice player for the team and they said I could really fit that mold and hoped they could end up drafting me when that day comes.”
A player from Northern Iowa is somewhat familiar for the Cardinals as that is the alma matter of former Cards great, quarterback Kurt Warner.
“He’s definitely the face of UNI,” Johnson stated. “We always talk about players who used to go to UNI and he’s probably one of the biggest players to come through and hopefully I can do the same.”