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Arizona Cardinals Rookie Tim Hightower: Six Week Checkup

We've covered the Arizona Cardinals rookies from the first four rounds (DRC, CC, Doucet, Kenny), but it's time to look at quite possibly the most popular 5th round rookie in history, Tim Hightower. The Cardinals surprised just about everyone when they called out Tim Hightower's name because most draft pundits had a 7th round or UDFA grade on him. He came from tiny Richmond college and wasn't even invited to the NFL combine. There were questions about his speed and ability to produce at the NFL level, but running backs coach Maurice Carthon saw something that he liked in Hightower and lobbied hard for him. Carthon and the rest of the staff compared him to Marion Barber immediately after the pick and the comparison's didn't stop there. Tom Marino, a pro scout with 35 years of NFL experience, compared him to Marcus Allen and said that Hightower was the best pick of the entire draft. Oh yea and all of this was before Tim Hightower would ever put on an Arizona Cardinals helmet. His post-draft hype cast a huge shadow but through six games of his NFL career, he's more than lived up to the hype.

Tim Hightower is off to a fast start considering that he's being limited to short yardage and goal line situations. He's also getting some snaps in third down situations which is a big step considering most rookies aren't trusted with protecting a quarterback. He's excelled in short yardage situations where he leads the NFL in 3rd-and-1 and 4th-and-1 carries and he's also converted every single one of those carries into first downs. He also leads the team in rushing touchdowns (5) and leads all Cardinals backs with 14 receptions for 121 yards. Time will tell when or if Tim is ready to take the starting job from Edgerrin James but for now his play would suggest, if not demand, that he gets more playing time.

It's impossible not to be encouraged ecstatic about Tim Hightower's first six games and he's already far exceeded the production and potential that I thought he possessed. Here's what I thought about our fifth round pick a couple days after the draft:

It’ll likely to a couple years before we have any idea what Hightower’s future role will be for the Cardinals. I’d imagine he’ll have to contribute on some special teams units to get on the field this season although he’ll probably get at least a look in some short yardage situations at some point.

It's pretty obvious how far off I was at the time, but I'm certainly glad that I was wrong. He won't be mentioned among other early running back picks like Darren McFadden, Matt Forte, Jonathan Stewart or even Felix Jones but he'll get his opportunity to shine by season's end. Even if Edge makes it through the entire season healthy, it would be pretty surprising if Hightower isn't splitting carries at least 50/50. Thoughts? Did anyone think that he could do this when they drafted him? What are your expectations for Tim Hightower for the remainder of the season?