Since taking over the organization in 2013, Arizona honcho's Steve Keim and Bruce Arians have trusted their scouting department to dig deep for hidden talent. Under Keim and Arians, the Cardinals haven't just dipped their toes into the vast talent pool outside of the FBS level, they've cannon-balled right into the deep end.
Arizona has used eight of its 29 selections in the past four drafts on players from the FCS and Division II ranks, including three of their six picks this past April alone. Included among the five small-schoolers chosen from 2013 through 2015 are 1000-yard receiver John Brown of DII Pittsburgh State, and last year's sensational rookie running back David Johnson out of Northern Iowa. Of the eight lower-tier draftees, only 2014 sixth round pick Walt Powell is not on the current 90-man roster.
Given the Cardinals' recent success in terms of on-field product and in unearthing talented gems, it's safe to wager that Keim and Arians will continue to scour small-school football programs for mid-to-late round prospects. Here's a look at a half-dozen potential targets for next spring's draft in Philadelphia.
Tarik Cohen RB North Carolina A&T 5'6" 173 SR
Cohen burst into the public consciousness with an electric, 295-yard, three-touchdown rushing performance against Alcorn State last December, but he was already well-known around the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, where he led the league in rushing yards each of the past three seasons. Cohen's diminutive stature may scare off some NFL talent evaluators, but in drafting players like Brown and J.J. Nelson, Arizona's brass has shown a willingness to spend draft choices on slim players who can run. Cohen would be an interesting compliment to the 225-pound Johnson, and should be available as a late round pick or priority free agent.
Career: 34 games 4031 YDS 6.1 AVG 38 AVG 61 REC 606 YDS 9.9 AVG 2 TD
2015: 1543 YDS 5.8 AVG 15 TD rushing, 25 REC 217 YDS 8.7 AVG receiving
Cooper Kupp WR Eastern Washington 6'2" 215 rSR
Kupp only had two scholarship offers out of high school, and ultimately settled on Eastern Washington over Idaho State. After a redshirt season, he caught 21 touchdown passes in 15 games, and won the 2013 Jerry Rice Award given to the top freshman in the FCS. Last year, Kupp hauled in 46 catches in the Eagles' first four games, and pulled down 20 receptions in a single game later in the season. His overall performance ultimately earned him the 2015 Walter Payton Award as the top offensive player in the FCS. Through three seasons, the fifth-year senior holds seven FCS records, including average receiving yards per game. Kupp is a good-sized receiver with sure hands, but he lacks blazing speed, and he'll be a 24-year old rookie by the time he suits up for an NFL team. As a result, he's expected to be available in the third-to-fifth round range of next year's draft despite his gaudy college production.
Career: 39 games 311 REC 4764 YDS 15.3 AVG 56 TD
2015: 114 REC 1642 YDS 14.4 AVG 19 TD receiving, 2/2 45 YDS 2 TD passing
Phazahn Odom TE Fordham 6'8" 245 rSR
Odom was an All-State high school football and basketball player; but he got a slow start to his college career when he missed all of 2012 with an injury, and appeared in just four games as a redshirt freshman the following year. Odom finally broke out as a junior last season when he set a single-season school record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end (7). Tight ends are fairly scarce in college football in general, so an FCS player with Odom's size and basketball background is sure to attract attention from NFL teams looking to score on a late Day Three upside pick.
Career: 28 games 42 REC 548 YDS 13.0 AVG 7 TD
2015: 37 REC 492 YDS 13.3 AVG 7 TD
Julie'n Davenport OT Bucknell 6'7" 315 SR
Davenport was a two-star recruit in 2013, and attracted some attention from FBS schools during the recruiting process. Ultimately, he chose to attend Bucknell, where he has been a starter since Day One, earning Second Team All-Patriot League honors as a freshman in 2013, and First Team all-conference each of the last two seasons. Davenport is entering his second season as a Bison team captain, and is currently projected as a late round draft pick or priority free agent.
33 starts at left tackle in three years
Keionta Davis EDGE Chattanooga 6'4" 270 rSR
Davis was somewhat forgotten during the recruiting process after missing his senior season of high school with a torn ACL, but coaches at nearby Chattanooga recognized the young man's potential, and brought him in as part of their 2012 rookie class. After a redshirt season, Davis eased into the rotation in 2013, and then battled his way through an early-season injury to earn Second Team all-conference honors as a sophomore in 2014. Last year, Davis set a school record with 13.5 sacks, and was named First Team all-conference. If the Cardinals elect to move on from disappointing Kareem Martin after the season, Davis would be an intriguing mid-round option, even if the team elects to re-sign Chandler Jones.
Career: 37 games 62 solo TKL 31.5 TFL 20.5 SCK 5 FF 12 PBU
2015: 39 TKL (29 solo) 17 TFL 13.5 SCK 7 QBH 1 FF 6 PBU
Taylor Reynolds CB James Madison 6' 195 rSR
Reynolds was a two-star, two-way recruit who starred at quarterback and safety in high school. He moved to cornerback full-time prior to his redshirt freshman season, and quickly earned the starting job he's held for the past 32 games. Reynolds is a good-sized corner with a knack for getting his hands on the ball. He led the conference in passes defensed (interceptions plus pass breakups) as a junior, and was named to the Colonial Athletic Association's First Team. If Reynolds continues on his current trajectory, he should come off the board in the fifth-to-seventh round next spring.
Career: 35 games 91 solos TKL 7.5 TFL 5 FF 9 INT 21 PBU 4 TD
2015: 46 TKL 4.5 TFL 2 FF 3 INT 16 PBU 1 TD