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Cardinals’ “Red Star” RB Search

NCAA Football: College Football Playoff National Championship-Clemson vs Louisiana State Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals are going to draft a RB, likely with one of their first 4 picks—-the question is—-who will that RB be?

Kliff Kingsbury recently said that he wants to go into this season with 3 RBs who can carry the load when call upon so that the offense can “stay on schedule,” as he likes to say.

Coach said that he likes what he has in Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds and is eager to acquire a rookie who can keep the offense rolling when it is his turn to play.

The RB who has received the most attention from the Cardinals during the draft process is Utah’s all-time leading rusher, Zack Moss.

What’s interesting about Moss is that he is an all-out banger who hits his holes like a sledge hammer and has the balance to absorb initial hits and keep on chugging. His record setting career numbers at Utah were 4,067 yard rushing for a 5.7 average and 38 TDs, plus 685 yards receiving (10.4 ave.) and 3 TDs.

The primary knocks on Moss are his 4.65 speed and the knee surgery he had in 2018, But the good news on both fronts is that Moss (cousin of WR Santana Moss) plays faster than his 5.65 speed would suggest and his knee has checked out well:

As a rookie, Moss could establish himself as the team’s short yardage back and could be a significant asset for the team late in games where the offense wants to try to run out the clock.

It’s possible that Moss will be on the board at pick #72 (3rd round) and perhaps there is still a chance at pick #114 (4th round).

If the Cardinals draft an offensive player at #8, then they might be more inclined to take a defensive player at #72 and hope that Moss makes it to #114. But, if the Cardinals draft a defensive player at #8, then selecting Moss at #72 would be easy-peasy.

Last night on NFL Network’s Path to the Draft, Daniel Jeremiah spoke about how when he was a college scout for the Baltimore Ravens, GM Ozzie Newsome had each of the scouts affix a “red star” decal next to the name of two draft prospects they felt “belonged in the building.”

Interestingly, Jeremiah’s two “red star” prospects in the draft are Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb (citing how tough he is when he has the ball in his hands) and Louisiana Tech CB Amik Robertson (saying he leaves every ounce of what he has on the field). I used the word “interesting” because Lamb and Robertson are, for many of us, two of our favorite prospects in the draft—-ones the Cardinals have met with and shown great interest in.

Bucky Brooks’ two “red star” players are Florida WR Van Jefferson (saying that the SEC CBs he spoke with tabbed Jefferson as their toughest cover) and Florida St. RB Cam Akers (who Brooks lauded for his tenacity, skill and tremendous attitude).

Akers is worth a good look because most draft pundits have him going in the 3rd round. This past season he was a 2nd Team All ACC performer who led FSU with 1,144 rushing yards on 231 carries (5.0 ypc) and 14 touchdowns. Akers also caught 30 passes for 225 yards (7.5 per) and four scores in 11 starts.

I know many of you have expressed enthusiasm and confidence in Akers. What’s stands out to me about him is his natural quick feet and how he runs with relative ease. The player comp I would make for Zack Moss is Frank Gore, while for Cam Akers it would be Duke Johnson.

if the Cardinals want a banger to compliment Drake and Edmonds, one might imagine they are looking and long and hard the 1st Team All-ACC RB the past few years—-A.J. Dillon of Boston College. Check out these career stats as the bell cow RB in a ground and pound offense at BC: 4,382 yards rushing (5.2) , 38 TDs, plus 236 yards receiving (11.2) and 2 TDs. Dillon’s a Moss’ combined yards and TDs are almost exactly the same.

I am BC alum and I can tell you this kid is a winner who brings his big boy pants to work every game. He is relentless, about as tough as RBs come and for a player off his size, 6-0, 247 pounds, he has terrific feet. Check out his Combine numbers: 4.53 40, 23 reps, 41” VJ, 131” BJ and 7.19 3 cone. I would take him in a flash at #72, but there’s also a chance that Dillon will be on the board at #114. This is a kid who literally thrown tacklers out of his way—-and what amazes me is he builds up enough foot speed in a hurry to break away from the pack for long TDs.

Another RB wild card for me is Memphis’ Antonio Gibson who ran a 4.39 at the Combine and seemed to score a TD once out of every five times he touched the ball last season. See for yourself:

Gibson can play RB and WR, plus he is an outstanding kickoff and punt returner. I will tell you what, if he is on the board at #72, he would be a crackerjack pick.

I also like his teammate RB Patrick Taylor, who should be available in Round 6 after missing the last half of his 2019 season due to an ankle injury.

Player Bio (Scouts Inc.): Taylor and 2019 third-round pick Darnell Henderson made an excellent one-two punch for the Tigers in 2017 and 2018. While he started only one game as a junior, Taylor carried the ball 214 times for 1,122 yards (5.4 average) and 16 touchdowns and caught 17 passes for 197 yards (11.6, two TDs). The previous season, the All-District player from Humble, Texas, started twice in 13 games and was quite productive (157-866-5.5, 13 TDs rushing; 19-148-7.8, one TD receiving). Unfortunately, an ankle injury limited him to six games (two starts) in his senior season (78-350-4.5, five TDs rushing; 8-52-6.5 receiving). As a true freshman, he played in all 13 games (93-546-5.9, two TDs rushing; 11-37-3.4 receiving). His sister, Nadia, played in the National Fastpitch Softball league and his father played football at Nicholls State.

But, if the Cardinals are still looking for a RB at #131, I must say that after studying the Senior Bowl tape—-the RB who stood out big-time was Joshua Kelley of UCLA . Kelley ran for over 100 yards in the game and looked so smooth and confident, both running and catching the football.

I know the Cardinals have met with Kelley—-and they have spoken with Chip Kelly about him. Chip said to the NFL Network crew that the one time he didn’t start Joshua Kelley, Kelley came to him and said that he would learn from it and do everything he could to make up for it. “Just you wait and see, Coach,” Kelley said. Chip Kelly said, “That’s the kind of character you’re getting from Joshua Kelly.”

While there are a host of other very good prospects, I want to conclude this RB article with a pitch for the player I highlighted in the cover photo: LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

I have said this before and its worth repeating, if defenses had to try to defend a backfield of Kyler Murray and Clyde Edwards-Helaire, they would be faced at times with an almost impossible task. With all of the flurry and motion of the K-Raid, picking up Kyler and/or Clyde on RPOs and read options would be immensely difficult for defensive linemen and linebacker—-not only to have to try to contend with Kyler’s and Clyde’s low pad level, but just in trying to locate them and track them down in the midst of the swirl.

As they say—-you can’t hit what you can’t see.

For Joe Burrow to say that Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the best and toughest player he’s ever played with—-having played at both Ohio St. and LSU on national championship caliber teams—-that is the kind of endorsement that makes one sit up and take special notice.

Watch the tape of this dynamo and see what a tough, hugely competitive and resilient player he is—-and check out how difficult it is to pick this kid up—-oh and check out his textbook spin move:

Talk about “red star” players—-if i had to choose two in the draft as Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks did—-RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire is one and a flip of the coin between S Jeremy Chinn (Southern Illinois) and S Kyle Dugger (Lenoir-Rhyne) is the other.

They are the primary reason why I would welcome the chance for the Cardinals to move down in Round 1 (maybe even twice) to accumulate extra picks. I think that Edwards-Helaire and Chinn or Dugger are perfect system fits on each side of the ball, plus in what they can offer the Cardinals on special teams.

As of right now, if the Cardinals make a pick at #8—-they will most likely miss out of the opportunity to draft Edwards-Helaire, Chinn and Dugger as all three are expected to be selected in the late 1st round or at some point in the second round, with Dugger maybe making it into the early portion of round three.

If the Cardinals could somehow work this draft to come away with Clyde Edwards Helaire and Jeremey Chinn or Kyle Dugger, I would be beyond ecstatic.