Finding the Fits: RB Edmonds ready when needed in Arizona

Chase Edmonds had a highly productive career at Fordham as a runner and pass-catcher.Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Sports Xchange

By Rob Rang,

This is part of a series -- Finding the Fits -- in which will review the more intriguing picks made during the 2018 NFL Draft. The goal is to identify one relatively unheralded player per team who appears to be a good schematic fit and, therefore, more likely to be a surprise contributor early in his pro career.

Arizona Cardinals' best fit: Chase Edmonds, RB, Fordham, selected No. 134 overall (4th round)

It goes without saying that first-round quarterback Josh Rosen is the rookie generating the most interest in Arizona this year.

And with the oft-injured Sam Bradford and often-ineffective Mike Glennon being the veterans technically ahead of him on the Cardinals' unofficial training camp depth chart, Rosen is perhaps the likeliest of this year's extraordinary rookie class of quarterbacks to see significant playing time. New head coach Steve Wilks has stated that the starting positions is Bradford's "to lose," leaving open the possibility that Rosen could theoretically overtake the veteran with a dazzling preseason.

Of course, there is significantly less doubt as to who the Cardinals' starting running back will be this season.

That would be third-year superstar David Johnson, who is now over the fractured wrist that cost him virtually all of last year. He is turning heads in training camp as a runner and receiver in Mike McCoy's offense after sitting out the team's mini-camp in June in a contract dispute.

So, why is Edmonds being listed as the Cardinals' best fit?

For as gifted as Johnson is -- he was named an All-Pro in 2016 when he led the league in yards from scrimmage (2,118) and touchdowns scored (20) -- the fact is, he's suffered injuries in each of the last two NFL games in which he's played, leaving Week 17 of his breakout campaign two seasons ago with an MCL sprain.

Concerns about Johnson's durability (and whether he can maintain the video game-like production now that Bruce Arians is no longer calling the plays) made finding a quality backup option a significant priority for general manager Steve Keim in the offseason.

After all, no one likely has to tell him that a different running back has led the Cardinals in rushing yards in each of the past eight seasons.

That included last year, when the Cardinals called upon 33-year-old Adrian Peterson, currently a street agent, who paced Arizona with just 448 rushing yards after Johnson was hurt in Week One.

Enter Edmonds, who like Johnson (a Northern Iowa alum) before him, comes to the NFL with a sizeable chip on his shoulder after being overlooked by college recruiters. Johnson slipped to the middle rounds (selected 86th overall in 2015) despite eye-popping production.

Edmonds, at 5-foot-9, 210 pounds, sports a significantly different body type than the 6-1, 224-pound Johnson, but there are more similarities than differences in their game. Perhaps that's why Edmonds earned first-team reps during Johnson's June holdout.

Both dominated at the collegiate level, with Edmonds setting the Fordham and Patriot League records for rushing yards in a game (359), season (1,838) and career (5,862), as well as the all-time scoring mark with 74 career touchdowns.

Also like Johnson -- who McCoy recently characterized as "special" due to his route-running acumen -- Edmonds is an accomplished receiver, catching 86 passes for 905 yards and seven touchdowns at Fordham.

Each is a natural runner, showing terrific vision, lateral agility, balance through contact and better burst than their 40-yard dashes (both were clocked in the 4.5s at the Combine) suggest.

This was clear on tape and during workouts.

Both tested extremely well in shuttle drills designed to show change of direction, with Edmonds proving quicker than any back in Indianapolis this year in both the 3-cone (6.39 seconds) and short shuttle drill (4.07).

By comparison, Johnson's 6.82 second time in the 3-cone back in 2015 was the second quickest time recorded that year, only three-hundredths of a second slower than Ameer Abdullah, a 5-9, 205-pounder out of Nebraska now in his third season with the Detroit Lions.

Johnson is clearly Arizona's bell-cow and, if healthy, will relegate Edmonds and the much bigger Elijhaa Penny (6-1, 234) to complementary roles. Edmonds has shown the ability to carry the load if needed, however, entering the NFL with 1,052 touches over the past four years.

More likely, Edmonds' shiftiness and soft hands should make him a quality complement to Johnson and an immediate sparkplug in McCoy's quick-hitting offense, giving the Cardinals balance and consistency at the position not previously seen during Keim's time in Arizona.

Other thoughts on the Cardinals' 2018 draft class:

Josh Rosen possesses all of the physical characteristics needed to be a star in the NFL, most notably Pro Bowl-caliber accuracy to all levels of the field.

The questions about his toughness and leadership qualities that followed him prior to the draft (and earned my comparison to Jay Cutler) no doubt contributed to Rosen being the fourth passer selected in the 2018 draft. But Wilks already showed what he thinks of his young signal-caller, not only keeping the competition with Bradford (and Glennon) open, but in his placement of Rosen's personal locker.

In the six years the Cardinals have held training camp at University of Phoenix Stadium, the club has always separated the rookies' lockers from the veterans'. Rosen, however, has already been deemed special, with his space alongside Bradford's.

"I think the biggest thing there is that we are trying to get (Rosen) around Sam (Bradford) as much as possible," Wilks said this week.

"The communication there is great," Wilks continued. "The relationship they have built in the last couple of months has been good. Anytime you can be able to get Josh around Sam so he can absorb some of that experience, that's why we did it."

Whoever is throwing passes for the Cardinals in 2018 has the huge benefit of future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald catching them, potentially easing the transition for Rosen as well as second-round wideout Christian Kirk, a 5-10, 202-pounder with some Golden Tate to his game.

Quick, tough and strong (20 repetitions of 225 pounds at the Combine), Kirk's run-after-the-catch talents should pair nicely with Fitzgerald in McCoy's scheme, which is expected to feature more short and intermediate level passes than the vertical attack Arians preferred.

Arizona's 2018 draft class:

1st Round, No. 10 overall: Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA

2nd Round, No. 47 overall: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M

3rd Round, No. 97 overall: Mason Cole, OL, Michigan

4th Round, No. 134 overall: Chase Edmonds, RB, Fordham

6th Round, No. 182 overall: Chris Campell, CB, Penn State

7th Round, No. 1254 overall: Korey Cunningham, OT, Cincinnati

Key Undrafted Free Agents Signed:

Deatrick Nichols, CB, South Florida

Zeke Turner, S, Washington

Andrew Vollert, TE, Weber State