Looking Back at the Arizona Cardinals 2015 Draft Class

Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2015 NFL Draft provided the Arizona Cardinals with a number of key players

The Arizona Cardinals were coming off of a couple of very good years when they went into the 2015 NFL Draft. They were already a talented team, looking to get better, and grab some solid players. As it turns out, they had a terrific draft that provided them with some key pieces.

It’s never a bad time to add talent to an offensive line, and the Cardinals used their first pick on tackle DJ Humphries. He was rising up many analysts’ draft boards pre-draft, and looked like a potentially elite pass blocker. The Cardinals pounced.

After sitting out his entire first season, he saw action in year two. He started 13 games, mostly at right tackle, but showed flashes of why he was a first round selection. It looks like the Cardinals made the right call.

In the second round, the Cardinals made what many considered to be a reach, and took linebacker Markus Golden. Some thought he wouldn’t be picked until day three of the draft, but the Cardinals saw something and pulled the trigger.

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Golden has rewarded them. After recording four sacks as a rookie, he racked up 12 1/2 this season. He also forced four fumbles. Fans, and the team, are excited to have Golden in Arizona.

Round three saw the biggest home run. The Cardinals, looking to solidify the running game, went with Northern Iowa running back David Johnson. Most people were intrigued by his combination of size (6’1″, 224 lbs) and athleticism, but other, big-named backs were seen as safer picks.

After his second season in the NFL, Johnson has established himself as one of the best running backs in the league. He led the league in both total yards and scoring in 2016, as his versatility and production has captured the hearts of Cardinals fans. He adds another level to the offense, making it even more dangerous, and was one of the great value picks of that entire draft.

The fourth round netted valuable defensive line depth with Rodney Gunter. He has played in every game of his career, and has 12 starts, with 34 tackles, including 2 1/2 sacks. Any time you can add a quality player in the fourth round, it’s a good pick.

After a fifth round pick that didn’t pan out, the Cardinals added another solid contributor with a second fifth rounder. Wide receiver JJ Nelson had elite speed, but his size (5’10”, 156 lbs) made him a huge risk. The Cardinals felt it was worth the chance on that speed, though.

Nelson has done exactly what the Cardinals hoped he’d do. In year one, he had just 11 receptions, but averaged 27 yards per catch and scored twice. In 2016, with the receiving corps in disarray, he stepped up and had 34 catches for 568 yards and 6 touchdowns. He looks like he’ll be a terrific role player in the offense.

The 2015 draft has certainly been beneficial to the Cardinals. For a team to get five quality players, and potentially three franchise-type players, out of one draft is pretty amazing. If Arizona has another run of success, or makes a Super Bowl run, they can, at least in part, thank the class of 2015.