Arizona Cardinals fifth-round pick could finally snag a role in last four games

The Arizona Cardinals have had quite a solid rookie class featuring drafted and undrafted talent, but one first-year linebacker has yet to make his mark.
Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals
Kansas City Chiefs v Arizona Cardinals / Michael Owens/GettyImages

The Arizona Cardinals have had 10 drafted and undrafted rookies log starts this season, but two talents (not counting Jon Gaines II) they drafted this past April have yet to start in a game. BJ Ojulari is one player, as he has simply been a strong rotational piece since catching on at midseason. 

Owen Pappoe is the other player the Cards have yet to hand a start to, but with Josh Woods and Krys Barnes playing well at the moment, it may be hard for the fifth-round pick to even see the field often. However, the well-respected outlet Football Guys recently listed Pappoe as the final member of the Cardinals draft class (again, not counting Gaines) to have received snaps on either offense or defense. 

Kyzir White’s season-ending injury gave Pappoe playing time in specific defensive packages when the Cards needed more linebackers on the field. He could parlay that into more playing time as head coach Jonathan Gannon and defensive coordinator Nick Rallis give their younger players a longer look. 

Owen Pappoe may find expanded role with Arizona Cardinals in last four games

One major reason Pappoe could rotate into base packages is that he’s slated to stick around longer than Josh Woods and Krys Barnes at the moment. Per Spotrac, Woods and Barnes are on schedule to be unrestricted free agents, so there is a chance they could walk come March 2024. 

Although Pappoe has an ultra-small sample size of just 10 defensive snaps so far, Per PFF, Pappoe has an overall grade of 84.2 and a 62.2 rushing defense grade. Though listed as an EDGE rusher on PFF, it’s also worth noting that Pappoe is still considered an inside linebacker per the Cardinals official depth chart.

Again, it’s a small sample size, and Pappoe just started seeing time on the Arizona Cardinals defense. But potential increased playing time is a development to watch for the final four weeks of the season starting in Week 15. 


Additional Source: Cardinals lead NFL in rookie starters by Jess Root, CardsWire.USAToday

(Grades provided by PFF [subscription])