Arizona Cardinals: Will Paris Johnson live to the hype in Year 1?

Arizona Cardinals offensive linemen Paris Johnson Jr. (70) and Jackson Barton (66) during voluntary
Arizona Cardinals offensive linemen Paris Johnson Jr. (70) and Jackson Barton (66) during voluntary / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

The Arizona Cardinals spent the entire offseason bolstering the offensive line, and Paris Johnson was arguably the crown jewel.

SB Nation’s Revenge of the Birds ran a recent poll for Arizona Cardinals fans, asking them which rookie they expected to make the greatest impact. Roughly 43% answered with Paris Johnson, who is the type of player who can step in and start immediately for the Redbirds, and he can do so from multiple areas of the offensive line. 

So can Johnson live up to the hype? In the desert, history is not on his side, as the last player “Big Red” drafted in the first round, D.J. Humphries, “redshirted” for his rookie season. In 2013, the Cards took Jonathan Cooper with the seventh overall pick, and a broken leg kept his rookie year from even getting off the ground. 

Will Paris Johnson thrive in Year 1 for the Arizona Cardinals?

Six seasons before Cooper, the Cards drafted Levi Brown with their top pick. And while he started 11 games in his rookie year, Brown never lived up to the billing of a fifth overall selection. He was durable, yet very average, playing just six-and-a-half seasons with the Cards. 

So who was the Arizona Cardinals last top pick at offensive line to make a solid impact as a rookie? You would have to go back to 2001, when Leonard Davis snagged a spot on the PFWA All-Rookie Team. Davis started all 16 games that season, and he even finished fourth in the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year voting. 

Will Johnson follow in Davis’ steps, or will he make little to barely serviceable impact like Brown, Cooper, and Humphries in Year 1? To Johnson’s benefit, he has an incredible offensive line, as Humphries is still with the team, along with the established Will Hernandez, and Kelvin Beachum. 

Johnson has also built chemistry in the early going with center/guard Jon Gaines II. And even if Gaines doesn’t open the season as the starting center, Hjalte Froholdt is also an experienced player in this league with some foreknowledge of the type of offense the Cards will run thanks to his familiarity with offensive coordinator Drew Petzing.

While history hasn’t been kind to the Cardinals previous top draft picks at offensive line as rookies, Johnson may be an exception. And if you want my prediction, the fans should be pleased once January 2024 rolls around. 

Source: SB Nation Reacts: Arizona Cardinals fans have high hopes for Paris Johnson Jr. and Michael Wilson by Seth Cox,


(Statistical data provided by Pro-Football-Reference)