Cardinals sign both fourth-round picks, only top pick remains unsigned
Texas product Okafor was first of the Cardinals’ two fourth-round picks (103rd overall) in the 2013 NFL draft. Watford was taken by the Cardinals a few spots below him in the fourth-round with the 116th overall pick in April’s draft.
The 6-foot-4, 261-pound Okafor was a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection and a third team All-American defensive player as a senior in 2012. He led the Big 12 with 12.5 sacks, considered ninth most in the nation last season. His number of sacks were also the most in Texas history since Tony Degrate posted 13 sacks for the Longhorns in 1984. Okafor capped his collegiate career by setting a single-game record with 4.5 sacks to earn MVP honors as a defensive player in Texas’ Alamo Bowl victory over Oregon State.
Over the past four seasons at Texas, Okafor played in 52 career games with 33 starts while combining 150 tackles, 34 tackles for a loss, four passes defensed, seven forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and a blocked kick. Okafor’s 23 career tackles suggest he has an ability to rush the passer, which will serve him well if he impresses in camp and battles for playing time at outside linebacker with O’Brien Schofield as well as Sam Acho also in the mix.
However, both rookies were working on the “rookies” field during OTA practices – and not the main field. Still both Okafor and Watford at the very least expected to play future roles on the team.
Meanwhile, Watford will be facing a high climb to distinguish himself from the competition, coming out of an FSC school to play at the NFL level. However, it helps that he had a strong career at James Madison and was a team captain, who earned first-team All-CAA honors for the second consecutive season in 2012. Watford also received the All-American honors from The NFL Draft Report, Walter Camp Foundation, American Football Coaches Association and the Associated Press after he allowed just one sack as a senior, while starting all 11 game that season.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound Watford started a total of 35 game during his collegiate career at James Madison.
Currently Jonathan Cooper is projected to start at guard in his rookie season, while Daryn Colledge appears as a likely option at the other spot. This leaves Watford looking at a depth role, unless the Cardinals think he has potential to play in the middle of the line.
The moves mean that the Cardinals have gotten eight of their nine 2013 draftees under contract. Only the Cardinals’ top pick in the 2013 NFL draft, North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper remains unsigned to his rookie contract. However, there should be unexpected twists or hang-up in signing that contract since the NFL’s collective bargain agreement clearly lay out the rookie pay scale and limit the negotiations done in the deal. The Cardinals kick off their minicamp next week on Tuesday. Expect them to have Cooper under contract by then or possibly even until the end of this week.