Sojourn Shelton is in an intriguing spot in the NFC West.
Shelton played in a school record 54 games for Wisconsin—including a school record 51 games as a starter—and evolved over his time to become a lock down cornerback who faced opposing offenses’ best receivers his senior season.
Many pointed to the Fort Lauderdale native’s size as detracting factors heading to the next level; However, his work ethic and other intangibles more than make up for possible physical limitations.
“His drive and the way his confidence level is, shoot, I always say, ‘5’9 with a soul of a 6’4 cat.’ I see that in him, man,” former 11-year NFL veteran Tyrone Carter said about Shelton in February. “The guy doesn’t waiver. He continues to grind. He continues to set the challenge. You look at him, when he’s playing the one-on-ones, playing in the games, he followed the best receiver every where they went, and it didn’t matter about no size or height. That cat played. He could jump, he’s fast, he’s aggressive at the line, so I don’t really see that height really playing a factor with this kid.”
The Cardinals were fourth in the league in fewest passing yards allowed per game, second in fewest total yards given up per game. Who are the projected starters in the secondary for Arizona, and do they utilize of nickel/dime looks?
Right now the secondary is a little unknown. The depth chart right now looks like:
Cornerbacks—Patrick Peterson, Justin Bethel/Brandon Williams
Safeties—Antoine Bethea (SS), Tyrann Mathieu (FS)
Then they have a lot of youth on the depth chart, which is good, but also means there are positions available. A player like Sojourn Shelton may have a shot at the roster because of the amount of youth on the roster.
They'll utilize a ton of six defensive back looks, so if Shelton can show a versatility at a number of positions, he'll endear himself to the coaches.
The Arizona Cardinals have eight cornerbacks currently on their roster. That includes sixth round pick Rudy Ford, who played safety at Auburn but appears to be starting his NFL career at corner. Where could Shelton find himself in terms of the Cardinals' defensive scheme?
He'll be trying to find a way to fight onto the roster, but like I said above, the Cardinals really like versatility. Why having someone like a Rudy Ford is important, because they like to play three or four safeties (by position) but utilize them as corners to disguise who is playing where. If Shelton is limited to being a slot corner, or a boundary corner only, he will have to play at an extremely high level in order to get onto the roster, but if he can show versatility, it will make his shot to stick on the roster.
Who do you feel is vulnerable at cornerback for Arizona heading into OTAs and training camp?
Justin Bethel is the only big name, and I'd put that at like three percent of getting cut. The rest of these guys have to show enough versatility and skill on special teams to make this roster. That could play into Shelton's hands.
What has been the success rate of undrafted free agents earning spots on Arizona's active rosters recently?
There are a number of players who have not only made the roster but had an impact. Tony Jefferson left, Darren Fells left, Jaron Brown was re-signed and then you have players like Xavier Williams, Olsen Pierre, Gabe Martin and Alani Fua all on the roster that were UDFAs. I have little doubt that one of these undrafted free agents are making the roster, Shelton has as good of a chance as anyone.
A "way-too-early" prediction, but based on the current roster and expectations at defensive back, what would be your thoughts as to the chance of Shelton working his way up to making an impact, whether on defense or special teams, during OTAs and into training camp?
Making an impact is going to be tough depending on health, but the Cardinals never hesitate to give players a shot. If Shelton can play a number of positions, then he will get a great shot.
If he is limited in position, I'd give him a small, but unlikely shot.