2020 Fantasy Preview: Arizona Cardinals

Marc Salazar continues the 2020 Team Preview series with a fantasy-focused look at the Arizona Cardinals.

Arizona Cardinals

 

In his first season as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury ushered a new era of offense into the NFL, struggled out of the gates, but quickly adapted as the season progressed. The team finished 5-10-1 on the season but hopes are high for an improved 2020. The team’s issues on the offensive line haunted them all season, forcing Kingsbury to alter his gameplans, mostly by removing receivers to add additional pass blockers. The defense was also among the worst in the league, but the Cardinals focused their entire off-season on improving those areas. All of this points to Arizona putting more receivers on the field, which could mean great things for fantasy owners in 2020. 

 

Quarterback

 

Kyler Murray

ADP: 63.4, QB5

Kyler Murray, the number one overall pick in 2019, exceeded even the highest of expectations in his rookie year. Murray set team rookie records for nearly all passing stats, including five 300-yard passing games, and his 544 rushing yards were a team record as well. Murray finished as the QB8 in fantasy with more than 3,700 yards passing and 20 touchdowns. Murray, however, was tied for the league lead in sacks taken with 48 and was running for his life most weeks. Kingsbury began the season with more receivers on the field but was forced to add blockers as the year progressed. The Cardinals focused their off-season on improving the offensive line, and fantasy owners would be thrilled to see an uptick in the number of 4-receiver sets. That will mean great things for Murray, and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins gives Kingsbury all the more reason to open up the offense even further. 

 

Best Case Scenario

Murray feels right at home with more receivers on the field and overwhelms the league with a diverse passing game. Murray tops 4,500 yards and 30 touchdowns and adds 500 yards rushing.  He finishes as the overall QB1. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

The offensive line woes continue to limit Murray, and the Air Raid offense doesn’t find a place in the league. Murray finishes as the overall QB10, not living up to his high draft cost and disappointing owners who drafted him expecting the breakout.

 

2020 Projection: 370 completions, 565 attempts, 3,994 yards passing, 26 passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions; 565 yards rushing, 3 rushing touchdowns

 

Running Back

 

Kenyan Drake

ADP: 11.6, RB9

Kenyon Drake is a player many fantasy owners have an affinity for. After years of flashing talent in Miami but struggling to get a legitimate opportunity, Drake was traded to Arizona mid-season and given the lead-back role. Drake closed out the season by helping plenty of fantasy owners to championships. Drake has shot up draft boards and is expected to explode this season in a full-time role. This Arizona offense is favorable to running backs; the backfield trio of Drake, Chase Edmonds, and David Johnson combined as the overall RB5 and scored more than 300 fantasy points. Drake has been up and down over his career but he looks locked in as the every-down back and his upside is a top-5 running back. The reward outweighs the risk and the price is too good to pass on, as the departure of Johnson leaves a relatively wide-open backfield for Drake to take over.

 

Best Case Scenario

Drake dominates in this spread offense, both as a runner and receiver. Drake sets career highs in rushing and receiving, finishing with more than 70 catches and adding 1300 yards rushing. A top-3 running back finish is within reach. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Outside of injury concerns, the downside on Drake is low. Drake finished as the RB15 in points per game and a top 15 finish is his floor. None of the backups profile to steal the job from Drake, so the opportunity is there for him while assuming health.

 

2020 Projection: 230 rushing attempts, 1,087 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns; 68 targets, 54 receptions, 456 receiving yards, 1 receiving touchdown

 

Chase Edmonds

ADP: 109.1, RB47

Last season, as the team struggled with injuries, Chase Edmonds earned extra touches and proved he can be explosive. Edmonds scored 15+ fantasy points three games in a row, including a three-touchdown 35 point outing against the Giants. However, Edmonds was a  non-factor once Drake joined the team. Edmonds will again play backup, and while he may earn a few weekly snaps, it will not be enough to warrant even a week to week flex play without a Drake injury. However, if Drake misses time, Edmonds will be a Top 20 fantasy back in this offense that caters to ball carriers. He’s an outstanding best ball target, but most owners should not take him as a handcuff to Drake unless the price is late in drafts.     

 

Best Case Scenario

Drake misses 4-6 weeks and Edmonds becomes the primary ball carrier for that stretch. Edmonds gives owners several RB2 weeks and a couple of RB1 weeks. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Edmonds is undersized and the team uses him in the change of pace role all year, even through injury to Drake and others. Edmonds doesn’t make a fantasy impact this season outside of the weeks he scores a touchdown.

 

2020 Projection: 94 rushing attempts, 376 rushing yards, 2 rushing touchdowns; 36 targets, 24 receptions, 221 receiving yards, 2 receiving touchdowns

 

Wide Receiver

 

DeAndre Hopkins

ADP: 16.9, WR5

The Cardinals shocked the fantasy community when they acquired DeAndre Hopkins for an aging player in David Johnson and a second-round draft pick. Hopkins has been nothing less than dominant for fantasy owners over the last five seasons and is among the best of the best. Hopkins has finished as a top-5 wideout in four of five seasons since 2015 and led the position in fantasy points in 2017 and 2018. His only down year came in 2016 when his quarterbacks were Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage. Historically when receivers change teams they suffer a hit to production but we have seen a change in that trend in recent years. Hopkins is falling to the mid-second in most drafts and obtaining a bonafide franchise wideout at the price is unusual. With a great young play caller and solid young quarterback, the risk is low and the reward is high. Owners shouldn’t shy away from Hopkins at this current price, as even if they don’t get a massive breakout from this offense, Hopkins should be a weekly floor play at the least.

 

Best Case Scenario

Hopkins dominates defenders from the get-go with Murray, topping 1200+ yards for the fifth time and scoring north of ten touchdowns for the fourth time. He finishes as the overall WR3, and a WR1 overall finish is not out of the question. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Hopkins struggles to adjust to the NFC and his new team, and he has his worst season since 2016. Murray spreads the ball around as teams focus on Hopkins, and the offense leans on the running game at times. Hopkins finishes as the WR15 on the season, not a complete disaster, but far from what fantasy drafters were hoping for.

 

2020 Projection: 137 targets, 92 receptions, 1,261 receiving yards, 8 touchdowns

 

Christian Kirk

ADP: 117.2, WR46

Heading into the 2019 season, Christain Kirk was a favorite sleeper pick for a breakout season. He clearly improved and took a step but he left many owners disappointed, finishing as just the WR32 in points per game. Still, the signs are encouraging. Kirk saw the field on more than 90% of the team’s snaps and was at least a flex play in 10 of his 13 starts. On the downside, Kirk scored in just one of those starts, a three-touchdown outing that was his only WR1 finish on the year. Kirk did suffer an ankle injury during the 2019 season that may have derailed further progress, so there are reasons for optimism in 2020. The addition of Hopkins on the other side may free up Kirk to excel in the intermediate areas, but that remains to be seen. Kirk is a decent mid-round receiver target, but do not expect much upside until we see him develop a more consistent touchdown scoring role.

 

Best Case Scenario

Hopkins draws the attention of opposing defenses and frees up Kirk for the easy targets underneath. Kirk cracks the 1000-yard mark for the first time and is a solid weekly WR2. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Kirk is who we thought he was and finishes with another season much like the previous. Outside of a handful of bye week starts, drafters cannot trust Kirk week to week with confidence, and his lack of upside leaves much to be desired.

 

2020 Projection: 95 targets, 68 receptions, 757 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns

 

Larry Fitzgerald

ADP: 160, WR60

Veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald returns for his 17th season with the Cardinals. While he has slowed down, at age 36 he did lead the team in receptions (75), receiving yards (804) and receiving touchdowns (4). Hopkins’ addition will let Fitzgerald line up in the slot more often, a role he excels in. Fitz finished as just the WR46 on a point per game basis but he did have six WR2 or better starts on the season. Owners probably should not worry about drafting Fitz this preseason but he will make a solid bye week or injury replacement play as a floor play.

 

Best Case Scenario

Fitz tops 700-yards for the 17th straight season and scores six times. Surprisingly, he makes an excellent flex play through the bye-week gauntlet and COVID-19 related IR stints.

 

Worst Case Scenario

Fitz plays third fiddle to Hopkins and Kirk, and has to battle with young receivers on the roster. He struggles to top 500 yards receiving and does not contribute for fantasy owners all season as he rides off to Canton in the offseason.

 

2020 Projection: 65 targets, 47 receptions, 576 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns

 

Tight Ends

 

Dan Arnold

ADP: 351, TE38

As the season wore on, Kliff Kingsbury began to utilize the tight ends into packages more to protect his franchise quarterback. Late in the year when Dan Arnold was acquired, he had immediate chemistry with Murray, catching 8 of 14 targets for 127 yards and two touchdowns in three games. The hopes are that both trends continue and Arnold enjoys a breakout season. For owners, Arnold is a player to put on the priority free agent target list but doesn’t need to be drafted unless you are in a league with large benches.    

 

Best Case Scenario

Arnold continues his chemistry with Murray and the Cardinals play more tight ends than expected. Arnold eclipses the 500-yard mark and becomes a preferred red zone target. 

 

Worst Case Scenario

Kingsbury adjusts his playcalling in year two and finds ways to protect his franchise QB and get more receivers on the field. Outside of a handful of games, Arnold is quiet on the year. 

 

2020 Projection: 45 targets, 33 receptions, 323 receiving yards, 2 touchdowns

 

 

Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

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