What wound up NOT going through the roof was their points scored. The 38 touchdowns and 22.6 points per game were humongous improvements from 2018, but those numbers had nowhere to go but up. Arizona ranked 18th in touchdowns and 16th in points per game, both last in the NFC West.
And guess what? Expectations are through the roof again following the offseason addition of DeAndre Hopkins. At least this time Kingsbury and Murray have some experience on their side.
Let's answer the burning questions Fantasy managers have about the Cardinals.
Is Kyler Murray a top five Fantasy quarterback?
Murray recorded the ninth instance in NFL history of a quarterback throwing for over 3,500 yards and rushing for 500 yards in the same season. It's a feat Cam Newton accomplished three times and Russell Wilson has hit twice. Not bad for a rookie.
Despite the end result, there were definitely some concerns. His accuracy (64.4%), on-target throws (75.4%), yards per attempt (6.8) and touchdown rate (3.7%) ranked 15th or worse among all starting quarterbacks. That goes right in line with his Fantasy output -- despite finishing with the 10th-most points in six-point-per-passing-score leagues, he was 15th in Fantasy points per game and 15th in consistency rate.
Playing better in the red zone will go a long way toward these numbers. Despite finishing sixth in red-zone pass attempts with 74, his 55.4% completion rate ranked (surprise) 15th among qualifying quarterbacks, and the 12 touchdowns tossed was 23rd best.
I charted 38 throws Murray made into the end zone from the red zone last season. Ten of them (just over 25%) were off-target and another three were horrible decisions. But he also made five good throws that didn't connect because of a receiver's mistake, a penalty, or a tipped pass -- if those hit then he would have had 17 red-zone touchdowns, 25 passing scores, and a 21.2 Fantasy point average, which would have ranked 10th in 2019.
Where I run into trouble with Murray is rationalizing his upside versus Wilson's. The Seahawks stud has averaged 3,847 yards, 33 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 435 rush yards and two rushing touchdowns over the past three seasons, a raw Fantasy point total of 394.
For Murray to match that number, he'll have to achieve something along the lines of one of the following:
- 4,850 passing yards, 20 pass TDs, no INTs, 500 rush yards, 5 rush TDs
- 4,300 passing yards, 25 pass TDs, 4 INTs, 500 rush yards, 5 rush TDs
- 4,000 passing yards, 30 pass TDs, 13 INTs, 500 rush yards, 5 rush TDs
- 3,800 passing yards, 31 pass TDs, 12 INTs, 500 rush yards, 5 rush TDs
If Murray utilizes his legs more often then he'll blow 408 Fantasy points out of the water. It remains to be seen if the Cardinals want that element as a regular part of their offense -- he had five or fewer rush attempts in half of his 2019 games.
But if he throws a little smarter and gets a very good season out of Hopkins, which is obviously the Cardinals' plan, then a 4,000-passing-yard, 500-rushing-yard campaign is realistic. Only Newton, Wilson, and Watson have achieved those marks in NFL history. The touchdowns should theoretically follow.
That potential puts him squarely in the top-5 Fantasy quarterback convo, though I'd prefer Prescott or Wilson. I'd take Hopkins' new quarterback over his old one, but that's a close call. The range for all of these passers in late Round 5/early Round 6 -- I'd aim for whoever is last of the group no matter who it is.
Will DeAndre Hopkins be marginalized in this offense?
It would be stunning if Hopkins wasn't the runaway leading receiver for the Cardinals. With all due respect to Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk, Hopkins offers the best combination of size, quickness and physicality to Murray. And boy, do he and the Cardinals need him.
You already know how Murray fared in the red zone -- it's the biggest area he needed help in this offseason. Hopkins has been beating tight coverage for years and gives a sure set of hands and agility in the red zone.
Here's a play from last year where Murray could have used a receiver with a little better footwork and technique on a back-shoulder throw.
Here's Hopkins on the same concept. He's got the back-shoulder fade pattern down pat, rendering Bills top cornerback Tre'Davious White helpless from this 2018 score.
This figures to be where Hopkins' arrival is felt the most. Tallying up the numbers over the past three seasons, Hopkins ranks ninth with 34% of his red-zone targets resulting in a touchdown, a slightly better rate than Michael Thomas and Cooper Kupp. Hopkins also has the fourth-most red-zone targets among receivers (56), providing a ton of much-needed experience.
The fun part? Hopkins has scored 12 touchdowns outside of the red zone over the past three years, proving that he's not just some short-yardage stooge. Haters will point to a drop in yards per catch and average depth of target in 2019, but he saw fewer catchable deep throws and thusly didn't put up the same type of numbers in those categories as he did before. Consider that his target share and catch rate remained high from 2018. It's not that he's slowing down or was being phased out -- he just wasn't utilized as often as a deep threat. That could change, but it's not the reason to draft him. The red-zone usage is.
As for the argument that Hopkins will see his target share shrivel up because Kingsbury spreads the ball around too much, consider that Kingsbury had a receiver land at least 120 targets in each of his last two seasons at Texas Tech -- in 12- or 13-game seasons. Perhaps the reason why Kirk and Fitzgerald each had roughly 100 targets last year was because neither was more dominant than the other.
With an offseason to tackle new concepts, bank on the Cardinals performing better in the red zone, and for Hopkins to have a hand in it. They're already on the way there, finishing with touchdowns on 8 of 11 red-zone drives in their final three games in 2019, much better than the 4 for 11 rate in their first three. That's promising.
I think 90 catches, 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns is absolutely in play with Hopkins, which is why he remains a top-five receiver in my rankings. Round 2 is the time and place to nab him.
Is there anything there with Kirk, Fitzgerald or anyone else?
I have a hard time expecting a big season from Kirk in 2020. As his 68-709-3 stat line suggests, he wasn't particularly outstanding in any one area. All of his touchdowns and almost 20% of his 2019 yardage came in one game against the Bucs. Staying healthy has been an issue for him and straight-up scoring Fantasy points has been an issue for him (15 or more in PPR in 8 of 25 career games). He simply needs a lot of targets to even have a chance at being consistently good, and that's hard to see with Hopkins joining the team and Fitzgerald still there. He's a Fantasy bench receiver who others will probably take too soon.
Fitzgerald is in the exact same target-dip boat Kirk's floating in, but there are differences in his game versus Kirk's. While Kirk is more explosive and shifty, Fitzgerald is more physical and nuanced as a route-runner. And the guy who knew it the most last season was Murray; of those 38 red-zone to end-zone throws he made, 10 went Fitzgerald's way while four went Kirk's way. Hopkins' arrival will obviously hurt Fitzgerald, but in situations where defenses adamantly double-team Hopkins near the goal line, there's a pretty darn good chance Fitzgerald will get the rock. Here's an example of the Cards scheming up a touchdown for Fitzgerald.
It might be just enough to suggest Fitzgerald as a better touchdown-or-bust receiver than Kirk. I can't hate on waiting to take Fitzgerald with one of your last three picks.
Hopkins, Kirk and Fitzgerald figure to be used quite a bit, so none of the three second-year receivers have a big chance to land every-down work. But given the departure of deep threat Damiere Byrd combined with his own speed, Andy Isabella stands out as one of two deep sleepers on the roster.
The Cardinals can deploy Isabella on jet sweeps, screens and slants as well as on deep tosses, giving him some versatility. He'll be a name to watch in training camp this summer and pick late in Best Ball and deep seasonals.
There's one more sneaky name to watch: Dan Arnold. The beefy tight end was a late-season addition for the Cardinals but wound up showing out quickly.
"He was going up and Moss-ing people. Everybody was oohing and aahing and we didn't know his name," Kingsbury said last season, adding at the time he would put more on his plate.
In total, Arnold's numbers were meager -- 6-102-2 on 10 targets over three games with the Cardinals. But he's 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds and clearly meshes with the Arizona offense. I love the idea of throwing a dart on him late in Best Ball, Dynasty and deeper redrafts. Don't be shocked if he ends up being a trendy sleeper come August.
Is Kenyan Drake a top 12 Fantasy running back?
Drake figures to prove the time-tested theory that in Fantasy Football, opportunity is more valuable than talent. He's a good running back in a fantastic spot. That's why he's a No. 1 rusher.
Drake has been entrenched as the Cardinals primary back since arriving in the middle of last season. In eight games with the Cardinals, Drake had four with 15-plus carries and seven (!) with 15-plus touches. In 54 games with the Dolphins, he had only three (!!) with 15-plus carries and 11 with 15-plus touches. Also, in Arizona's 16 games last year, only twice did a second running back have more than six touches in a game. Following the season, the Cardinals transition-tagged Drake to keep him around for another year. This is Kingsbury's guy.
So what's the problem? Drake proved to be inconsistent (big one week, down another), and a lot of the stats that measured Drake's efficiency didn't come out in his favor.
It's true he averaged just over 100 total yards and one touchdown per game with Arizona, but he had four scores in one game and four in his other seven. Drake also accumulated 226 of his 643 yards with the Cards on eight carries, sporting a 3.6 rushing average over his other 115 reps. Drake was below 90 total yards in five games and under 70 total yards in three (at the Bucs, vs the Rams, vs. the Steelers).
He also rated poorly in PFF's elusiveness metric (36th among qualifying runners), in yards after contact per attempt (2.77, which is 36th), yards per route run (0.89, 29th), catch rate (79.4%, 24th), and yards per catch (6.0, 31st).
Can you overlook this stuff and accept Drake as the guy in the right place at the right time? If so, you're going to get a back who went 4 of 5 on scoring chances from 3 yards or closer and 22 of 25 on all downs of 3 yards or less. Now that's consistency!
Here's one of three goal-line touchdowns from Drake last year. The second effort he gives is an underrated part of his game. The lack of goal-line tries he had in Miami (three in 54 games) is also frustrating.
You're also going to get a back who can work in a devastating tandem with Murray near the goal line. The Cardinals HAVE to use the option more.
And you're also going to get a running back who can take advantage of his good blocking, his vision and his speed to create explosive plays ... even if they don't happen all the time.
Drake won't have it easy this year -- NFC West run defenses are good, as are those in the AFC East. But there aren't a ton of high-scoring offenses on the slate for Arizona, and the Cardinals offense should be potent, so it's fair to expect Drake to keep a busy to-do list each week. The volume you're drafting him for should be there.
I can't get behind taking Drake in Round 1 -- he's a Round 2 pick. And I think it's for the best if you invest in the Cardinals backfield and pick up Chase Edmonds by Round 10 if you take Drake. The argument can be made that Edmonds isn't that far off talent-wise than Drake, so if he ever landed a full-time opportunity every week, he'd be good.
Which players are poised for breakouts, which sleepers do you need to jump on, and which busts should you avoid at all costs in your Fantasy football league? Visit SportsLine now to get early rankings, plus see which WR is going to come out of nowhere to crack the top 10, all from the model that out-performed experts big time last season.