Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football: Assessing value in the Arizona Cardinals’ offense and why Kyler Murray is the key

Oct 25, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray (1) warms up against the Seattle Seahawks at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

The Arizona Cardinals are now entering their third season under head coach Kliff Kingsbury and are in a position to produce strong fantasy football results at multiple positions. The offense is expected to look notably different in 2021 with a new starting running back in Chase Edmonds and two additions in A.J. Green and Rondale Moore at wide receiver.

Fantasy football players should prioritize Arizona's attack due to its strong floor and proportionately exciting ceiling. Let’s dive into the team’s personnel changes and how to rank them accordingly.

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Tier 1

DeAndre Hopkins: WR5 (16.3 ADP)

“Nuk” is as safe of a bet as they come. Currently the WR5 by ADP, there really isn’t much risk involved in selecting him there. He secured more than double the targets of the next-closest Cardinals player in 2020 and had an unprecedented 29.4% target share. He was the fourth-highest scoring receiver (291.8 fantasy points) and has finished within the top five in every season since 2017.

Hopkins' consistency and ceiling know no bounds. He’s finished as the WR1 twice in the past four seasons, and even though he likely won’t have the target share needed to do it again, his usage metrics may improve. Nuk ranked just 29th among receivers in red-zone targets (23) last season. It’d be hard to imagine a dominant contested-catch weapon like him not being utilizing more often in the money areas.

Kyler Murray: QB3 (54.3 ADP)

Some people may call me crazy for this one, but Murray has a legitimate shot to win the MVP award this season. He took his game to a new level in 2020, scoring 399.0 fantasy points and trailing only Josh Allen at the quarterback position. He was one of just three quarterbacks to rank inside the top 13 at the position and pass for less than 4,000 yards, but that isn’t happening again in 2021.

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Murray's legs were the reason for his insane 2020 campaign, as he ranked third in rushing attempts (133), second in rushing yards (822) and rushing touchdowns (11). He could very well slightly regress in red-zone rushing attempts (25), specifically rushes inside the five-yard line (11), but his passing metrics should improve significantly across the board. Even though they were solid, the Cardinals' offense ranked 14th in yards per attempt (7.6) and 22nd in explosive pass percentage (13.5%) when removing screen passes from the equation.

The additions of the aforementioned Green and Moore should improve the offense enough to allow Murray to be the highest-scoring quarterback in 2021. It won’t be easy, but it’s certainly possible. At the very worst, Murray has the highest floor among the elite quarterback options while still maintaining QB1 upside. That’s evidenced by his eight top-five quarterback finishes across 16 outings last season.

PFF's 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Kit includes links to every article, tool and chart to best prepare you for your fantasy football draft. This will be updated regularly between now and Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.

Tier 2

Chase Edmonds: RB28 (77.1 ADP)

The Cards moved on from Kenyan Drake and his team-leading 49.9% rushing share from last season. That's positive news for Edmonds, who could be an undervalued player in fantasy drafts. Of course, we have yet to figure out how Kingsbury will utilize the scatback, but Edmonds did average the highest yards per carry (4.6) and the most yards after contact per attempt (2.6) among the team’s running backs last season. Not to mention, he’s also a receiving threat who secured a 12.4% target share in 2020. 

Edmonds is purely a projection play right now, but it does appear he has the inside track to be the team’s starting running back while James Conner plays the role of bruiser back and potential vulture. That is concerning for Edmonds, especially when considering how much potential production he missed out on last season due to Drake totaling 56 red-zone carries (fourth) and 22 rushes inside the five-yard line (third).

Edmonds is fairly priced and firmly within high-end RB3 territory right now. That is a good spot for a player with a shot to lead his backfield in touches. His touchdown upside is certainly capped with Conner in town, but Edmonds may be the superior rusher and is certainly the better receiver. Time will tell how they end up splitting the running back workload.

Rondale Moore: WR54 (109.5 ADP)

There may not be a player we’ve learned more about through the first two weeks of this preseason campaign than Moore. He’s being used exactly as expected — as an after-the-catch weapon with a terribly low average depth of target (1.3 yards). This is both a concern and a positive. First, the aDOT is frightening because deep shots and downfield usage are always preferred over screens and short passes, but at the same time, Moore will be a useful PPR weapon by way of cheap receptions and easy yardage. He leads the team in both targets (eight) and receptions (six) this preseason. Half of his targets and receptions have come either behind the line of scrimmage or within two yards of it.

This ADP seems rich for Moore, particularly when compared to his peers Russell Gage, Henry Ruggs III, Marquez Callaway and Jakobi Meyers, among others. There is inherent risk in drafting Moore at his ADP as the Cards’ No. 3 wide receiver, with all of those players ranking higher in their teams’ pecking order for targets. PFF’s fantasy projections agree, slotting Moore into the WR74 spot. My suggestion is to look for another receiver with a higher ceiling at this ADP.

Tier 3

James Conner: RB37 (118.1 ADP)

The dreaded running back committee could limit both Edmonds' and Conner's production this season, but the bright side is PFF’s strength of schedule (SoS) metric ranks their schedule as the fourth-easiest this season. It appears Edmonds is the in-house favorite to secure the early-down rushing role and boasts receiving upside, but Conner is no slouch. He averaged 12.7 fantasy points per game (28th) last season and totaled 164.6 points; only 3.4 fewer than Edmonds. He’s also pulled in 129 of his 151 career targets as a receiver.

The most likely scenario for Conner this season is a bruiser-back role with legitimate vulture ability. His size is superior to Edmonds, which likely means Arizona will prefer him near the goal line. And the former Steeler is well acquainted with the end zone, having scored 23 rushing touchdowns over the past three seasons. If he can inherit Drake's insane red-zone volume from last season, then he certainly has a place on your roster.

A.J. Green: WR71 (153.8 ADP)

Green was an absolute disaster last season; there are no two ways about it. He caught only 83.9% of his catchable passes and struggled to separate — 40.6% of his targets were deemed contested Nonetheless, the word out of training camp is he’s looked like “the old” Green, so there is hope.

Not to mention, he’s entering a new city and likely a more explosive passing game than the Cincinnati Bengals last season. Green is being priced at his floor right now, making him a great value. It’s still up for debate whether he or Moore will operate as the team’s No. 2 wide receiver, but the veteran should edge out the rookie with an ADP difference of nearly 50 picks.

At worst, Green is properly priced as a declining veteran, which is no big deal. At best, he improves after an abysmal 2020 campaign and the ADP value is a home run. This is a strong floor and a great value play.

Christian Kirk: WR80 (174.3 ADP)

It took one offseason for Kirk to go from Arizona's No. 2 wide receiver to the fourth option on the depth chart. There obviously won’t be much work for him to accrue. Last season, the Cardinals’ WR4 secured only 21 receptions on 34 targets.

Kirk is a fun dart throw this late because an injury could change things quickly. His 13.2-yard aDOT led the team last season, but there isn’t much use here unless an injury occurs. He certainly has a place as a deep bench stash in redraft or dynasty leagues and provides decent end-of-the-roster value in best ball formats.

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