2019’s No. 1 overall NFL Draft pick gave us glimpses of
greatness during his rookie season, but really broke out in his
second year in the league. Kyler Murray made improvements in practically
every single statistical category, catapulting him to being the
second-highest scorer in all of fantasy football this past season.
Now that his cost has risen to the point that he’ll be one
of the first three QBs taken in almost every draft. Murray is
no longer a “sleeper” at the position, but he’s
someone who fantasy managers can legitimately build their team
around, just like the Cardinals are doing down in Arizona.
Murray was on a record pace in 2020 prior to injuring his shoulder
in the Week 11 loss to the Seahawks. This unfortunate injury surprisingly
led to him running a bit less down the stretch, which really limited
his fantasy output on the ground. After scoring a whopping 10
rushing touchdowns through his first nine games, Murray was held
to just one rushing score from Week 10 on and he reached 35 rushing
yards on the ground just twice in his final seven games.
Not only did the shoulder injury affect his willingness to run
the ball, but he was also significantly less productive as a passer.
Murray had thrown for an average of 264 yards per game through
his first nine games, but that average fell to 228 yards per game
in his final seven games. Worse yet, Murray was held to just one
or fewer total touchdowns in four of those seven contests. Still,
despite the major statistical cliff-dive, Murray had amassed enough
fantasy points that he finished as an elite option at his position,
as the No. 2 highest-scoring QB in 2020.
A full offseason to recover should allow Murray to hit the ground
running to start the 2021 season, but there’s some concern
that the Cardinals will actually ask him to run less. We’ve
seen an example of running quarterbacks being asked to run the
ball less as they get older with Russell Wilson, who started off
as one of the league’s top runners at the position but has
been noticeably less apt to run in recent years. In fact, Murray
himself recently said that he hopes to run less in 2021. That
could just be a throwaway comment, but it doesn’t exactly
inspire confidence about Murray duplicating the 67 rushing yards
per week, touchdown-per-game runner that we saw prior to his shoulder
injury. Still, even if we saw a staggering 30 percent drop in
rush attempts, similar to what Russell Wilson experienced in 2016,
Murray’s rushing numbers would still be around 100 attempts.
Only three other quarterbacks (Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton, Josh
Allen) even reached 100 rushing attempts in 2020 and that high
of a number, combined with more pass attempts, would still allow
Murray to contend for fantasy football’s top scorer at the
One of the most exciting offseason moves for the Cardinals has
been their investment in pass catching weapons. Say what you will
about A.J. Green, but he’s a veteran presence who’s dominated
when he’s been healthy throughout his career. We can’t expect
that he’s going to step in and produce monster numbers, but it’s
hard to believe that he wouldn’t be an upgrade to Larry Fitzgerald.
Arizona also added rookie Rondale Moore in the second round of
the NFL Draft, whose athleticism jumps off the charts, and has
been called a perfect addition to the Kingsbury offense.
Arizona has embraced the theory of a high play rate, but they’ve
actually run the ball more frequently than most expected. Their
recent investments at wide receiver do imply, however, that they
may be looking to lean at least a bit more on their passing game,
which would theoretically help Murray reach closer to his passing
Look for Murray to run the ball a bit less often in 2020, but
even a slight shift to a more pass-focused offense could do wonders
for the Cardinals’ offensive production, which would in
turn lead to more touchdowns overall, most of which are going
to involve Murray. He participated in 37 total touchdowns in 2020
and that number would’ve almost certainly been even better
if he was able to stay healthy throughout the season. He’s
one of the most reliable weekly options at the position given
his rushing floor and the sky is truly the limit for him as a
passer. If the Cardinals can improve as a team, Murray might not
only be in the running for fantasy football MVP, but also a potential
NFL MVP in 2021.
Chase Edmonds finished 2020 with a career high in rushing attempts
(97) and rushing yards (448), but the real story was that he smashed
career highs in the passing game with targets (67), receptions
(53), receiving yards (402) and receiving touchdowns (4). Most
Edmonds supporters have always suggested that he should be used
more often in the passing game, but we finally got to see it and
he certainly did not disappoint.
In addition to being a contributor in the Cardinals’ committee
backfield, Edmonds was impressive in the two games he actually
started, compiling 233 total yards with 10 receptions. It was
still an overall lackluster fantasy season for Edmonds, however,
as he was stuck behind Kenyan Drake, especially in the red zone
where he finished with just one goal line carry. Drake, meanwhile,
finished with the second-most goal line carries in the entire
The offseason moves did seem to initially go in Edmonds’
favor as the Cardinals moved on from Drake, who they had originally
traded for midway through the 2019 season. This seemed to imply
that Arizona would be looking for Edmonds to be the new workhorse
back. However, the acquisition of former Steelers starter James
Conner really threw a wrench into that equation.
Furthering the concerns about Edmonds is the reality that the
Cardinals did make significant investments into their passing
game. They finished sixth in the NFL in team run plays per game,
but will almost certainly look to pass more often this season.
On the bright side, Arizona did also make moves along their offensive
line, including adding former Jets guard Brian Winters, who started
all 16 games for the Bills in 2020. They also signed Rodney Hudson,
who’s spent the last six years anchoring one of the league’s
most under-the-radar high-end offensive lines for the Raiders.
Edmonds’ ceiling is likely around 210 to 220 total touches,
but a more realistic number is probably closer to 170 to 190 touches,
which equates to around 10 touches per game. That’s enough
to be a viable RB3/Flex option in PPR formats, but it’s
probably not enough that we should be confident in him delivering
more than that without injuries to Conner and perhaps other backs
on the roster.
The 2018 season, which saw former Steelers running back James
Conner finish as a top-half RB1, seems like a distant memory at
this point as Pittsburgh moved on from the veteran this offseason,
opting instead to select Najeh Harris in the first round of this
year’s NFL Draft. Injury and COVID-19 problems have caused
Conner to miss 12 games over the past three seasons since becoming
the starter in Pittsburgh and he’s been banged up enough
that he was held to single digit touches in a number of contests
aside from the full games he missed. Conner is coming off of a
season-ending toe injury which he had surgically repaired this
offseason. While the Cardinals do expect him to be fully healthy
to start the season, there’s no question that they’re
taking a chance on a player who seems to be damaged goods at this
He looks like a value on paper and may end up delivering decent
fantasy numbers given his cost, but July ADPs have Conner being
selected only about a round later than Edmonds. Conner enthusiasts
will point to Arizona signing him as a clear sign that the team
isn’t fully behind Edmonds, but there’s also a very
good chance that they’re simply looking to add some veteran
depth to the running back room. Conner signed a miniscule one-year,
$1.75 million deal so there’s no serious investment here.
If they believed Conner was going to step in and take over the
Kenyan Drake role from 2020 then it would seem logical that they’d
also want to sign their new starting running back to more of a
Conner isn’t likely to end up being the “starter”
in Arizona as long as Edmonds is healthy, but the upside is that
he could at least take over Drake’s role as the goal line
back. It’s hard to know whether the Cardinals just had supreme
confidence in Drake’s ability to score at the goal line
or if they actually had concerns about Edmonds’ lack of
ability to get into the end zone. Either way, it’s something
to keep an eye on and it could end up leading to a nightmare-ish
backfield committee situation where neither player is particularly
useful on a week-to-week basis.
Another season, another top-12 WR performance from DeAndre Hopkins
in 2020. The former Texan shut up naysayers when he joined Buffalo’s
Stephon Diggs in smashing the age-old “receivers don’t
produce on new teams” argument. Hopkins completely shattered
all expectations by finishing second in the league with 160 targets,
which he converted for a career high-tying 115 receptions, 1,407
receiving yards and six touchdowns.
Hopkins is about as reliable as it gets at the wide receiver
position and there’s really no reason to be concerned about
him heading into the 2021 season. He was targeted at least seven
times in all but one game in 2020 and he saw double-digit targets
in nine different games. While the Cardinals did bolster their
wide receiver group, history has shown us that truly elite wide
receivers like Hopkins tend to maintain their target shares even
when their team adds more complementary weapons.
The fact that Hopkins only finished as the standard-scoring fantasy
WR9 in 2020 is something that does bring worry to some fantasy
owners, but it’s worth considering that he did that while
scoring just six touchdowns on 115 catches. There’s some
positive regression coming for Hopkins if he’s able to see
that many passes come his way again this season, so look for that
total to be closer to 10 touchdowns.
The Cardinals also look like a good bet to increase their pass-to-run
ratio which should only further fantasy owners’ confidence
in Hopkins, who looks like every bit of an elite fantasy option
once again this season. Young receivers like D.K. Metcalf, Justin
Jefferson, Calvin Ridley and A.J. Brown have been getting plenty
of hype this offseason, but none of them possess the high floor
and high upside combination that a player like Hopkins does. Don’t
sleep on him in your drafts just because you like the idea of
a shiny, new toy.
Arizona has been slowly adding to their wide receiver depth chart
over the past few seasons by selecting players like Andy
Isabella, Hakeem Butler, KeeSean
Johnson and Christian Kirk, but perhaps none of those players
have quite fit the Kliff Kinsgbury offense as well as 2021 second-round
pick Rondale Moore.
An athletic freak with sub-4.40 speed, Moore also possesses incredible
burst and agility. He was a monster producer as a freshman, but
suffered injuries in his next two seasons before declaring for
the NFL Draft. The knock on Moore is really just his size, along
with concerns about whether or not he can stay healthy. Moore
checks in at just 5’7” and at around 180 lbs, he lacks
the size to really have close comparisons to successful NFL players.
The Cardinals will likely need to scheme up some plays for him
to be successful, but that’s certainly not impossible. Moore’s
agility and speed make him a screen pass nightmare for defenses
and there’s reason to believe that he’ll be used occasionally
in the running game as he was at Purdue.
Still, we’ve rarely seen players like Moore even succeed
enough in college to be given a serious investment by an NFL team
and that’s what the Cardinals chose to do. That second-round
draft pick is a sign that they plan to use him early and often.
It’s unlikely that he’s going to be an immediate fantasy
producer, but he’s someone who has explosive upside. He’s
particularly suited for best ball formats where you can take his
big play days and not have to worry about the weeks when he duds.
Fourth-year wide receiver Christian Kirk should start the season
as the WR2 to DeAndre Hopkins’ WR1, but his window to perform
might be shrinking by the moment. Kirk has largely been a disappointment
throughout his career thus far and the Cardinals added both veteran
superstar A.J. Green and second-round rookie Rondale Moore, an
indication that they were not happy with what they were getting
out of their wide receiver group aside from Hopkins.
Kirk has yet to reach 70 receptions or even 750 receiving yards
in a season and he’s suffered multi-game injuries in every
season he’s been in the NFL. He does have a few multi-touchdown
performances, but he’s been mostly forgettable as a fantasy
asset thus far in his professional career.
The interesting thing about Kirk is while he’s been most
effective playing out of the slot, the Cardinals have almost exclusively
opted to keep him out wide, instead lining up Larry Fitzgerald
as a “big slot.” The team did, however, sign A.J.
Green this offseason, who also primarily plays outside. This could,
theoretically, push Kirk to the slot in three wide receiver sets,
which actually gives him more upside than many perceive at the
moment. Kirk’s fantasy value could hinge almost exclusively
on if Fitzgerald does indeed retire. If he does, Kirk could see
a gigantic spike in slot snaps. If not, he might be left trying
to fend off Green and Moore for playing time on the outside, which
would likely be a nail in the coffin for his fantasy value this
Kyler Murray has been gushing about A.J. Green throughout training
camp. That type of talk can oftentimes be dismissed, but it’s
Murray’s repeated statements about being impressed by Green
that should be drawing more attention than they are.
Green struggled with some truly terrible quarterback play once
Joe Burrow went down in 2020 and there’s no question that
his season as a whole was pretty forgettable. He did, however,
finish as one of the league leaders in air yards, which should
tell us that the Bengals were looking to get him the ball down
the field, even though many of those passes, were completely uncatchable.
It’s hard to conjure up a scenario in your mind in which
Green returns to his status as a former elite fantasy wide receiver,
but it may also be true that he’s being slept on a bit in
drafts right now. He’s another year removed from his injuries
in 2019 and he’s still a big, physical receiver who fits
a role that the Cardinals have been looking for as a legitimate
outside playmaker opposite DeAndre Hopkins.
Figuring out whether to start Green on a week-to-week basis will
likely be a nightmare, but don’t be surprised if he has
some explosive games, especially in the first half of the season
while he’s still healthy.