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2023 Player Outlooks: Arizona Cardinals

By HC Green | 6/13/23 |

QB Kyler Murray
(2022 QB Rank: No.14, 21.3 FPts/G)

A year ago, the question was how high to select Murray (knee) in fantasy drafts. This year, it’s whether to select him at all. While Murray was far from great last season, passing for 2,368 yards, rushing for 418, and accounting for 17 combined touchdowns (14 passing, 3 rushing), the issue is his recovery timeline from a torn ACL suffered on Dec. 12.

Details about his recovery have been sparse, and they’ll likely continue to be so until training camp begins when we’ll get regular access to the coaching staff. It’s been suggested that Murray could be back before midseason, but that seems overly optimistic, and it gives rise to the big question: would Arizona even bring Murray back if the team is hopelessly out of playoff contention?

Right now, Arizona is projected by oddsmakers to have the NFL’s worst record, which would get them a shot at USC’s Caleb Williams -- at that point they could draft him and move Murray or look to flip the pick for a boatload of capital like Chicago did. It’s hard to envision a scenario where the Cardinals push Murray to get back on the field quickly. If you can nab him late and stash him in an IR slot, or your QB1 is a reliable top-tier play, Murray could be worth it. Otherwise, it’s an unnecessary risk.

QB Colt McCoy
(2022 QB Rank: No.52, 11.7 FPts/G)

McCoy is expected to keep the position warm until Murray returns. While the date for that is unclear, it’s difficult to believe Arizona would start McCoy 17 times no matter what unfolds. If Murray has any setback, or the team elects to hold him out, they’d likely prefer to get a look at Clayton Tune or another young quarterback rather than rolling with a 37-year-old game manager. We all know what McCoy is, and that’s not enough for fantasy owners.

James Conner

RB James Conner
(2022 RB Rank: No.9, 15.6 FPts/G)

In many ways, Conner is reminiscent of the old Leroy Hoard quote, “if you need one yard, I’ll get you three, and if you need five yards, I’ll get you three.” The 233-pound back is a bruiser that does his best work in short-yardage and goal-line situations -- that includes 26 touchdowns in two seasons with the Cardinals. He’s not particularly explosive, however, and durability is an annual concern as he has never missed fewer than two games in six NFL campaigns.

On the plus side, Conner is underrated as a pass catcher, averaging 41.4 receptions over the last five years. That should be appealing to the risk-averse McCoy, whose primary job is to avoid killer mistakes. Despite his issues staying healthy, Arizona has invested little in depth at the position, which means Conner is likely staring down a heavy workload for as long as he can handle it. At this stage it’d be hard to advocate you should even consider selecting any of his backups, which include names like Keaontay Ingram, Corey Clement, and Ty’Son Williams.

With five-year averages of 1,066 combined yards and 10.4 touchdowns, Conner projects as a possible top-20 fantasy back, though there are sure to be weeks where you’ll need to cover for his absence.

WR Marquise Brown
(2022 WR Rank: No.30, 13.0 FPts/G)

When the Cardinals acquired Brown from Baltimore, he was supposed to join up with DeAndre Hopkins to form a lethal one-two punch for the Cardinals. Due to injuries and suspension, that duo played in four games together. Now, with Hopkins released, Brown will assume the mantle of WR1 that he wore with the Ravens. The undersized wideout has excellent speed and has been mostly durable, missing just three games over his first three seasons combined before bowing out for five weeks in 2022.

His production has been respectable, but not great, averaging 66 receptions, 768 yards, and 6 TDs since being drafted 25th overall back in 2019. There’s little doubt he’s capable of more, given he spent three years in Baltimore’s run-heavy attack before last year’s injury-shortened effort. Whether we’ll get to see that in 2023 is debatable, though, with McCoy in line to potentially start the majority of the games. That duo played just one full game together last year, and Brown managed a paltry 4-34-0 line.

With no firm return date on Murray, and no established option to take coverage off Brown, you should view the fifth-year pro as a midrange WR3 with modest upside.

WR Rondale Moore
(2022 WR Rank: No.42, 11.0 FPts/G)

In what is already a recurring theme, Moore missed a significant chunk of last season due to injury as he appeared in just eight games before a groin injury ended his season. He underwent surgery on both his groin and finger, and he should be fully healed for camp. When healthy, Moore was a volume target, catching six or more passes five times, though at 10.1 yards per catch it’s clear he was doing most of his work close to the line of scrimmage on quick hitters and receiver screens.

Moore’s outlook for 2023 definitely improved with the release of Hopkins as it was always a concern that he’d be phased out when both Brown and Hopkins were healthy -- something we never saw in 2022. Still, in his two seasons, Moore hasn’t been much more than a chain mover, averaging 8.9 yards on his 95 receptions, and he’s been a complete nonfactor in the red zone with two TDs. You can target him as a No. 5 fantasy wideout based on his expected high level of involvement.

WR Greg Dortch
(2022 WR Rank: No.48, 10.5 FPts/G)

Arizona’s usage of Dortch last season remains a complete mystery as seemingly every time he was given an opportunity, he delivered... only to be put right back on the shelf when the team’s other wideouts returned to health. To that end, Dortch had five games of 50-plus yards receiving, but in the other 12 he had a combined 68 yards.

Now that Hopkins and A.J. Green are gone, Dortch looks like he has a good chance of being the club’s No. 3 receiver (unless third-rounder Michael Wilson has a great camp). We’ll see if the new coaching staff has a better plan for Dortch than the last one. He’s not worth drafting with so much uncertainty on the offense, but he’s someone that belongs on your watch list.

TE Zach Ertz
(2022 TE Rank: No.6, 11.2 FPts/G)

Ertz caught 47 passes for 406 yards and 4 TDs in 10 games last season before, you guessed it, suffering a season-ending injury. In his case, it was an ACL/MCL injury that required surgery. The veteran says he hopes to be ready for Week 1, though at age 32 and with 10 seasons on his odometer that may not be realistic since he sustained the injury in mid-November.

Even if he is healthy, Ertz is likely staring down a diminished role with Trey McBride coming off a promising rookie season. At a shaky position like tight end, though, that’s still enough to give the veteran borderline top-20 value. He also figures to be a possible in-season trade target for an Arizona team that’s expected to be among the league’s worst.

TE Trey McBride
(2022 TE Rank: No.27, 6.8 FPts/G)

A second-round pick last year, McBride collected 20 receptions, 219 yards, and a touchdown over the final five weeks to give the Cardinals hope that they’ve found a long-term solution at tight end. He may be hard pressed to usurp the starting job from Ertz right away, but don’t discount the above scenario where the veteran is moved at the trade deadline. While you’d have to be in a very deep league to consider McBride on draft day, he could be a priority in-season pickup, so stick him on your watch list and be prepared to scoop him up if circumstances dictate.

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