The Arizona Cardinals had a good 2021 season despite the team collapsing towards the end of the season. They finished 11-6 and made the playoffs for the first time since 2015. While their playoff loss was embarrassing, the team still had positive momentum entering the off-season. Coach Kliff Kingsbury got an extension based on his work with the offense and leading the Cards to the playoffs. He is rightly mocked for many bad calls as a head coach, but one can’t deny that he’s good at calling an offense most of the time. The Cardinals finished tenth in the NFL in passing yards (4,276), 12th in passing touchdowns (27), eighth in first downs (367), 25th in interceptions (11), and ninth in passing first downs (214). The team was effective on the ground too.
The team was tenth in rushing yards (2,076), seventh in rushing attempts, tied for third in rushing touchdowns (24), and tenth in first downs (127). The Cardinals QBR was eighth with 100.6. The Cardinals allowed 39 sacks. They passed the ball at a rate of 56% last year; this led to 591 passing attempts. The wide receivers saw the dominant share at 60.7%, while the tight ends saw 18.3% of the targets. The team rushed the ball 496 times.
Over Kliff’s three years coaching the Cardinals, he’s favored an Air-Raid offense, though he has rushed a lot. On average, he ran the ball 42.6% of the time. This means he passed at a rate of 57.4% of the time. That’s not bad. With Kyler Murray at quarterback, it makes sense that they would rush more. He’s one of the better rushing quarterbacks in the history of the NFL. Perhaps Kingsbury is pretty good at offense, considering last year’s results while missing multiple key players. I expect the Cardinals to rush 40.8% this year while passing at a 59.2% rate.
Kyler Murray and Co.
The Arizona Cardinals have three main quarterbacks on their roster – Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, and Trace McSorley. If McSorley has his name heard often, the Cardinals season has gone seriously haywire. McCoy proved he was one of the best backups in the NFL last year when he led the Cardinals to two wins in his three starts. The older veteran is great to have in case of a Murray injury.
The main star, though, is Murray. He got his mega extension this off-season with a five-year $230.1 million deal, a record for the Cardinals. However, with that big deal comes big expectations, such as Murray staying healthy for an entire season and not trailing off in his play at the end of the season. The 25-year-old quarterback is undoubtedly a star when healthy. He’s an accurate passer, with last year’s 69.2% completion rate proving that. He had 24 touchdowns and ten interceptions with 3,787 yards. The two-time Pro Bowler added 423 rushing yards and five touchdowns. A solid season that landed him #10 in the quarterback finishes with a 22.18 ppg average.
In 2022, Murray will be pressed to set career highs in nearly every statistic. The Cardinals got him his best friend in Marquise Brown. The team drafted another strong tight end with Trey McBride. They re-signed Zach Ertz, James Conner, and DeAndre Hopkins will be back after missing six games to start the season. In this sense, I fully expect Murray to reach new heights. He’s shown that he’s taking more of a leadership role this year, calling plays for the offense in the preseason. That’s one thing I’m extremely pumped about because it shows his mastery of the offense. Murray knows the offense extremely well and understands how to call plays. I’ve been waiting for this progression or the next step in his development.
Ultimately, in a tough division and schedule, Murray will be forced to throw a ton to keep the Cardinals winning. My projections for him this season are 585 pass attempts, 394 completions, 4,673 yards, 30 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 30 sacks, 99 rush attempts, 528 rushing yards, and six touchdowns over 16 games. His per-game average in six-point touchdown scoring is 25.7 PPG, good for fifth overall among quarterbacks.
Conner was a comeback player last year when he led many dynasty teams to the championship. Conner wasn’t expected to do what he did on a cheap one-year deal with Arizona. His going to the Arizona Cardinals was the best thing to happen to him in his career. He revived his career in the desert. Conner turned back the notion he was destined to be a backup. He played in the most games of his career last year with 15 and made his second career Pro Bowl. He finished as the No.5 running back in PPR leagues and averaged 17.2 ppg.
Conner was elite last year at scoring touchdowns. He scored 18 total, 15 through the ground and three through the air. The running back carried the ball 202 times en route to 752 yards. This was good for a lackluster 3.7 yards per carry. That was partially due to a timeshare at running back with Chase Edmonds. Conner proved he was a great pass-catching back. He caught 37 of his 39 targets for 375 yards. That’s a career-high 10.7 yards per catch. Conner broke 19 tackles and was a wrecking ball in the red zone. After re-signing with the Cardinals, Conner’s set-up to be an elite running back option for the next few years.
As long as the Cardinals continue to use the same offensive system, the 27-year-old running back with limited rushes in his history will continue to be an effective fantasy asset for contending teams. He’s not good for rebuilders. My projections for Conner this year are 220 rushes, 918 yards (4.17 ypc), 13 rushing touchdowns, 44 targets, 36 receptions, two touchdowns, and two fumbles over 16 games. That’s good for an RB14 finish with 15.5 ppg in PPR.
The backups for the Cardinals are hard to figure out. Darrel Williams was a good running back last year with the Chiefs. He finished as the RB20 in PPR with 11.5 ppg. Strong numbers for a supposed backup running back. He had 558 yards on the ground with 47 receptions for 452 yards on 57 targets and eight total touchdowns. Williams is supposed to play in the Chase Edmonds role, making him fantasy noteworthy. However, there are rumors he might get cut.
This is due to how excellent Eno Benjamin, Keaontay Ingram, and Jonathan Ward have played in the preseason. Benjamin has impressed coaches. Ingram was drafted in 2022. Ward is a strong kick returner which adds to his value. Regardless, the only fantasy noteworthy player is the immediate backup to Conner. That player will get a lot of work, especially in the passing game. It looks like it will be Benjamin, but tough to say. If Conner gets hurt, the handcuff is a high-end RB2. They are great for a contender in dynasty if you know who it will be. I’d grab Eno and Ingram off waivers right now. Regardless, my projections for James Conner’s backup are 100 rushes, 421 yards, five total touchdowns, and 40 receptions on 50 targets for 360 yards over 17 games.
People seem ready to write Hopkins off like he is some awful player. So soon have they forgotten how dominant Nuk is. Yes, he’s entering his age-30 season coming off an injury-plagued 2021. He played in ten games and saw decreased targets. Hopkins still averaged a strong 14.7 ppg in PPR. He had 42 catches on 64 targets for 572 yards and eight touchdowns. Hopkins is still an elite wide receiver who can be had for a discount right now. He has multiple prime years left with a great quarterback like Kyler Murray. Hopkins is out for six games due to a suspect positive PED test.
Due to that, Hopkins’ value has dived because he won’t be there to help a dynasty team supposedly. Instead, he’ll be healthy and ready to play after practicing for six weeks. You can tell he has anger about him to prove everyone wrong. Even though he only will play in 11 games, every contender should want him. Hopkins will be a strong WR1 for the Arizona Cardinals and dominate the targets again. My projections for him are 75 targets, 54 receptions, six touchdowns, 695 yards, and a 14.5 PPR ppg average. That’s good enough for WR23 in ppg. Buy Hopkins if you want to win this year. He will be a great late-season player for your squad.
Marquise “Hollywood” Brown
The Arizona Cardinals traded a first-round pick to get Murray’s college wide receiver and best friend on the team. A lot of people think he won’t do well. I laugh. Murray’s a great deep passer, and Brown will open up this offense. Brown’s ability to run deep will finally take this offense to where it needs to be. Brown’s 25 and playing for a contract. A former first-round pick, Brown set career numbers last year with 91 receptions on 146 targets for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged only 11.1 ypc, which will be higher this year.
Brown was the No.22 wide receiver with 14.1 ppg, and I think that should be his landing spot this year. He will get a ton of good targets, especially in the first six weeks of the season. Don’t be surprised if Hollywood breaks out even more in 2022. Playing for a contract with your best friend who knows exactly how you play might be the best thing for him—especially in a pass-happy offense compared to the Ravens. Ultimately, I see Brown being a WR2 or high-end WR3 with a 13.5 PPR ppg. That’s WR25 in my projections. He will get 112 targets, 72 receptions, 1,101 yards, and eight touchdowns over 17 games. Brown could get some carries too.
Moore is a former second-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals who impressed in his limited play last year. Moore wasn’t used the best way, with Christian Kirk manning the slot often. This meant many odd plays for him, which limited his depth of the target to be right near the line of scrimmage. The Arizona Cardinals want him to play in the Christian Kirk role, which means a ton of slot usage. This is where the smaller wide receiver excels. Last year, Moore had 64 targets and caught 54 of them for 435 yards and a touchdown. He added 76 rushing yards on 18 rushes.
Moore averaged 7.8 PPR ppg last year. Expect that number to rise this year with increased usage. Plus, a deeper target makes for more fantasy points. He will be used in the rushing game again. This is due to his speed and skill. Hence, I expect Moore to rush the ball 11 times for 76 yards and a touchdown. I also project 64 catches on 78 targets for 669 yards and three touchdowns over 16 games. This equates to a 10.0 PPR ppg average. If Brown, Hopkins, or Ertz miss any extra time, Moore will get plenty more targets.
AJ Green and Company
Green is back with the Cardinals for his second season with the team after re-signing in the off-season. Green did fine in his first year in the desert despite some crucial misplays at key moments. Talking about that Packers game Green, why didn’t you turn around?! Anyways, the long-time great wide receiver has started to slow down in his mid-30s. He still had 54 receptions on 92 targets for 848 yards and three touchdowns in 16 games. Yes, Green didn’t do great but had a career-high 15.7 yards per catch. That’s shocking, I know. Green was a WR4 last year, averaging 9.8 PPR ppg.
This year, don’t expect Green to repeat 2021. This is because he’s the WR3 to start the season, and once Hopkins is back, he will be the WR4. Green will do well the first six weeks of the season, but it gets murky finding him targets after that frame. Green will be more of a fantasy nuisance and doesn’t belong on dynasty rosters except for elite contenders. The 34-year-old is projected for 61 targets, 38 receptions, 595 yards, and two touchdowns over 16 games with a 6.8 PPR ppg.
As for the other wide receivers? Antoine Wesley is a name to remember for dynasty should any starters get hurt. He did well last year in limited action. Greg Dortch is a deep name to know who has a shot of breaking out if he makes the team. Big if though.
Zach ErtzLast year,
Ertz experienced a career revival after being traded to the Cardinals mid-season. The long-time elite tight end proved he had plenty left in the tank with Arizona. In 11 games with the team, he had 81 targets, 56 receptions, 574 yards, and three touchdowns, and he finished as the TE5 overall. For more on how great he will do this year and last year, read an in-depth article on him.
Ultimately, Ertz will feast again this year as he has Murray’s trust. Ertz is one of the best tight ends, even in his early 30s. After he re-signed on a three-year deal, his dynasty value was secured. Ertz will continue to be a TE1 for the next several years. With Hopkins out, Ertz gets much more valuable due to his increased target share. Expect Ertz to be a top tight end once again. My projections for Ertz are 111 targets, 78 receptions, 817 yards, and seven touchdowns over 17 games. This is an 11.9 PPR ppg average. This would be good enough for a TE7 finish. Buy him for a second-round pick now.
The Arizona Cardinals drafted McBride in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. He was my TE1 in the draft. He has elite potential as a tight end. McBride will learn from one of the greats in Ertz as Dallas Goedert did. Ultimately, that’s how this will play out. Ertz finally got free of Goedert to get a clone of Goedert. McBride is a strong receiver and blocker. He plays very similar to Ertz and Goedert. It’s like someone keeps making a clone of Ertz.
McBride is a strong dynasty tight end due to his draft status, the offense he’s on, and who’s he learning behind. He won’t do much this year, but in year two or three, expect a huge breakout akin to Goedert. McBride is worth a second-round pick for rebuilding dynasty teams. He’s an ideal dynasty-rebuilding tight end to build with. Unless Ertz is hurt, McBride will not play much. My projections for McBride this year are 36 targets, 24 receptions, 260 yards, and two touchdowns over 17 games for a 3.6 PPR average. Those are solid numbers for a first-year tight end.
The Arizona Cardinals will be an elite offensive team filled with dynasty impact players this year. Expect big numbers from Murray, Conner, Ertz, and Brown. Yes, the Cardinals are risky. Yet that risk is built into their dynasty price. They are a win-now team, just like they are for dynasty owners. If you want to win right now, you could do far worse than acquiring a big-name player from the Cardinals. Long term, buy guys like Moore or McBride. They will increase in value. Overall, this team will be a threat in the NFC West. It will be a dogfight to the finish line. The Cardinals have the explosive playmakers that can put them over the top if Murray is healthy and performs.
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As always, May the Force be with You…