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IDP Fantasy Forecast: 2021 Arizona Cardinals

Will J.J. Watt push the Arizona Defense over the top in 2021? Will Budda Baker get the national recognition that he deserves?

The Arizona Cardinals play in arguably one of the toughest divisions in the NFL. They have to play two games versus the Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, and the San Francisco 49ers. Head Coach Kiff Kingsbury has entrusted the running of his defense to Vance Joseph. In 2019, they were one of the worst defensive units in the NFL, but they drastically improved in 2020. In order to continue to spur the effort in improvement forward, they brought in J.J. Watt to play defensive end after his release from Houston. What he has left to provide for them on the field in 2021 remains to be seen. They also used their first-round pick in 2021 on linebacker Zaven Collins, who has apparently prompted the team to allow Jordan Hicks to seek a trade.

The Arizona Cardinals defense will face some stiff opponents in 2021, so that will provide ample opportunity for some of their players on defense to generate some serious IDP numbers. Budda Baker, whom we’ll talk about later is a set it and forget it starter. But you will need to consider matchups when employing some of the other players from the defense.

Linebackers

Isaiah Simmons, Inside Linebacker

Photo Credit: Azcentral.com

Simmons will be a 16 game starter in 2021 for the Cardinals. Hicks will likely be a reserve for the team should he remain on the roster for this upcoming season. I watched Simmons on film in 2020 and you could see him guessing at times, and not quite using his raw athleticism. In his second year, and first as an NFL starter, the team will be counting on him for some impact plays up the middle. I also would like to see him attacking the line of scrimmage more, and initiating contact. You should not see any defender, let alone a linebacker absorbing blows. They should be delivering them.

Unless Simmons comes out playing lights out, you can leave him on the waiver wire in IDP leagues. He is currently being drafted as the LB45 with an ADP of 124.1. That ADP is a little too rich for my blood, especially when we are talking about a player who will be in his second season. If he was available for trade, I would maybe part with a fourth-round rookie pick.

GGSIntPDFFFRSKTotal TacklesSoloAsstTFLQB HitsFantasy PtsFPPG
171711002753936471508.82
Isaiah Simmons 2021 Stats and Fantasy Points Projection

Zaven Collins, Inside Linebacker (R)

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated

The Arizona Cardinals took Collins with the sixteenth overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. He is a big, physical linebacker who does not get lost in coverage. I would like to see him come downhill and fill when it’s a clear running down. Two inexperienced linebackers in the middle of the defense will be problematic at times.

As far as IDP considerations go, temper your expectations for the rookie from Tulsa in year one. He is currently being drafted as the LB51 with an ADP of 196.4. I would not trade any draft capital for him, as I tend to shy away from rookie linebackers.

GGSIntPDFFFRSKTotal TacklesSoloAsstTFLQB HitsFantasy PtsFPPG
171701001754728431428.35
Zaven Collins 2021 Stats and Fantasy Points Projection

Chandler Jones, Outside Linebacker

Photo Credit: Boston Globe

Jones provides the pass rush juice for the Arizona Cardinals defense. There is no one of note on the other side of the defense, so up to 2021, it’s all been on him. Since he was injured last season and only participated in five games, I watched his tape from 2017-2019. He has an absolutely violent punch, which he uses to jar the back-peddling tackle off balance. Then he will at times follow that up with a swim move to get by the tackle for the sack. Watt should take some of the pass rush pressure off him in 2021, but he is still the player at the linebacker spot the opposing team needs to identify.

As far as in an IDP league, traditionally you should not be starting a 3-4 OLB at your LB spot. As they traditionally don’t get a lot of tackles, and sacks can be feast or famine from week to week. Even the best OLB may throw up a goose egg or two through the fantasy season. I would consider trading a late third-round rookie pick to acquire him. He is being drafted in the range of LB/DL 1-LB/DL12 with an ADP of 223.

GGSIntPDFFFRSKTotal TacklesSoloAsstTFLQB HitsFantasy PtsFPPG
1717033011483315121919511.47
Chandler Jones 2021 Stats and Fantasy Points Projections

Defensive Lineman

J.J. Watt, Defensive End

Photo Credit: Nytimes.com

I put Watt through a three-season film study, and I fully expected to see an aging player just barely hanging on. Is he the force he was in his heyday? No, he is not, but he still has a pretty devastating swim move to get past the guard/tackle. When the Texans played the Ravens, Lamar faked a pitch to Mark Ingram, Watt stayed home, didn’t break contain, and brought down Jackson for a loss. Later in the same game, Watt went up against former Baltimore Raven Orlando Brown Jr., who is regarded as one of the better left tackles in the NFL. Watt chopped his hands down then tossed him to the side and blew by him for a sack. Watt can still be an effective defensive end for the Cardinals, but he will not be among the NFL sack leaders anymore. He still has some pass rush juice left in those legs, and he still is really good against the run.

Watt will likely not produce regularly enough in this defense to be a key contributor in your IDP lineup. He should prove to be a valuable bye-week fill-in, and if needed a brief injury replacement should you lose someone after waivers run. I would maybe part with a late fourth-round rookie pick to get him. He is currently being drafted as the DL29 with an ADP of 212.3.

GGSIntPDFFFRSKTotal TacklesSoloAsstTFLQB HitsFantasy PointsFPPG
171704104563224381378.05
J.J. Watt 2021 Stats and Fantasy Points Projection

Defensive Backs

Budda Baker, Safety

Photo Credit: (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

When Baker is coming down from his safety position to fill a gap, he is coming in looking to clobber someone, anyone, in his way. I have seen some safety ratings that do not have him listed very high, and I am wondering if they would like to borrow my glasses? He plays a lot bigger than his listed size, and he plays with a certain nastiness that you just love to see.

In a week seven matchup from last season against the Seahawks, Russell Wilson tried to float a pass over Baker to Chris Carson in the flat. Russell misjudged the coverage, and Baker made him pay dearly with a ninety-yard pick-six. Baker is simply a playmaker, it’s who he is for the Cardinals.

In an IDP league, he going to be difficult to acquire. I would grade him as high as a late second-round rookie pick. Currently, he is being drafted as the DB15 with an ADP of 98.7.

GGSIntPDFFFRSKTotal TacklesSoloAsstTFLQB HitsFantasy PtsFPPG
171713010.5125903542232.513.67
Budda Baker 2021 Stats and Fantasy Points Projection

Conclusion

The Arizona Cardinals will at times struggle a bit on defense in 2021, their secondary as a whole is not much to write home about. And they are not getting the defensive player of the year version of J.J. Watt either. But this could be a middle-of-the-road unit, with some good individual IDP games to be found along the way.

You can engage with me on Twitter @ DoomzoneFF. Make sure you subscribe to the #NerdHerd, where you get exclusive content, dynasty/rookie/devy rankings, buy/sell tool, and a bonus podcast too. Dynasty Nerds also recently launched the #DynastyGM tool, which is a complete game-changer in the fantasy industry.ย Click hereย for a free trial. We truly are your one-stop-shop for all your fantasy football needs!

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