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Nuklear Fallout

The release of DeAndre Hopkins set off an explosion in the Cardinals offense. @ReflipeWThenuz sifts through the fallout to find both short and long term value for your dynasty squads.

The NFL world was shocked ahead of the Memorial Day Weekend with the news that the Arizona Cardinals had released their star receiver, DeAndre Hopkins. We don’t know where Nuk will land, but his departure leaves behind an interesting situation in the desert. For this article, I would like to examine the playmakers left behind on the Arizona depth chart and how Hopkins’ departure affects their dynasty outlook now and moving forward. Without further ado, let us dive into the Cardinal’s skill group.

RB: (James Conner, Keaontay Ingram)

Yes, I know the Cardinals have more running backs than the two players listed above. However, these are the two players most directly affected by the departure of DeAndre Hopkins. I believe James Conner will be the unquestioned starter and lead back of the Cardinals. Of the other players on the roster, Keaontay Ingram is the only back with a chance at a future with the franchise.

He’ll be back

The departure of Hopkins will create a cavernous void in targets. Last season James Conner received 58 targets which he turned into a 46/300/1 stat line. With the Cardinals expected to be one of the worst teams in the league this season, you can likely expect a bump in targets for their veteran leader. Conner is in the last season of his guaranteed money and is most likely not in the organization’s future plans. I expect him to eat some touches this year in an effort to preserve their other players in meaningless garbage time scenarios. As you can see below, Conner is an excellent pass blocker and an adept pass catcher. He should pick up some of the slack.

Keaontay Ingram is likely set up to function as the #2 in the Arizona backfield. The former 4-star recruit from Carthage High School in Texas was once considered a high-end prospect. He was runner-up for Mr. High School football in the State of Texas. After a college career that spanned two schools in Texas and USC, Ingram was selected in the 6th round of the 2022 NFL draft by the Cardinals. He is a big back with nimble feet and soft hands. While the Cardinals will likely draft another running back next season, Ingram is the only legitimate long-term candidate currently on the roster. He has three seasons in college with over 20 catches, and the team could give him an extended look late in the year to judge his future viability. 

WR: (Marquise Brown, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Michael Wilson)

As with the running back position, there are certainly more receivers on the Cardinals roster than those I have chosen to highlight. These four will be the biggest beneficiaries of Hopkins’s release.

Marquise Brown will be the unquestioned biggest winner of Nuk’s departure. In 2022, while Hopkins served his six-game suspension, Marquise Brown averaged well over ten targets a game. He was functioning as both a fantasy and NFL #1. Then, in Week 6, he suffered a nasty-looking ankle injury which you can see below.

When he returned from a six-week absence, Hopkins had also returned from his suspension. From Week 12 forward, Marquise Brown did not have a single game with double-digit targets. With Hopkins now gone, provided Kyler Murray remains with the Cardinals, Brown should see a significant bump in targets. Couple this with a negative game script where the Cardinals will be playing from behind, and you have the makings of a garbage time king. Murray and Brown will rekindle the college relationship that saw them both emerge as first round picks and take the NFL by storm. That bromance was on display again early in 2022, and I expect it to rekindle in 2023.

Help me Rondale, help, help me Rondale

Rondale Moore is the next most likely receiver to benefit from Hopkins being cut. The former Purdue Boilermaker was among the most dynamic freshman receivers we have ever seen in College football. In case you forgot, give his highlight reel a quick look.

In the six games last season that Moore received double-digit looks, he put up a ppr average of over 13.6 points per game. That number would put him in the range of players like Christian Kirk, DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, and Chris Olave. All four of those players are going significantly higher in drafts. Prior to going down last season with a groin injury Moore enjoyed his best success operating as the #2 in the Cardinals passing game. This is a role he will reprise in 2023 and is likely moving forward.

While most dynasty players will likely chase Marquise Brown, I believe Rondale Moore is the better buy. He should still come at a discount, and he has the most certain future with the franchise. Despite trading a first-round pick for Marquise Brown ahead of last season, the Cardinals have not given Marquise an extension. Moore is dynamic, young, and bristling with playmaking ability. His biggest uncertainty is the creativity of his new offensive coordinator, Drew Petzing, who came to the Cardinals via Cleveland. Either way, what offensive play-caller wouldn’t love drawing up plays for receivers with skills like those on display below?

Looking at an opportunity

As I mentioned above, Greg Dortch and Michael Wilson are the most likely of the remaining receivers to benefit from Hopkins’s departure. Dortch has displayed some nice playmaking ability in the past with the Cardinals. His biggest issue is that he is somewhat of a Rondale Moore clone. Both players stand at a diminutive 5’7″. I believe he will begin the season with the inside track on the #3 spot in the receiving corps.

Given how things have played out, Michael Wilson is a very interesting prospect. The rookie out of Stanford was a third-round pick in this year’s draft. He is the only player on this list selected by the current coaching staff. At 6’2″, 209 lbs. Wilson is also a much different body type than his vertically challenged teammates. It is quite possible that the new coaching staff is looking for a different type of player to fit into their scheme. He makes for an excellent buy if you can get him for the right price. You can check out his college highlights below.

TE: (Zach Ertz, Trey McBride)

Zach Ertz is another potential veteran winner of the Hopkins release. The veteran tight end was back to his TE1 ways last season before exiting with a knee injury. Before going down in Week 9, Ertz was the #3 overall tight end sandwiched between Mark Andrews and Dallas Goedert. He averaged over 15 points per game in tight end premium leagues. That is a healthy total. Ertz’s 2023 contract is fully guaranteed, and he will be playing for his career with little guarantee’s left in his deal. If he can get back to making plays like the ones you see below, he offers top 5 upside at his position, especially with the additional looks he is likely to receive.  

Year 2 breakout coming?

Trey McBride is in a very similar situation to his teammate Rondale Moore. He is a former highly touted college prospect who was the first tight end taken in the second round of the 2022 NFL draft. McBride was also the 2021 Mackey Award Winner as the top tight end in College Football. The only problem for him is that he is stuck behind Ertz. He is an above-average athlete with good hands and an excellent draft pedigree.

The tight end position usually takes some time to develop, which will be assuredly due to the presence of Zach Ertz. However, long term, McBride is an excellent dynasty buy. He is learning from one of the best tight ends of the past decade and will likely fill Ertz’s shoes beginning next year or the one after at the latest. With all the hype surrounding the current tight end crop, now is a good time to check out the cost of last year’s top draft pick. I have seen him go for as little as a third-round pick in the Dynasty Nerds Trade Browser. Why not make that type of investment in a player with these types of skills?

Final Thoughts:

The Arizona Cardinals are a team in transition. With the hiring of new Head Coach Jonathan Gannon and his offensive coordinator, Drew Petzing, the writing was on the wall for a reset of the roster. Couple that with the late-season injury to Kyler Murray, and you had a situation that all but dictated the franchise part ways with DeAndre Hopkins.

Some analysts have suggested that if the Cardinals end up with the #1 pick in the upcoming draft, they may even part ways with franchise quarterback Kyler Murray. As one of the likely worst teams in the upcoming season, there will be some ugly games ahead. That doesn’t mean there isn’t dynasty talent to be mined from this roster. Garbage time points count the same as prime time points. The 2023 Cardinals offer an interesting mix of veterans and youngsters that can help your team in the short and long term. The release of Nuk lit the fuse on the retooling efforts. It is up to us to sift through the fallout and find value where we can.

Thank you for reading this article! Please be sure to join the #Nerdherd, so you don’t miss out on any of the amazing things we have to offer Use my promo code DynastyHolliday for a 15% off discount. You will get rankings, extra podcasts, and access to our rookie film room. For just a couple of bucks more, you can get access to our revolutionary DynastyGM tool. So much for so little, why miss out on all the fun? Also, you absolutely must check out our new mock draft tool. Find it in your Apple & Android app stores. Follow me @ReflipeWThenuz for more dynasty content and other musings.

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