The 2020 Arizona Cardinals were a fun team to watch. Early in the season, the Cardinals seemed to be making a march toward the playoffs, even offering fantastic finishes like the “Hail Murray” that led them past the Buffalo Bills. But the Cardinals faded, finishing the season 8-8 and missing out on the playoffs.
As the team looks to make a run in the crowded NFC West in 2021, the Cardinals have added new weapons to the passing game meant to provide support to quarterback Kyler Murray and top receiver DeAndre Hopkins. And that’s before considering the team could elect to bring back future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald, currently a free agent.
But what should we expect from those new weapons? Let’s weigh the evidence.
A Winning Combination
In addition to being the duo that achieved the Hail Murray against the Bills, Murray and Hopkins are one of the top duos in the NFL. Murray, in his second season, threw for 3,971 yards and 26 TDs, adding more than 800 yards rushing to finish as QB2 on the season. Hopkins was the primary beneficiary, seeing 160 targets. He caught 115 of those for 1,407 yards and six TDs. That was good enough to finish as WR4.
Hopkins has been a top target in the NFL for years. Prior to being acquired by the Cardinals prior to the 2020 season, he was the No. 1 receiver for Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans. In seven seasons with the Texans Hopkins saw at least 91 targets a year, seeing more than 100 targets in six of his seven seasons. His final five seasons with Houston, Hopkins saw at least 150 targets.
He carried that over in his first year with Murray despite the lack of a traditional off-season or a pre-season. He figures to continue to be the top target and to continue to be one of the best receivers in the NFL. That could only improve with the new weapons around him.
The Rest of the Receiving Options
While the Cardinals don’t have much at tight end, the team does return Christian Kirk while adding veteran A.J. Green and rookie Rondale Moore to the passing game. That trio gives the Cardinals a better set of weapons alongside Hopkins. That starts with Kirk, who has been seemingly on the cusp of breaking out for a few seasons.
Kirk was taken in the Second Round of the 2018 draft. In his second season, in 2019, Kirk saw 108 targets and appeared to be coming on. Last year, Kirk struggled to stay on the field and saw his production slip. He played in 14 games, starting 10, and saw 79 targets. He turned that into 48 receptions for 621 yards but a career-high six touchdowns. He finished as WR51. With Fitzgerald not on the roster, it’s possible Kirk slides to the slot and his production takes a tick up in year four.
The team also added another weapon in the long-time Cincinnati Bengal Green. Green spent 10 seasons with the Bengals and, for many of those seasons, was one of the top targets in the NFL. He suffered an injury-marred 2018 season and missed the 2019 season completely. Last season he returned on the Franchise Tag and saw 104 targets, but he was only able to haul in 47 receptions for 523 yards and two TDs. That left him as WR68, and this off-season the Bengals elected to move on.
Green lands in Arizona and figures to lineup on the outside opposite Hopkins. The question is whether it was just a lost season adjusting to rookie Joe Burrow and facing increased competition from Tyler Boyd and Tee Higgins, or whether Green is fading. With 649 career receptions for 9,430 yards and 65 touchdowns, Green brings a wealth of experience to the position.
Finally, the Cardinals spent a top draft pick, No. 49 overall in the Second Round, on Moore out of Purdue. In three seasons Moore recorded 178 receptions for 1,915 yards and 14 TDs. His best season came in 2018, when he caught 114 passes for 1,258 yards and 12 TDs. He is a shifty weapon that gives a new dimension to the pass offense.
So, where’s the value in Arizona? Hopkins is a Top 5 receiver and he’s being drafted like it, sitting with an ADP of WR4. Meanwhile, Kirk has an ADP of WR71, Green has an ADP of WR67 and Moore has an ADP of WR74. That speaks to the idea that outside of Hopkins, no one has any idea of what to expect.
I like Moore where I’ve gotten him in the middle of the Second Round of rookie drafts. I get the appeal of Green, too, but I tend to think last year’s production was a sign of where he is in his career rather than merely a function of the offense. His ADP of WR67 seems apt, as I suspect he will record a 2021 similar to his 2020 finish.
The value, for me, is Kirk. In 2019, seeing 108 targets, Kirk caught 68 passes and finished as WR38. While Hopkins is the No. 1 option, I think Kirk, especially in the slot, could be a strong No. 2 option. If he can get 90-100 targets, a modest increase over his 2020 production, he could finish as a WR4, returning great value on where he currently sits. He’s the receiver I suspect will have the best finish outside of Hopkins for the Cardinals in 2021.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL Fan and Broncos’ homer. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton network.