Fantasy Football Target Practice: The 2021 Arizona Cardinals
Football season is almost upon us, and it is time to jump into our Target Practice series. To recap, each installment will focus on one NFL team, discussing targets lost from last season as well as ceiling and floors for the remaining targets. Let’s jump right in with Andy, Mike, and Jason’s favorite squad: the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals have 156 targets vacated from the 2020 season, the 11th most in the league. In my opinion, the most significant loss in targets (and heart) is Larry Fitzgerald, giving up just over 70 targets. Fitzgerald has yet to sign with a team, so there is a slight chance that he might put off retirement one more time. Arizona also lost The Postman TE Dan Arnold to the Carolina Panthers and RB Kenyan Drake to the Las Vegas Raiders. In lesser target losses, WR Trent Sherfield and TE Jordan Thomas also left the team. The main targets that turned into useful, scorable targets are the ones relinquished from Fitzgerald and Drake. Of Drake’s 31 targets, he caught 25 of them, turning them into 137 yards. Fitzgerald connected with 54 of his targets for 409 yards and one TD. Kyler Murray had 558 passing attempts in 2020, and losing 156 of them is 28% of his passing attempts. That is a significant chunk of a Kyler-led offense that will be available in 2021. With some new faces in Arizona this season, the question is, where will that offense and targets go?
DeAndre Hopkins, WR
Floor: 145 / Ceiling:175
DeAndre Hopkins is still the primary pass catcher in Arizona, coming off a fantastic first year with Kyler Murray after being traded to the Cardinals from the Houston Texans. The outlook for 2021 continues to look great, with Hopkins currently at WR5 in the consensus UDK rankings. Hopkins averaged ten targets a game last season, with only one game under five targets. Hopkins is a highly consistent player week to week with targets and year to year, even with different QBs. He has averaged about 150 targets a season over his career, clocking under 100 only once – his rookie year. With a history of consistency and a now established rapport with his QB, I think the ceiling for Hopkins could be the highest target rate of his career, 175. Cardinals fans across the state last year kept yelling at their television screens, “throw it to Hopkins, throw it to Hopkins!” If somehow he was listening, we could see an excellent ceiling for Hopkins this year. Conversely, with a few shiny new toys in the valley in James Connor and A.J. Green, head coach Kliff Kingsbury might want to try to spread the ball around a little more. If so, Hopkins might end up with a target total closer to his floor. Let me be clear, the floor of DeAndre Hopkins is still one of the best floors I want to dance on. As usual, he is an excellent WR to go all-in on.
A.J. Green, WR
Floor: 70 / Ceiling: 90
When Adriel Jeremiah Green signed with the Cardinals this season, many people quoted Arrested Development and said, “Him?” Although quite the elder statesman, entering his 11th season in the league, Green is still a player to count on for targets. Throughout his career, not counting the 2019 season where he did not play, he only totaled less than 100 targets in one season, 2018. I think Green will receive the majority of the targets vacated by Larry Fitzgerald in 2021. It will be a little harder than usual for Green to hit his average 100 or so targets for a few reasons with the Cards. Firstly, he is another year older. Also, Green will be playing with a true WR1 in Deandre Hopkins for the first time in his career. Hopkins will continue to be the main target, so Green this season seems to be batting clean-up. With most people leaving Green for dead in fantasy drafts – you can almost pick him up for free at the end of your draft usually – he could end up as a value if he has success with Kyler when Hopkins battles double coverage.
Rondale Moore, WR
Floor: 25 / Ceiling:50
Rookie Rondale Moore is a wild card when dividing up targets for the season for the Cardinals. The assumed WR3 coming into the season, Moore could quickly move up the depth chart depending on the success of AJ Green in a new offense. The rookie from Purdue weighing in around 180 pounds posted a video of himself squatting 600 pounds in 2018, and the Twitterverse went wild. It seems uncertain that Moore will have a Justin Jefferson-esque rookie season commanding 125 targets, but a rookie season more on par with Henry Ruggs (43 targets) could be in the cards. The man clearly has the strength, but will he have the speed and rapport to command targets? Time will tell.
Here is the video of 180-pound freshman WR Rondale Moore squatting 600 pounds this morning. Expect him to become quite the weapon for Jeff Brohm in the #Purdue offense. pic.twitter.com/qrl8LSy0Wj
— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) July 20, 2018
James Conner, RB
Floor:20 / Ceiling:40
James Conner is the other new face in Arizona this year. Last year in Pittsburgh, Conner had 43 targets averaging just over three a game. Career-wise he has averaged just over 36 targets a season. Comparing Conner to the player he was brought in to “replace,” Kenyan Drake, the numbers are very similar. Drake commanded 31 targets in 2020, averaging about two receptions a game. Conner’s role in Arizona is still unclear – it is still unknown how the carries will be distributed between Conner and the other RB in the backfield, Chase Edmonds. It is also unsure how both men will be utilized as pass-catching backs.
Chase Edmonds, RB
Floor: 50 / Ceiling: 75
Currently, the RB1 on the depth chart, stepping up after the departure of Kenyan Drake, is Chase Edmonds. As mentioned before, it is unclear how the offense will be divided up when it comes to the Cardinals running backs. Last season Edmonds averaged over four targets a game, finishing 2020 with 68 targets that manifested themselves into 402 yards. This is a huge increase from the two seasons prior where Edmonds commanded just over 20 targets in each year. It is clear Kingsbury believes in Edmonds and values him highly as a pass-catcher. The question is how much? We know the Cardinals love a strong pass-catching RB – remember David Johnson had 120 targets in his explosive 2016 season – but does Edmonds have that level of talent? I think we are looking at potential numbers less than Johnson’s breakout year, but with a pretty high ceiling if things take off for the fourth-year back.
The Arizona Cardinals are a team that has a chance to be a powerful offense in 2021. People believe in a one-year wiser Kyler Murray who – even with an injury – finished as QB2 in 2020. He shows no signs of slowing down this year, with him currently ranked as QB2 in the UDK consensus rankings. With Kyler leading the charge, a plethora of fantasy points from the Cardinals could be up for grabs this season. Some will find their homes in players you have to pay up for – DeAndre Hopkins, but some might be able to be found at a value. With their roles still left to be fully defined, players like Green, Edmonds, and even Conner could end up being values at their draft positions on a team with a high potential to score.