2019 Fantasy Football: Arizona Cardinals Expanded Team Outlook
Arizona Cardinals Team Outlook
In this Arizona Cardinals Team Outlook, I will focus on each key aspect of the franchise: coaching, the draft, free agency, offensive line, schedule, defense and of course, each relevant Fantasy Football at the key positions: QB, RB, WR, TE and K.
The Cardinals have been on a freefall offensively over the last three years. They ranked second in the NFL in points scored in 2015 (489) while finishing last year as the worst offense in the NFL in points scored (225) and yards gained. The one year experiment with Steve Wilks as the head coach ended with a 3-13 record and a ticket to the unemployment line.
Arizona added Kliff Kingsbury as head coach. Over the last six seasons, Kingsbury was the head coach for Texas Tech. He went 35-40 while never having a winning season in conference play. Kliff is a former NFL and CFL player. His forte comes on the offensive side of the ball. The Cardinals will throw the ball in 2019, but they’ll begin their climb up the NFL mountain with a high upside rookie quarterback.
The Cardinals didn’t bring in an offensive coordinator, which leave the role of play calling to the head coach. Kingsbury help Patrick Mahomes reach an elite level while also working with Case Keenum, Johnny Manziel, and Baker Mayfield.
Vance Joseph takes over the defensive coordinator after losing the Broncos head coaching job in the offseason. Joseph went 11-21 in two seasons with Denver. In 2016, Vance held the defensive coordinator job for the Dolphins. He has 14 seasons of experience in the NFL.
Cardinals Free Agency
Arizona added QB Brett Hundley, WR Kevin White, WR Damiere Byrd, TE Charles Clay, G J.R. Sweezy, and G Max Garcia to their offense.
They lost QB Mike Glennon, FB Derrick Coleman, WR J.J. Nelson, TE Jermaine Gresham, TE John Phillips, T John Wetzel, T Joe Barksdale, G Oday Aboushi, and K Phil Dawson.
The Cardinals signed DE Darius Philon, LB Jordan Hicks, LB Terrell Suggs, LB Tanner Vallejo, LB Brooks Reed, CB Robert Alford, and CB Tramaine Brock to their defense.
On defense, they parted ways with DE Benson Mayowa, DE Zach Moore, DE Olsen Pierre, LB Josh Burns, LB Gerald Hodges, LB Deone Bucannon, LB Marcus Golden, LB Thurston Armbrister, S AntoineBethea, CB Jonathan Moxie, and CB David Amerson.
Cardinals Draft Picks
First Round pick, 1st overall: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
The Cardinals added Murray with the first overall pick. He’s an exceptional athlete who will threaten a defense with his arm and explosive ability in the run game. Kyler comes to the NFL with patience and accuracy that puts him on par with Russell Wilson while offering another gear in his speed. Arizona expects him to start in his rookie season.
Second Round pick, 33rd overall: CB Byron Murphy, Washington
In the second round, the Cardinals invested in CB Byron Murphy. His edge comes from his understanding of play development and instincts. Murphy is a playmaker who has more quickness than overall speed. Bryon can’t recover from a mistake in the deep passing game while needing to work on his technique when retreating in his pass coverage when facing the line of scrimmage.
Second Round pick, 62nd overall: WR Andy Isabella, UMass
Isabella brings elite speed (4.31 forty at the NFL combine) and quickness to the NFL. His release vs. bigger press corner will be a challenge as well as his hands under fire. Andy runs good routes with a free release, and he’ll be an asset after the catch. His next step is proving himself against more talented cornerbacks.
Third Round pick, 65th overall: DE Zach Allen, Boston College
DE Zach Allen was the choice in the third round. Allen offers an interesting combination of instincts, power, and quickness, which helps him disrupts at the point of attack. He has an excellent feel for run defense with upside in his counter moves to attack the QB. His lack of speed does limit his range and his recovery value if stalemated at the point of attack.
Fourth Round pick, 103rd overall: WR Hakeem Butler, Iowa St.
Arizona added size to the WR position with Butler. He’s 6’5” and 225 lbs. with plenty of speed (4.48 forty) and strength. His projects as a deep threat with questionable hands and weakness in his route running. If he catches the ball, Hakeem will be tough to tackle. Butler will struggle to get off the line scrimmage if pressed due to slow feet.
Fifth Round pick, 139th overall: S Deionte Thompson, Alabama
In the fifth round, Arizona drafted S Deionte Thompson. His foundation skill set projects well in both run support and pass coverage while offering playmaking skills. Thompson needs to develop physically while adding patience to his attack. Thompson offers strength in his feel for play flow and coverage, but he does get himself in trouble by being too aggressive at times, leaving him out of position and susceptible to pump fakes by QBs.
Sixth Round pick, 174th overall: WR KeeSean Johnson, Fresno St.
Johnson is the slowest (4.6 forty) of the incoming rookie wide receivers, but his hands and movements in his pass routes grade well over the short areas of the field. His deep speed is in question while needing more growth on his route running. KeeSean is a productive player, which will give him inside track for playing time in training camp.
Sixth Round pick, 179th overall: OL Lamont Gaillard, Georgia
Gaillard is a fighter, which helps his overall blocking skills. He gets in trouble when attacking when he should let the defender come to him. Lamont has limited range when moving outside his box sideways. Even with a solid base, Gaillard could use a better foundation in his frame and strength while learning to keep his head more on a swivel.
Seventh Round pick, 248th overall: OL Joshua Miles, Morgan St.
Miles has the size (6’5” and 314 lbs.) to play at the next level, but his speed and quickness do limit his explosiveness. He should get stronger, but it may not help his lack of understanding of play feel. More of a project than a viable option to start down the road.
Seventh Round pick, 249th overall: DE Michael Dogbe, Temple
Dogbe is an undersized (6’3” and 284 lbs.) pass rusher while lacking the base to handle his responsibilities in run blocking. Michael comes with strength in his hands with quickness. He needs to get more upper body strength and overall frame to have any chances vs. the run.
Seventh Round pick, 254th overall: TE Caleb Wilson, UCLA
Wilson brings speed to the tight end position, but he lacks the desired size (6’4” and 240 lbs.) with questions with his ability to attack after the snap. His hands grade while projecting a seam player downfield. Caleb can make plays after the catch, but his route running is well below NFL standards.
The Cardinals fell to 32nd in rushing yards (1,342) with nine TDs and six runs over 20 yards. They averaged only 3.8 yards per carry with 22.2 attempts per game.
Arizona finished last in passing yards (2,523) with 15 TDs and 18 Ints. Their QBs gained 5.8 yards per pass attempt with only 31 completions over 20 yards. The offensive line allowed 52 sacks and 109 QB hits. Arizona had their worst line in the NFL in 2017 while ranking poorly as well over the last two seasons.
LT D.J. Humphries
Humphries didn’t play a down in his first season in the NFL after Arizona selected him in the first round in the 2015 NFL Draft. Humphries is more advanced in the run game while having some risk in pass protection. He missed time in each year in the NFL while developing into a run blocker. In 2018, he missed seven starts while ranking poorly in pass protection.
RG J.R. Sweezy
Sweezy was a massive liability in all areas in 2018, which came after a failed season at Tampa. His game was a league average player over three years earlier in his career with Seattle with his best play coming in the run game. I don’t expect him to be an edge.
C A.Q. Shipley
Shipley was the most consistent player on the Cardinals’ offense line before missing all of 2018 with a torn ACL. His best play comes in pass protection with neutral value in run blocking in his more seasons in his career.
RG Justin Pugh
Pugh finished as the best player on the Giants' line in 2015 and 2016, which improves his resume to four years of success. Pugh offers his most significant edge in run blocking. New York added him in the first round in 2013. Justin missed multiple games over the last two seasons, which led to risk in all areas in 2018. Pugh has a lot to prove in 2019.
RT Marcus Gilbert
Gilbert struggled with injuries over the last two seasons. In his eight years with the Steelers, Marcus was an above average player each year in pass protection. In most seasons, he added value in run blocking. If he stays healthy, Gilbert should be an asset in all areas in 2019.
Arizona added two players for their offensive line in the third (Mason Cole) and seventh (Korey Cunningham) rounds in 2017.
Cole doesn’t have the base to defeat power players while his best asset is his athletic ability. He plays hard on every player with solid vision in his reads. Mason need to improve his hands to help combat losing battles after the snap.
Cunningham shows the ability to cover the area on both sides of his position, but he lacks the strength to hold his ground vs. power. When faced defeat, Korey can get caught holding. His game has some value on the move while needing to develop his base and balance to earn more playing time at the next level.
Offensive Line Fantasy Outlook
This offensive line ranks well below average while wheeling a young QB that may have to run for his life on many plays. Better play at RB and success at WR would help take the pressure off the offensive line.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2018, which will work as our starting point for 2019. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
- LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2018.
- Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
- Adjustment is based on the 2018 league average and the 2018 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
Cardinals Schedule Fantasy Outlook
The Cardinals have two tough matchups (BAL and NO) for their rushing attack. Their best success running the ball should come versus the Bengals followed by only one mid-tier game (CLE).
Arizona has two favorable games (CIN and NO) for their passing attack with a winnable game against Tampa. Their toughest time passing the pass will come versus the Ravens.
Arizona Offense Outlook
2018 was a disaster in all areas on offense. They ran the ball 41.8 percent of the time with no value in any Fantasy format passing the ball. The change of QB should lead to more excitement offensively this year.
Fair Evaluation: Viable upside QB2 who may offer his best value over the second half of the season.
After a slow start to his college career, Murray finally earned a starting opportunity in 2018 for the Oklahoma Sooners. His arm played well (4,361 passing yards with 42 TDs and seven Ints) leading to a high completion rate (69.0 percent). The best part of his game came on the ground where Kyler rushed for 1,001 yards on 140 carries (7.2 yards per rush) while chipping in with another 12 TDs.
Murray lacks the NFL profile as far as size (5'10" and 205 lbs.), but his arm is exceptional, and his legs are electric. Murray shows patience in the pocket with a plus feel for the pass rush. When he reaches the second level of the defense, Kyler can get defenders flat-footed creating impact run plays while barely getting touched. His game is built on a laser arm with an eye for the long bomb.
Murray's 2019 Fantasy Outlook
At the next level, Murray will need to find a balance of running and passing while making sure to avoid big hits. His explosiveness is a great trait, and he has a winning feel. With more experience and coaching, Kyler will push his way to an elite level in the NFL.
Arizona has a top pass-catching back, a veteran WR, and a developing second WR. The Cardinals will chase in many games, which should lead to 3,500 passing yards by default while expecting a minimum of one passing TD per game. Murray will score six to rushing TDs while averaging over 50 yards rushing a game.
Update 8/19/2019: Kyler Murray is the buzz guy with exceptional value created by his legs. Fantasy owners have him priced as a top ten QB in 2019 without playing a down in the NFL. Murray played well in the first preseason game (6-for-7 for 44 yards) while showing the ability to the ball out quickly with accuracy. He faced much more pressure in his second preseason start leading to 16 combined yards with a weak completion rate (37.5 percent).
The Cardinals will throw the ball more than I first expected, which led me to increase Murray’s projections (4,500 combined yards with about 28 TDs) in mid-August. He has the look and feel of Patrick Mahomes with more speed in his runs while lacking an elite speed WR and top TE.
Other Options: Brett Hundley, Charles Kanoff, Drew Anderson
Fair Evaluation: Excellent mid-value RB1 even with a weak offensive line.
Fantasy owners had a tough time surviving Johnson in 2018. He finished with plenty of touches (308), but David only gained 3.6 yards per rush with regression in his opportunity in the passing game (50/446/3 on 76 targets – 120 targets in 2016). In the end, Johnson ranked 9th in RB scoring in PPR leagues while gaining 1,386 combined yards with ten TDs and 50 catches. He only rushed for over 100 yards in one game (25/137) with four other contests with 100 or more combined yards. Last year’s coaching staff struggled to come up with a game plan to get him the ball consistently in the passing game.
This season David will receive an excellent rebound in his chances in the passing game. His floor for me is 1,800 combined yards with a dozen TD and 75+ catches.
Update 8/19/2019: David Johnson, Christian Kirk, and Larry Fitzgerald all received a bump in catches after my last update for Murray. Johnson ranks 5th in PPR projections (16.50 combined yards with 11 TDs and about 65 catches) in PPR leagues. He’s in a tight battle with about six RBs who project to finish as top ten RBs.
Fair Evaluation: Edmonds has a three-down skill set, but he’ll be making a considerable step in competition. A top handful to David Johnson.
In his rookie season, the Cardinals gave Edmonds 80 touches leading to 311 combined yards with two TDs and 20 catches. Chase gained only 3.5 yards per rush and 5.2 yards per catch, which doesn’t paint a better opportunity in 2019. Last year he didn’t have over ten touches in any game.
Over his first three seasons at Fordham, Edmonds gained 6,061 combined yards with 69 TDs and 75 catches while averaging 6.6 yards per rush and 10.3 yards per catch. Injuries led to only seven games played in 2017 with only 706 combined yards with five TDs and 11 catches. Chase lost his explosiveness last year leading to only 4.2 yards per rush.
Over four seasons at North Carolina, Logan rushed for 2,165 yards on 398 carries with 19 rushing TDs plus 76 catches for 663 yards and four more TDs. T.J. never had a season where he was the lead back in college. He runs with a home run gear, which will offer value in the return games or as a change of pace option. Logan plays well in the passing game with a higher enough skill set to pass protect. He returned five kickoffs in 77 chances with the Tar Heels. T.J. missed all of 2017 with a wrist injury while barely touching the ball last season (49 combined yards with seven catches and nine touches).
Other Options: D.J. Foster, Xavier Turner, Wes Hills, Dontae Strickland
Fair Evaluation: Only a backend WR3 for me while understanding his age (36) invites regression.
Josh Rosen struggled to make plays in his rookie season. Fitzgerald had regression in his catch rate (61.6 – 67.7 in 2017) while receiving over a 30 percent drop in his targets (112 – 161 in 2017). Larry finished with the lowest output of his career (69/734/6). He had only one game with over 100 yards receiving (8/102/1) with five games with six catches or more. Fitzgerald needs 23 catches to move second all-time while already second in receiving yards (16,279) in his career.
Last year the Cardinals’ WRs caught 158 passes for 1,808 yards and 11 TDs on 270 targets. This season Arizona would like to be balanced on offense, which points to fewer than 500 pass attempts. The WR position will see a bump in success, but Larry can’t catch many more balls than 80 with a chance at 900 yards receiving and some value in TDs.
Update 8/19/2019: Christian Kirk comes in as the 30th ranked WR (75/998/6) while Larry Fitzgerald slips to 35th in WR scoring in PPR leagues (79/858/7).
Fair Evaluation: Next step: 70+ catches for 850+ yards with five to seven TDs.
Over the first 12 games of the season, Kirk flashed upside in four games (7/90, 3/85/1, 6/77, and 3/77/1) while averaging only 5.7 targets per game. He made seven starts leading to 43 catches for 590 yards and three TDs in 68 targets. His season ended in Week 13 with a broken left foot.
Over 39 games in three seasons at Texas A&M, Kirk caught 234 passes for 2,856 yards and 26 TDs. He is built to play in the slot, which makes him more of a future replacement for Larry Fitzgerald than a threat on the outside in 2018. Christian plays with strength and upside in his route running while his hands grade well. His deep won’t be an edge against the top CBs in the NFL.
His path last year put him on pace to be a borderline WR3. Kirk showed more value in the deep passing game than expected, which bodes well for 2019 with Kyler Murray throwing him the ball.
Update 8/19/2019: Christian Kirk comes in as the 30th ranked WR (75/998/6) while Larry Fitzgerald slips to 35th in WR scoring in PPR leagues (79/858/7).
Fair Evaluation: Possible 50 catches in 2019 with 750+ yards and a hand full of TDs.
Based on college resume (231/3526/30), Isabella has a chance to make an impact in his rookie season. He improved in each year at the University of Massachusetts with his highlight year coming in 2018 (102/1698/13). His speed and quickness should play well out of the slot or crossing routes while needing to improve his release vs. bigger cornerbacks. His hands could be an issue under duress.
This year Arizona should use him on the outside to take advantage of his speed. When Kyler Murray breaks the pocket, Andy will have a chance to hit on some long TDs. The Cardinals will try to get him the ball on slants, bubble screens, and crossing route to help him get into space. Future Julian Edelman type player once he gets stronger.
Fair Evaluation: More of a project with flier value. Larry Fitzgerald may be a crucial part of his development.
In his final year at Iowa State, Butler caught 60 balls for 1,318 yards and nine TDs. He also showed big-play ability in 2017 (41/697/7). Hakeem is a big target, but he does lack quickness, and his pass routes need plenty of work. Hakeem will catch many contested balls while being a load to tack down in the open field. Possible red zone threat with a chance to surprise in some games when defenses overlook him.
Fair Evaluation: His overall speed is below NFL standards at WR, which limits him to a slot type receiver early in his career.
Johnson gives Arizona an intriguing fifth option at WR. Over four seasons at Fresno State, KeeSean caught 275 passes for 3,463 yards and 24 TDs with two top years in 2017 (77/1013/8 and 95/130/8). His game offers more upside in route running than the two other rookie WRs drafted by the Cardinals in 2019, and he has strength in his hands.
Other Options: Trent Sherfield, Kevin White, Chad Williams, Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper
Fair Evaluation: Veteran TE who will be only the fourth option in the passing game for Arizona if he plays well and wins the starting job.
After averaging about 57 passes over five seasons with Buffalo and Miami, Clay lost his way in 2018 (21/184 on 36 targets). His yards per catch (8.8) came in a career low with fade in his catch rate (58.3 – 67.0 over his previous five years). The Cardinals’ TE caught only 46 passes for 475 yards and one TD on 85 targets in 2018.
Fair Evaluation: Ricky is only a flier with a chance to win the starting job. I don’t expect an impact year in 2019.
In his second year in the NFL, Seal-Jones caught fewer than 50 percent of his targets (69). He finished with 34 catches for 343 yards and one TD.
Other Options: Maxx Williams, Caleb Wilson, Darrell Daniels, Drew Belcher
Fair Evaluation: I like his leg, and I expect better going forward, but Zane can’t be trusted until Arizona shows more growth on offense.
Gonzalez made 15 of his 20 field goals and 25 of 26 of his extra-points in his rookie season in 2017. His leg showed value from 50 yards or longer (2-for-3). Zane has a big leg leading to upside in the long kicks and delivering touchbacks. Last season Gonzalez missed three field goals in five attempts and two extra points in five chances that led to him losing his job with the Browns. For the Cardinals in five games, he made seven of nine field goals with two of four kicks crossing the uprights from over 50 yards.
Arizona Cardinals Defensive Schedule
Arizona has five tough matchups (BAL, LAR X 2, and SEA X 2) for their run defense with two of those opponents featuring running QBs. They have four games (ATL, TB, PIT, and NYG) that ranked below average running the ball in 2018. I expect the Cardinals’ defense to have one of the harder schedules for their rushing defense.
Their defense won’t get a break in the passing game with Arizona set to face four top teams (ATL, TB, PIT, and LAR X 2) passing the ball. The Cardinals’ pass defense has four favorable contests (DET, BAL, SEA, and CIN) over the first five weeks, but they only have one other winnable game (SEA) on the passing side over the final 11 weeks.
Fair Evaluation: Arizona should be avoided as a Fantasy option in 2019 unless they show a spark early in the season.
Arizona fell to last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed (2.479 yards) in 2018 while allowing 25 TDs and 21 runs over 20 yards. Ball carriers gained only 4.96 yards per rush with 31.9 runs per game.
The Cardinals climbed to 4th in passing yards allowed (3,262) with 21 TDs and seven Ints. Their defense picked up 49 sacks while QBs gained 7.1 yards per pass attempt.
DT Corey Peters had the most playing time of his career in 2018, which led to continued success vs. the run, and relatively no upside rushing the QB. At best, Corey is a league average player who should only be on the field on running downs.
DT Rodney Gunter set career highs in tackles (44) and sacks (4.5), but he lacks impact value in any area. The Cardinals need to find an upgrade at this position in 2019.
DE Darius Philon signed a two-year deal in the offseason after spending the last two years with the Chargers. Last Philon picked up 33 tackles and four sacks.
Robert Nkemdiche is the player with upside on the defensive line, but he tore his ACL in his 2018. Nkemdiche also missed time with a calf and foot issue. The Cardinals selected him in the first round in 2016. I don’t expect him to be ready for the start of the season.
Chandler Jones has been one of the top pass-rushing linebackers over the last four seasons (53.5 sacks over 63 games). He played at his highest level in 2013 (79 tackles and 11.5 sacks). Jones tends to be a neutral player vs. the run.
Terrell Suggs is at the end of his career. The Cardinals hope to squeeze one more season out of his pass rush. Last year Suggs posted seven sacks with 34 tackles. He’ll work a rotational player in 2019.
Jordan Hicks signed a four-year contract in March worth $36 million. In 2018, he set a career-high in tackles (91) and sacks (3). Hicks will add value defending the run and in pass coverage.
Haason Reddick continues to improve after Arizona drafted him in the first round in 2017. Reddick delivered 80 tackles, four sacks, and five defended passes in 2018, but he regressed in run support.
Patrick Peterson is a top player at his position in coverage, but he’ll miss six games due to a suspension. 2018 was one of his better seasons in the league after the Cardinals added him in the first round in 2011.
Robert Alford played well over his previous three years in coverage, but his game did regress in 2018 with the Falcons. Alford will try to regain his form this year in the desert.
Budda Baker has been a good player in run support in his two seasons in the NFL. He tends to allow a high catch rate while minimizing the damage in yards per catch and TDs. Baker doesn’t have an interception in his short career. Arizona drafted him in the second round in 2017.
D.J. Swearinger will play from the Cardinals for the third time in his seven years in the NFL. He’s already played for four NFL franchises. Over the last three years, Swearinger played well in coverage while averaging over 65 tackles per game with minimal value in sacks. D.J. should help in run support.
Cardinals Fantasy Defense Outlook
Arizona lacks talent in the passing rush on the defensive line, which they hope to overcome by their two pass-rushing outside linebackers. They look to be steady up the middle at the second and third levels of the defense. This loss of Patrick Peterson is going to be a problem in coverage early in the year. Overall, this defense needs the Cardinals offense to play better to control the clock. I expect regression in pass coverage with some improvement in run defense helped by fewer runs.