The DeAndre Hopkins speculation was finally put to rest on Friday afternoon when the Cardinals released their star receiver. Hopkins had been the subject of trade rumors for months, but Arizona was apparently unable to find a team willing to send assets for his nearly $20 million contract. Entering his age-31 season, Hopkins now gets to choose where he’ll play in 2023. That will certainly be one of the major storylines to follow over the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, Marquise Brown and Rondale Moore will spearhead the Arizona receiving corps, but this passing game is still a massive question mark considering we don’t know when Kyler Murray will be back nor who will be under center Week 1 (it’s probably Colt McCoy, but there’s not much info out there about his offseason surgery). 2023 third-round pick Michael Wilson will duke it out with Zach Pascal and Greg Dortch for WR3 duties, while Zach Ertz and Trey McBride should both see the field quite a bit at the tight end position. Let’s get into how our Cardinals projections changed with Hopkins out of the picture.
Old projection: 70.8 catches on 115.9 targets for 785.8 yards and 4.6 TDs.
New projection: 83.3 catches on 136.4 targets for 924.9 yards and 5.5 TDs.
- Hollywood registered a monstrous 25% target share during the first six weeks of the 2022 season when Hopkins was suspended. Granted, Moore also missed the first three games of the year, but Brown still notched at least a 23.8% target share in all three games in Weeks 4-6. With Nuk off the roster and a hodgepodge of JAGs competing for the WR3 gig, Hollywood is going to get as many targets as he can handle as the unquestioned alpha dog in this Cardinals offense.
- He might not be the most efficient player in the world — Brown was at just 6.6 yards per target last year and now will be the subject of intense defensive attention on the worst team in the league — but Hollywood could legitimately catch triple-digit balls in 2023 if he stays healthy, and that lands him in WR2 territory in our updated rankings. It will be worth monitoring QB developments in Arizona during the summer, but Brown should be fantasy-relevant regardless of who’s under center; it’s just a question of whether he has an elite ceiling if the Cardinals’ offense can’t get anything going.
Old projection: 50.0 catches on 69.5 targets for 483.2 yards and 2.1 TDs.
New projection: 67.4 catches on 93.4 targets for 651.6 yards and 2.8 TDs.
- Moore limped through an injury-plagued 2022 but ultimately finished with a respectable 18.7% target share, which is a fairly realistic expectation for his role as the clear WR2 in 2023. Rondale’s usage under the new regime will be interesting to watch; he ran 40.9% of his routes out wide last year, but his small stature likely means he’s best utilized in the slot. His aDOT rose from a paltry 1.2 as a rookie to 5.2 last year, but Jonathan Gannon infamously greeted Moore by expressing his desire to have more explosive shot plays moving forward. Moore has primarily worked underneath even dating back to his days at Purdue, but perhaps we see better efficiency in 2023 (he had just 6.8 yards per target in 2021 and 7.4 last year) if Arizona succeeds in getting him the ball downfield.
— Dub Jellison (@DubJellison) February 19, 2023
- Regardless, Moore is entrenched as the WR2 in this offense and should see a ton of volume as the primary slot guy. We have him in WR5 territory in half-PPR leagues right now.
OTHER CARDINALS PLAYERS
- Arizona could run more 2-TE sets under new offensive coordinator Drew Petzing, who was the Browns’ quarterbacks coach last year, and before that, he also coached with Kevin Stefanski in Minnesota. Zach Ertz recorded a 17.2% target share in 10 games last year, but he’ll have to stave off 2022 second-rounder (and 2021 Mackey Award winner) Trey McBride for TE1 duties this year. We bumped both Ertz and McBride slightly in our projections now that the Cardinals have a Hopkins-sized hole in their offense, and both tight ends are viable at the back end of best ball drafts.
- The WR3 battle will be one to watch this summer. Greg Dortch was productive for the Cardinals last year with 52 catches for 467 yards, but he ran 82.8% of his routes from the slot — a role Rondale Moore likely has a firm grasp on in 2023. At just 5-foot-7, Dortch may not have the size necessary to win on the outside. That leaves Michael Wilson and Zach Pascal as the other two options. Wilson was surprisingly drafted in the third round after being mocked almost unanimously as a Day 3 pick, but his college profile is fairly uninspiring (although he admittedly struggled through injuries during his final few seasons in school). Pascal was the Eagles’ WR4 last year and primarily played in the slot, but he averaged 70.7 targets per year between 2019-2021 with the Colts. We gave Pascal the highest base target share given he has the most history of earning targets, but Wilson is likely the most intriguing option for fantasy given his youth and the upside that comes with that. Still, the Arizona WR3 battle is murky at best and these guys are likely only viable near the final rounds of best ball drafts.
- It’s now a waiting game on Hopkins, but his upside would be mouth-watering if he lands somewhere like Kansas City. However, there are other realistic landing spots where his target share would be significantly below where we were projecting in Arizona (e.g., Buffalo, although increased efficiency could negate the volume hit). We are now projecting Hopkins as a free agent and think he’s on the WR2/flex border, but we should have more concrete information soon on where Nuk could play in 2023.