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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 Arizona Cardinals

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Michael Dolan

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Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2023 fantasy football season. All summer, our analysts, two at a time, will preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. We’ll pick a pair of sleepers, a pair of busts and a pair of bold predictions. Sometimes they’ll be the same pick! Sometimes they will directly disagree! And that’s fine. Today: The Arizona Cardinals.

 

Below, Michael Dolan and Jeremy Popielarz tackle the Cardinals, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2023 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: Arizona Cardinals

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

DolanKeaontay Ingram
Popielarz: Keaontay Ingram

Biggest Bust

DolanDeAndre Hopkins
Popielarz: Kyler Murray

Bold Prediction

DolanMarquise Brown is the No. 1 Arizona WR
Popielarz: Trey McBride is the Cardinals’ No. 1 TE

The Explanations

Sleepers

Dolan: Keaontay Ingram

Answer fast! Who’s the RB2 in Arizona right now? 

I wouldn’t blame you if you had to Google it, but right now 2022 sixth-round pick Keaontay Ingram is James Conner’s primary backup. Meanwhile, Conner’s 28 years old – a major red flag for running backs – and playing on a team with its sights set on the future. Given this, it’s relatively easy to see a path for Ingram to log some touches this year. 

The Cardinals didn’t do anything significant to address the running back position this offseason. This lack of activity paired with the surprise cut of Eno Benjamin last year indicates the team may see something in Ingram the fantasy football community hasn’t yet caught onto. Ingram is one of the deeper sleepers that’ll get mentioned in this series, but opportunity is king in fantasy football, and he’s got a realistic path to touches. Plus, he’s basically free to acquire right now.

Popielarz: Keaontay Ingram

Entering his second season, Keaontay Ingram dodged the addition of significant competition during the draft and free agency thus far, leaving him set up to be the complementary option behind James Conner. Conner has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career, and if that continues it could open up more opportunities for Ingram. Last year the Cardinals averaged 25.5 rushing attempts per game (20th in the league), I expect this number to rise with Murray likely out for a significant portion of the year. 

Ingram only saw 26 attempts all year, but he did force 5 missed tackles on these attempts, and 52 of his 58 yards were after contact. This leaves a lot of improvement to be had as he averaged a terrible 2.2 yards per carry, but the entire run game struggled. If the run game can improve Ingram will also benefit, and his production will increase. He also offers some in the passing game as he caught 4 of 5 targets for 21 yards. Even aside from an injury, there is a chance we see Ingram improve and earn a significant role in this offense that is desperate for playmakers. 

 

Busts

Dolan: DeAndre Hopkins

Early in his career, DeAndre Hopkins had to prove on numerous occasions that he’s “QB proof.” This year, it’s not so much the lack of Kyler Murray that’s scaring me away from Hopkins, but everything else going on in Arizona. The Cardinals are firmly in rebuilding mode right now, and Hopkins is turning 31 in a few weeks. I’m concerned his age and the team’s pessimistic outlook may mean Hopkins won’t be too incentivized to give it his all in Arizona.

DeAndre Hopkins Arizona Cardinals Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions

There are still trade rumors lingering about Hopkins, and if he does get traded to a contender (or at least a team with a better offense/QB situation), his outlook could change quickly. For now though, everything besides his price tag indicates Hopkins is in for a down year.

Popielarz: Kyler Murray

It is still relatively early in the offseason, but as it stands today, there is reportedly an expectation Kyler Murray will be ready for Week 1 … and I am not buying it. Murray suffered a late-season ACL tear, which makes me believe he will at best land on PUP and be prepared for the second month of the season. Additionally, the Cardinals have one of the weaker rosters in the league, so why rush Murray back to action? 

This has me avoiding Murray in every format this year. Even if we do see Murray in 2023, it is likely he will struggle to get to his pre-injury form until late in the year. This is problematic as he is best when he can use his legs to hurt a defense, I am sure he will not trust his knee for the majority of the year. Now, add a new offense and coaching staff to the mix and we have a perfect storm brewing. At some point, we will see a training video, and Murray’s ADP will skyrocket, but stay the course because he will be a huge disappointment in 2023 for fantasy. 

 

Bold Predictions

Dolan: Marquise Brown Is the No. 1 Arizona WR

This take relates to my Hopkins stance above. I’ve never been a huge Marquise Brown guy, but you have to be adaptable to stay ahead in fantasy football, and this feels like a year where Brown is set to overperform. Many of the negatives I mentioned about Hopkins apply to Brown too, but the age factor here is the major difference. Brown is 5 years younger, and more importantly this is the final year of his rookie contract. 

What Hopkins lacks in incentives this year is what makes Brown an intriguing option. The latter is surely looking forward to his first contract extension, and it wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen a player overperform when the thought of a big paycheck is looming. Plus, there’s still the chance Hopkins gets traded, and it feels like this possibility is baked into Hopkins’ current price tag, but not Brown’s. 

Popielarz: Trey McBride Is the Cardinals’ No. 1 TE

Entering his second season, Trey McBride is primed to take over for an aging Zach Ertz. McBride flashed at times in his rookie season but only produced 265 yards and a single score. This was fairly impressive considering he only saw 39 targets. Ertz saw 69 targets in his 10 games played and produced 406 yards and 4 scores. Even with 30 more targets, he only produced 141 more yards than the rookie. With Kyler Murray potentially missing a significant amount of time the tight ends will be relied on as safety valves for the quarterback, no matter who it is. 

For this reason, I think we see McBride slowly take over the lead role in this room and outproduce Ertz by the season’s end. That doesn’t mean I think he finishes as a top-12 tight end, as the overall offense is going to struggle leading to a lack of volume. On the flip side, down the stretch, I do think he could give us a couple of productive weeks and become a high-priority wavier add mid-season. That will make him any tight end streamer’s dream.

 
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