Receiver Roundup: Arizona Cardinals
By Cody Smith
The fourth edition of the Receiver Roundup will wrap up the NFC West as we take a look at the new and improved (hopefully) Arizona offense.
Arizona opens the 2019 season having traded quarterback Josh Rosen to the Miami Dolphins to be replaced by No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, Kyler Murray.
It should also be noted that Arizona will be under new leadership as Kliff Kingsbury takes the reigns. Kingsbury is notorious for orchestrating high-flying offenses in his college days, helping Case Keenum break the NCAA passing record at Houston before coaching the likes of Johnny Manziel, Baker Mayfield and Patrick Mahommes.
Kingsbury looks to revitalize an offense that was one of the worst in team history.
Leading the way for the Arizona receiving corps will once again be Larry Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald will play in his 16th NFL season in 2019 as he looks to bounce back from his worst statistical season to date.
Fitzgerald hauled in 69 receptions for a career-low 734 yards and six touchdowns in 2018. This was coming off of three consecutive 100+-catch and 1,000+-yard seasons.
It's obviously easy to point the finger at Fitzgerald’s age finally catching up with him. The 35-year old struggled in categories such as Yards After Catch (YAC) where he averaged just 1.8 YAC per reception. FItzgerald’s red zone usage was also down in 2018. Fitzgerald hauled in six touchdowns, but was targeted in the red zone only eight times all season.
However, as Lee Corso would say… Not so fast!
With a new quarterback in town and a coach that loves to chuck the ball around, look for Fitzgerald’s numbers to rebound. I’m not sure I would expect another 100 catch, 1,000 yard season, but it is certainly within the realm of possibilities.
Fitzgerald played 97.8 percent of offensive snaps last season, including every offensive snap from weeks 13-17 (fantasy playoffs).
Currently being selected 100th overall on average - yes you read that right - Fitzgerald could be a fantasy difference maker in 2019. He is certainly worth an early-ninth round flyer to add depth to your team, and could even put up solid WR2 numbers on a week-to-week basis.
Accompanying Fitzgerald in Arizona will be second-year wide-out Christian Kirk. Kirk played in 12 games for the red birds in 2018 and caught 43 passes for 590 yards and three scores.
The young receiver certainly has fresher legs than Fitzgerald and this may very well be the year he supplants Fitzgerald as the top option in Arizona.
Kirk has a lot of upside entering 2019 and his draft stock is on the rise.
After closing out May with an ADP in the early ninth round, Kirk is currently being drafted in the mid-seventh round (87th overall).
According to Monday Morning Quarterback’s Albert Breer, Kirk “has been the best receiver on the roster” during off-season workouts. Kirk has also drawn praise from Kingsbury, who stated Kirk has a “good feel” for the offense.
Look for Kirk to have a solid season in Arizona.
Similar to a few teams we have looked at already in the NFC West, the Cardinals went looking for receiving depth in the draft.
Arizona selected Andy Isabella out of UMass in the second round, Hakeem Butler out of Iowa State in the fourth round and KeeSean Johnson out of Fresno State in the sixth round.
Isabella is a compelling dynasty option and late round flyer. Isabella - along with Indianapolis’ Parris Campbell - ran the fastest 40-yard dash of all wide receivers at the NFL combine, clocking in at 4.31 seconds.
The speedy 5’9, 188lb receiver put up astounding numbers in his senior season at UMass, hauling in 102 receptions for 1,698 yards and 13 touchdowns in just 12 games. Isabella also had over 1,000 receiving yards and double-digit touchdowns in his junior season.
Obviously the NFL is a lot different than the teams UMass saw, playing as an Independent last season, but the raw talent is obviously there for Isabella.
Isabella is currently being drafted at the beginning of the 14th round in 12-team leagues at 176 overall. I believe he is a solid first round pick in dynasty rookie drafts.
Butler comes in as more of an outside threat than Isabella, who should find most of his success in the slot. Butler’s large 6’5, 227lb frame actually puts him two inches taller than Seattle’s D.K. Metcalf (though not quite as shredded).
Butler caught 60 passes for 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns his senior year at Iowa State and led the nation in yards gained on 20-yard plus targets (721).
Butler isn’t going much farther behind Isabella in drafts, but it may be harder for him to find the field as the team’s fourth wide receiver. Butler may not be worth a fantasy pick in redraft leagues, but he is a solid late-second to early-third round pick in dynasty drafts.
KeeSean Johnson did not put up great numbers at the NFL combine, but that didn't stop the Cardinals from taking a chance on the young receiver.
Johnson caught 95 passes for 1,340 yards and eight touchdowns last season at Fresno State.
Though he has an uphill battle, Johnson may be worth a late-round dynasty flyer should he impress in OTAs and throughout the preseason. He has no current value in redraft leagues.
Rounding out the receiving corps that stand a chance to make the roster include former Bear’s injury-prone wide-out Kevin White, and former Pro Bowl punt returner Pharoh Cooper. Neither of whom hold any fantasy value.
Feel free to make a request as to which receiving corps you’d like to see broken down in the near future. The next edition will focus on the youthful receiving corps of the Denver Broncos who will be catching passes from veteran Joe Flacco this season.