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Cardinals possess trio that’ll impact fantasy football in 2020

DeAndre Hopkins (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images), Kyler Murray (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin), Kenyan Drake (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

One of the Arizona Cardinals’ most memorable weeks of fantasy football in 2019 came against the New York Giants.

From a fantasy standpoint, the Week 7 matchup gave a lot of owners hope with then-Arizona running back David Johnson getting the start after an injury left his status up in the air.

Just as that hope started to rise, it was quickly shot down in a tail spin. Johnson was replaced after just one carry in favor of backup speedster Chase Edmonds. The second-year RB took off from there, rushing for 126 yards and three touchdowns on 27 touches.

While Edmonds’ finished third in yards rushed and tied for first in touchdowns scored among NFL running backs in Week 7, the fantasy football focus was on the one-attempt and two-yard day from Johnson.

Given that the Cardinals gave Johnson the green light, the blame for plugging the RB into lineups was shifted from the player to the team, with fantasy analysts ripping Arizona for the move.

But that was then, before the Cardinals revamped their toy chest with critical offensive moves.

Not only did the Cardinals acquire Kenyan Drake from the Miami Dolphins midseason, they also added another game changer in All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in an offseason trade with the Houston Texans.

The additions will undoubtedly move the needle in terms of offensive output in Arizona, likely upping the team’s win total, but will also have a major impact across the fantasy football landscape in 2020.

For Drake, the move to the Valley proved beneficial. After failing to get the reps in Miami, Drake exploded for the Cardinals in the final eight games of the season, recording eight scores and averaging just over 100 scrimmage yards per game. His touchdown and average fantasy point total (nearly 20 points per outing) ranked in the top three for running backs over that timeframe.

Drake showed he can carry the load in the Cardinals’ running game, but it’s another part of his game that could make him even more valuable in fantasy football lineups.

In eight games with the Cardinals, Drake managed 171 yards on 28 catches (35 targets). Those numbers don’t jump off the page. What does is his potential as a receiver.

In 2018 with Miami, Drake caught 53 of his 73 targets (most on the team) for 477 yards and five touchdowns with Ryan Tannehill and Brock Osweiler splitting reps at signal caller. In addition, Drake was fighting for playing time with Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage in the fold and still managed to be the team’s most dynamic player.

Imagine Drake’s totals for a full season as a No. 1 back and a full season with Kyler Murray. The potential gives him a real shot at being a top 10 back throughout the season. As of Sunday, Drake is projected by ESPN to rush for just under 1,000 yards and eight scores, while adding another 387 yards and two touchdowns on 52 receptions in the passing game.

The addition of Hopkins doesn’t hurt either, as Drake could benefit off of defenses focusing in on the high-caliber wideout.

As for Hopkins, the tape speaks for itself.

Last season, Hopkins was one of four players to finish the year with at least 100 receptions. It marked the second straight season with more than 100 catches and third consecutive year with at least receiving 1,300 yards. That includes a goose egg in Week 17 in which he didn’t play. He paired his catch total with 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns for just under 165 fantasy points.

Hopkins has caught 12 red zone touchdowns over the past two years.

While some players see a regression after moving from one team to another, Hopkins is expected to surpass his receiving numbers from last season. He’s projected by ESPN to catch 99 balls for 1,202 yards and eight scores for 169.77 points. His top-tier status should not take a hit because of the new scenery in coach Kliff Kingsbury’s offense. If anything, it could get a boost.

Last but not least is Murray, who benefits the most from the additions of Drake and Hopkins.

The duo helps stretch the field for Murray, who didn’t have a ton of time to get rid of the football last season. Keeping the defense honest will allow Murray to get a better read of the field, while also giving the QB a better opportunity to fire off more deep balls than he did last year.

Murray ranked near the bottom of the league in catch yards per pass (3.5) in 2019. Hopkins averaged 7.5 yards before making a reception, dropping just 2.7% of his targets (four drops).

But even with the lack of deep balls, Murray still finished among the top 12 in average fantasy points scored with 17.8, completing 64% of his passes (349-542) for 3,722 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He was also a factor in the running game, rushing for 544 yards and four scores on 93 carries.

He, like the others, is expected to see a jump in production, going from 20 to 25 touchdowns and totaling 288 fantasy points.

Anything can happen in terms of fantasy football. But no matter the case, the Cardinals are going to be a team to keep an eye on in 2020.


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