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32 in 32: Arizona Cardinals


In our “32 in 32” series, we are highlighting three of the most notable fantasy football players for each team, covering all 32 teams in 32 days!


James Conner (RB – Arizona Cardinals):


There are so many question marks surrounding the Arizona Cardinals’ offense heading into 2023, from the potential absence of QB Kyler Murray (thanks to a late-season ACL tear) to the unclear target share distribution with DeAndre Hopkins, Marquise Brown, and Zach Ertz never playing together as a trio (and scarcely with any two of them in the lineup at a given time) – but James Conner is the lone player without uncertainty. Conner’s coming off a somewhat underwhelming season (at least compared to his 18-TD 2021 season), tallying 229 touches, 1082 yards, and 8 TDs in 13 games. A slow start, ranking as the RB30 through the first 5 weeks, and injuries (an annual theme for Conner) kept the Cardinals’ RB from reaching his full potential. The potential absence of Kyler Murray for a good portion of the 2023 season is interesting for Conner, who flourished in the 4-game stretch without the QB in 2022. In those four games without Murray, James Conner registered 19+ touches in every game, totaling 81 touches, 435 yards, and 2 TDs as the RB4 in points during that span. With no true competition for touches in the Cardinals’ backfield, Conner will once again be the workhorse in Arizona, and with Murray out the opportunity will be there for Conner to replicate his top-10 production of years past. The only concern with Conner is the injury history, never playing an entire season in his 6-year career, which would be an issue if he was expected to be an early-round pick. Given his price as a projected 5th-7th round pick (5.06, RB24 on ECR; 7.12, RB28 on ADP), there’s no reason not to target the potential 300+ touch RB with a history of multiple years of top-10 finishes.

 

Marquise Brown (WR – Arizona Cardinals):


Brown got off to a fantastic start to 2022, posting 12+ points in each of the first 6 weeks of the season, placing himself as the WR5 in PPR scoring with a 43-485-3 stat line. Unfortunately, that 6th game saw him go down with a fractured foot. By the time he returned in Week 12, DeAndre Hopkins was back and had firmly established himself as the top target in the Arizona offense, and Brown only got one week with Kyler Murray before his season-ending ACL tear. Brown ultimately struggled without Murray to end the season, tallying just 18 catches for 178 yards as the WR54 in the five-game stretch (7.2 PPG). Without any history of production without top-end QB production (from Murray or Lamar Jackson), Brown is a risky option but should command a heavy workload with the departure of DeAndre Hopkins this offseason. It all comes down to the price tag for Brown – if he’s going to be drafted as a WR2 option, I likely will pass, but if he’s a WR3/FLEX option, I believe he’s worth the risk.

 

Zach Ertz (TE – Arizona Cardinals):


Ertz was as safe of a TE as you could find in 2022 (outside of Travis Kelce) up until his season-ending injury in Week 10. Through the first 9 weeks of the season, Ertz brought in 47 catches for 406 yards and 4 TDs, ranking as the TE3 in points. What differentiated him from other TEs was the consistency – Ertz posted 10+ points in all but one of those games and ended the season as the most consistent TE in fantasy (0.259 Sig CR). Unfortunately, he did suffer an ACL tear in Week 10, ending his season and bringing some significant question marks into 2023. While progressing well in his recovery, the question must be asked – at 32 years old (turning 33 in-season), can Ertz return to his pre-injury self? That’s a question we won’t have an answer to until after the season, but the odds are against him. Between his injury, the uncertainty at QB (Kyler Murray injury), age, and the likely expanded role for 2022 2nd round pick Trey McBride, I would expect a less-utilized Ertz in 2023, even with the departure of DeAndre Hopkins likely opening up some targets. I don’t mind Ertz as a very low-end TE1 or as a high-end TE2, but to expect much more out of him off of an ACL tear and with a backup QB is asking a lot.

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