The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!
The Cardinals took a step forward in 2021, finishing the season at 11-6 and earning a spot in the NFL Playoffs. In the playoffs, the Cardinals had to face their division foes, the Los Angeles Rams. It wasn’t close. The team lost 34-14 and ended the season on a down note. This off-season, the team has looked to re-tool and re-build, and the question is whether they can make it back to the playoffs and perhaps a step further.
This off-season the Cardinals made a long-term commitment to coach Kliff Kingsbury and is working on doing the same with quarterback Kyler Murray. That indicates a desire to keep the team together, hoping to see them make the next step forward. But the Cardinals also saw running back Chase Edmonds leave for the Miami Dolphins and receiver Christian Kirk sign a lucrative free agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars. So, it was up to the team to figure out how to re-load.
On draft night, the Cardinals made a big deal with the Ravens to bring Murray’s college teammate—wide receiver Marquise Brown—to the team. Brown is entering his fourth year and got a new, long-term deal after coming to Arizona. He caught 195 passes for 2,361 yards and 21 touchdowns in his three seasons in Baltimore and brings a great downfield element to the Cardinals. The team also re-signed James Conner at running back and Zach Ertz at tight end, securing the core of the offense. The Cardinals then added former Chiefs’ running back Darrel Williams to the backfield.
In the draft, the Cardinals didn’t have a First-Round pick but used their first pick in the Second Round to grab another weapon in Colorado State tight end Trey McBride. In 2021, McBride caught 90 passes for 1,121 yards. He was viewed as the top tight end available and joins a group of top-notch weapons for Murray and the Cardinals.
Murray is largely regarded as one of the best quarterback prospects in the game. He finished as QB10 in 2021 and seems like a solid lock to finish as a QB1 again. He’s yet to cross 4,000 yards as a passer in his three NFL seasons so the pressure is on to step up. Behind him, Conner figures to be a weapon again. He finished as RB5 in 2021, largely due to his 18 touchdowns. I suspect his touchdowns take a step back, but Conner figures to be a solid high-end RB2 with fringe RB1 upside. The better value in the backfield might be Williams, who finished as RB20 last year with the Chiefs. He’s currently going as RB54, while Edmonds was RB34 in a complimentary role in 2021. I suspect Williams can finish in the RB3/4 range, giving him value at his current ADP.
The passing game is also interesting. The Cardinals have Brown, Ertz and McBride, while also returning A.J. Green and Rondale Moore. The biggest question is star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. He was limited to 10 games due to injury in 2021 and now is suspended for six games to start 2022. He finished as WR46 in 2021, while Brown was WR22. Hopkins figures to be a factor when he returns, but the suspension lowers his ceiling for re-draft. Brown is the top receiver, and I like him to finish in the WR 20-25 range, while Hopkins finishes in the WR30-36 range. I’m not drafting Green, and I need to see it from Moore before I buy in. He’s a late round flier to me.
At tight end, Ertz finished as TE5 after coming over in a trade from the Eagles last season. I like him as a TE1 again in 2022, albeit more in the TE8-12 range. McBride is the future, but how much of a role will he have in 2022? In dynasty, he’s an easy second round rookie pick. For re-draft, his ADP of TE31 feels like a decent swing. He could even finish higher if anything happens to Ertz.
The Cardinals are a tough team to handicap, largely due to Kingsbury. The roster is solid and the potential is there but can the Cardinals be consistent. In 2021, the team started 9-2 and went just 2-4 down the stretch. In 2020, the Cardinals started 5-2 and won just three games in the final nine to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Late season swoons have been a hallmark of the Cardinals in Kingsbury’s tenure, and in fact have been a hallmark of Kingsbury teams dating back to his time in college. So, can the Cardinals overcome that? The NFC isn’t as deep in 2022, so the bar could be lower. Even given that, I think Arizona is an eight- or nine-win team, which will leave them squarely on the playoff bubble. My gut says they miss a return trip to the playoffs.
Matthew Fox is a graduate of the Radio, Television and Film program at Biola University, and a giant nerd. He spends his free time watching movies, TV, and obsessing about football. He is a member of the FSWA. You can find him @knighthawk7734 on Twitter and as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.