Kyler Murray, Hollywood Brown, Cardinals' Fantasy Outlook After Hopkins Suspension

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIMay 2, 2022

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 17: Kyler Murray #1 of the Arizona Cardinals scrambles against the Los Angeles Rams during the fourth quarter in the NFC Wild Card Playoff game at SoFi Stadium on January 17, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins has been suspended six games for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, per ESPN's Adam Schefter.

That's a huge loss for the Cardinals, who will now be without their No. 1 wideout for nearly half of the regular season.

It's also a big blow for a team that has been in a tailspin since starting 10-2 last year. Arizona proceeded to go 1-4 to finish the regular season before looking non-competitive in a 34-11 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Wild Card Round.

The Cardinals must find a way to weather that storm, but they did add wideout Marquise "Hollywood" Brown from the Baltimore Ravens via trade last Thursday, which should help matters.

Here's how things may look for the Cardinals' offense from a fantasy perspective in 2022 with Hopkins out for six games, with a focus on quarterback Kyler Murray and Brown.

Thanks to the addition of Brown, Murray should be just fine despite Hopkins' suspension. He is listed as the No. 5 quarterback in the current FantasyPros aggregate rankings. 

Even if he struggles through the air, he can still be productive fantasy-wise thanks to his running ability (1,786 rushing yards, 20 touchdowns in his three seasons).

However, Murray's production last year dipped when Hopkins wasn't in the lineup. Per FantasyPros:

"Murray’s production dipped last season without Hopkins in the lineup over the final four weeks of the season. He averaged 18.8 fantasy points per game and 6.3 yards per pass attempt. Murray averaged 24.9 fantasy points per game and 8.7 yards per attempt in the nine games with Hopkins fully healthy. He also posted the No. 1-ranked PFF passing grade (90.5)."

In fairness, Murray suffered a sprained ankle that forced him out from Weeks 9-11. He only played two games with Hopkins after the injury and didn't look like the same player. A healthier Murray could have done better, although losing a top target would hurt most signal-callers anyway.

Still, Murray is solidified as a QB1 prospect, and he should still be a candidate to finish in the top five or so among quarterbacks in fantasy production. It's not as if Hopkins is out all season, and Murray and Brown were teammates at Oklahoma, so there's a familiarity and built-in chemistry between the two.

When Hopkins was out of the lineup, Christian Kirk became the team's No. 1 wideout. He averaged nine targets per game and amassed 45 catches for 479 yards and one touchdown.

However, Kirk is now a Jacksonville Jaguar after signing a four-year, $72 million contract. Therefore, the door is wide open for other Cardinals pass-catchers to receive more opportunities here.

The first option is Brown, who landed in Arizona after the Baltimore Ravens traded him on Thursday. Brown, a fourth-year pro out of Oklahoma, finished 2021 with a career-high 91 catches for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns. He'll be Arizona's clear No. 1 wideout until Hopkins returns.

ESPN's Mike Clay initially wasn't a fan of Brown's fantasy stock post-trade:

Mike Clay @MikeClayNFL

Love Hollywood Brown, but his value took a hit tonight. It will be hard to match his ~25% target share in Arizona's loaded offense.<br><br>I also think AJ Brown's value takes a hit with De'Vonta Smith and Dallas Goedert there, though a more balanced O + improved Hurts could change that

There are still a lot of mouths to feed in Arizona even without Hopkins, who wasn't seeing his usual boatload of targets last season. In fact, Brown had a higher target share last year.

Mike Clay @MikeClayNFL

Counting only full games played last season:<br><br>DeAndre Hopkins: 22% target share (6.6/G), 35% air yard share<br><br>Marquise Brown: 26% target share (9.1/G), 30% air yard share

But in Arizona, Brown has to contend with wide receivers Rondale Moore and A.J. Green and tight end Zach Ertz for looks, in addition to running back James Conner. 

Clay initially projected Brown to have 72 catches for 986 yards and six touchdowns on 115 targets prior to Hopkins' suspension.

FantasyPros' current aggregate rankings list Brown as the 35th-best wide receiver in point-per-reception leagues, making him a borderline WR3/flex option at best.

Without Hopkins for six games, Brown should be in line for more targets and production, making him a more solidified WR3/flex choice rather than someone who's closer to riding the fantasy bench.

As for the rest of the notable Cardinals, wideouts A.J. Green and Rondale Moore should get slight bumps up, although they are still likely best on fantasy benches for much of the season. Hopkins and Brown will be the primary pass-catching duo when they're both on the field.

James Conner is a borderline RB1 even without the Hopkins suspension, and he could get a slight bump in receiving work. He's likely due for some touchdown regression after scoring 18 times last year, but he did have 239 touches for 1,127 yards (including 37 catches) in 15 games while splitting work with Chase Edmonds. The latter is now a Miami Dolphin, which should free up some additional work for Conner.