Scheme and Metrics- we'll take a look at each of the 32 teams and look at a combination of offensive scheme/philosophy and some player metrics to give us something else to think about when drafting our fantasy squads this summer. In this edition, we'll look at the Arizona Cardinals.
Deciding whether to buy into or fading the Cardinals offense could be a key to the 2019 fantasy season. Here's what I'm looking at:
• Whether it was the Wildcat, Chip Kelly's offense or Sean McVay's offense, each featured a non-traditional approach, and in each case, these systems had amazing success when implemented. Let's face it, the NFL is often a reactionary league- coaches won't go crazy worrying about a single offense that'll be on their schedule. If the concepts work, then they'll consider making defensive adjustments, but these often take place the next season.
• The Cardinals are expected to run the 'Air Raid' offense, which uses '10 personnel', which is 1 RB and 4 WRs. By design, not only do they spread the field with two outside WRs and two slot WRs, but the plan is that all WRs stress the defense by running vertical routes, and then breaking them off to adjust to how the defense plays each WR. They also are expected to run plays at an extremely-fast pace, and we've seen the Patriots wear out defenses using this tactic.
• Kyler Murray is not only expected to be an excellent passer, but he has the ability to be a great runner. With the defense spread out, RB David Johnson flanking him in the backfield, and the 4 WRs stressing the defense, I don't believe that defenses will be able to blitz him heavily because with his mobility if he evades the rusher, it can lead to a huge play. Also, the aggressiveness of the offense should keep defenses more on their heels in a reactionary mode to help avoid the huge plays.
• David Johnson is a wildcard to this offense because with defenses spread out, he should have great lanes as both a runner and a receiver. Unlike last year when he was running up the middle into heavy traffic, we'll see the best of DJ this year.
• Christian Kirk, Hakeem Butler and Andy Isabella all possess at least 72nd percentile 40-yard-dash times (Isabella is 100th percentile), and Larry Fitzgerald is one of the greatest contested-catch players we've ever seen. Sure, three of these WRs have very little NFL experience, but defenses will struggle to deal with that much speed while needing four CBs on the field to deal with them.
• As long as the Cards can move the chains enough, NFL secondaries are not used to needing 4 CBs to chase vertical routes all day long, which causes two problems- most teams don't have four good CBs and if the pace is played unusually fast, the defenses won't have enough talented bodies to put in the game for substitutions/injuries.
• Again, if the pace of plays is pushed through the roof, pass rushers will simply run out of steam- remember the Patriots when the beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl after trailing 28-3? Yep, you guessed it- their pass rush and CBs simply ran out of gas.
• The offensive line is far from elite. If Murray somehow starts to hold the ball too long, he could take some really big hits, which could either get him injured or make him gun shy.
• If the WRs aside from Kirk and Fitzgerald simply aren't able to compete at the NFL level. Now, one thing about the Air Raid offense is that it allowed teams with lesser talent to overwhelm talented defenses, but this system is new to the NFL- there is a chance the players are simply overwhelmed by NFL talent.
• Murray isn't what the Cardinals thought he would be. Hey, it happens all the time- top NFL picks have a high bust rate. Because a guy can carve up college defenses doesn't mean he'll do so at the NFL level.
• In large tournaments, stacking an emerging offense can be the move to take it down. The pieces of the Arizona offense are not cost prohibitive, so this can be done while not selling out to compromise the rest of your roster. However, since my goal is to stack, I'll probably need to grab them a round earlier than ADP if I think this stack I need. The players I will target in an Arizona stack will be David Johnson (of course, that's if I get a pick in that range of the first round), Christian Kirk, Kyler Murray and then finally with a very-late pick- Andy Isabella.
• In seasonal leagues, again, I like David Johnson, I actually have him behind Zeke Elliott at No. 2 on my draft board. Remember, he matches up from a speed and agility standpoint with any RB in the NFL, including Saquon Barkley, but after last year, when he was mired in a hopeless offense and an even worse coaching staff. Also, there is no RB who is a better receiver (maybe Le'Veon Bell) than DJ. I also will go after Kirk unless his ADP sharply rises throughout August. Also, I would like to get Murray, but I will not likely get him, as I won't take a QB until at least six-to-eight of them are off the board, but if he falls beyond that, I'd be happy to draft him.
• Also, it wouldn't seem as if Larry Fitzgerald is a great fit for this offense, but with 10 personnel, it's very unlikely he sees double-coverage, especially with the speedy WRs who can threaten defenses deep. If I can't get Kirk in a league, I would gladly draft Fitz because the play volume should really boost his numbers. I don't think I would roster Fitz and Kirk, that would be too heavy a stack- I do need some variance in lineups.