by Alex Kurpeski
Here’s a double dose of head smacking material for anyone that finds themselves heavily invested in the Cardinals offense this season, myself included. While both Kenyan Drake and Christian Kirk are wonderful players who both saw massive roles for Arizona’s reinvented offense in 2019. Yet as great as these two players were, there’s good reason to believe that both will see their overall scoring totals take a hit this season.
Let’s start by talking about Kirk, as the third-year is the more obvious regression candidate of the two due to the organization’s acquisition of All-Pro wideout DeAndre Hopkins. While Kirk was essentially the team’s WR1 last season — as evidenced by his team high 24.5% target share — he will almost inevitably be ceding that role to Hopkins, who saw a 31% target share in a similarly stacked receiving core for the Texans. Yet target share doesn’t even show the full disparity between Kirk and Hopkins in their respective case’s to be Arizona’s WR1, as Hopkins has been one of the most dominant receivers from this past decade, hauling in 10+ touchdowns thrice while topping 1,000 yards receiving in five of the last six seasons. As tremendously gifted as Kirk is, he has yet to provide the team with a consistent down-to-down target, placing the burden of chain-moving upon the shoulders of veteran Larry Fitzgerald quite often.
Speaking of Fitzgerald, the veteran wideout’s role in the offense should remain unchanged with the addition of Kirk. Even in his age 36 season Fitzgerald remained one of the league’s most efficient pass-catchers, as he was one of four players to see 100+ targets and compile a true catch rate of over 90%. While Fitzgerald’s 20.6% target share may dwindle slightly, the targets that will go to Hopkins will more likely be drawn from Kirk. Although there’s an argument to be made that the WR3 role in an Air Raid style offense should provide plenty of upside for fantasy, it’s worth noting that the Cardinals will still be looking to involve their 2019 draft picks (Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler) in the passing game, with one of those two likely being deployed as the secondary slot receiver — alongside Fitzgerald — on four receiver sets. Kirk’s role in the offense could very well result in a rather disappointing statline depending on how well his teammates gel with QB Kyler Murray. Aside from Isabella, there are no other receivers on Arizona’s roster that can stretch the field and pick up yards after the catch quite like Kirk, which makes me believe that his weekly upside will be extremely touchdown and big play dependent.
- 53 receptions (-15 from last season)
- 84 targets (-23 from last season)
- 3 receiving TDs
- 663 receiving yards (-56 from last season)
- 137.2 fantasy points ~WR51 (-13 spots from last season)
Now let’s turn our focus to Kenyan Drake, a player who found himself once freed from the sterile Dolphins offense following a midseason trade. While many have hopped onto the Drake bandwagon following a scorching second half that saw him average 80.4 rushing yards per-game while scoring a career-high 8 rushing touchdowns. Drake’s performance was so inspiring that the Cardinals elected to move on from their longtime starter David Johnson, trading the veteran as part of the deal that netted Hopkins. Yet, as great as Drake’s performance was in a small sample size, the former third-round pick will almost surely fail to repeat his averages from last season.
The Cardinals used Kenyan Drake super efficiently in the RZ last year: *Min 14 carries*
41.18% TD rate
#3 in the league
— Alex (@FF_Alex_R) July 25, 2020
The key stat to look at for Drake is his touchdown production, as over 22% of Drake’s fantasy points came from touchdowns, an area where he was rather unproductive in the past, as evidenced by the fact that he had only 9 through his first three seasons. Considering the fact that Drake failed to score double-digit point totals in half of his starts for the Cardinals last season, relying on him for consistent weekly RB1 production is a risky maneuver.
As we saw with David Johnson last season, the Cardinals are almost always going to ride the hot hand at the position as well. When Johnson began to wear down due to a variety of different injuries Drake stepped up to the plate, although it did seem as if the team was ready to turn the reins to Chase Edmonds before acquiring Drake from Miami, following Edmonds’ three touchdown performance in Week 7 against the Giants. Had Edmonds not injured his hamstring a week later, Drake may very well have finished the season as a Dolphin. With Edmonds and rookie Eno Benjamin breathing down his neck, it’s hard to trust Drake to keep his role as the team’s starter for a full season, especially after he struggled to beat out guys like Frank Gore and Kalen Ballage previously. As with the team’s receiving core, I expect there to be many mouths to feed, leaving Drake as a fringe RB2 for the season.
- 926 rushing yards (+109 from last season)
- 201 rushing attempts (+30 from last season)
- 5 rushing touchdowns (-3 from last season)
- 45 receptions (-10 from last season)
- 293 receiving yards (-152 from last season)
- 196.9 fantasy points ~RB21 (-4 spots from last season)
I see Drake being a viable starter in fantasy but in no way becoming the top-10 back that many have pegged him to be.