2019 Fantasy Football Rookie Roundup: Arizona Cardinals

The 2019 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror, and it’s time for the next part of the NFL calendar: massive, rampant speculation about guys who have never played in the NFL before or have never played together or both. They will go through drills in shorts, and we will endlessly project and prognosticate on their fantasy football futures. However, there are 78 guys who might have fantasy football relevance after their names were called in Nashville at the end of April. Our goal with our Fantasy Football Rookie Roundup series is to give you a quick hit on every fantasy football-eligible player drafted in the 2019 NFL Draft. By the end, you’ll know these guys better than their mother does. Because it’s not like their mothers are necessarily good at fantasy football.

We start off, as always, with the NFC West, and as always, with the first team, alphabetically. This year, coincidentally, the Arizona Cardinals also had the first pick in the draft and took Kyler Murray, QB, out of Oklahoma. They chipped in three wide receivers and a tight end, for a league-leading five fantasy football eligible prospects for 2019.

Round 1, Pick 1 – Kyler Murray, Quarterback, Oklahoma

There wasn’t a more polarizing quarterback going into the 2019 NFL Draft than Kyler Murray. Murray, who scouts pegged as a “second- or third-round talent” ended up going first overall to his long-time suitor, Kliff Kingsbury. Whatever you think of the rookie quarterback, you have to admit that his fantasy football prospects are promising for 2019, for two reasons. First, he is a running QB. He turned in a quality running back fantasy season last year as he rushed for 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns as a quarterback. Two rushing touchdowns are worth as many fantasy points as three passing TDs, and 50 yards passing is the same as 20 yards rushing. That puts into perspective the bonus points gained by leaning into a running QB’s skills.

Second, the overhaul of the Cardinals offense that was among the most anemic in the league last year. Kliff Kingsbury is an offense-first coach, and the Cardinals added Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler, two upper-tier rookie WR talents, to a corps that already included Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, and most importantly, David Johnson. Even Murray’s inconsistent ball placement won’t be an issue with weapons like that.

The offensive line still sucks, and there’s no getting around that. However, time and again we’ve seen dual-threat QBs get around a deficient line by keeping teams honest with his legs. Kliff Kingsbury knows best how to deploy Kyler Murray, and maximize his fantasy football potential. He’s been trying to get Murray onto his team since Kyler was a zygote, so I think he might have a gameplan for him. You can draft-and-stash Murray, or you can trawl the waiver wire waiting to pounce, but I doubt Murray opens up on fire. For 2019, I don’t expect Murray to be a quality QB right away, but he could pull in some huge games in the second half, like former dual-threat rookie QBs Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen.

Oh wait he played baseball, uh, I need a baseball reference here… he could be a real home run!

TALENT
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 2019 OUTLOOK

Round 2, Pick 62 overall – Andy Isabella, Wide Receiver, UMass

Isabella is a real gym rat. He’s sneaky athletic. A real lunch pail mentality; first one in, last one out. Is that all of the clichés we slap on small, white slot receivers?

There are a lot of fantasy football prognosticators who see Andy Isabella becoming a thing in the NFL. Some even see it happening as early as 2019. Personally, I don’t see that happening in 2019. He’s a small dude, but we’ve seen small dudes work before. The problem is that he is a slot receiver, and Christian Kirk & Larry Fitzgerald played 85.8% of the team’s offensive snaps in the slot last year.

Granted, Larry Fitz spent most of his time outside prior to Bruce Arians, but his late-career resurgence is partly owed to his time in the slot. Kirk can also kick outside but is also, ideally, a slot receiver. It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for Isabella to be A Thing in fantasy football his rookie year due to roster construction. Isabella is the fourth receiving option at best this year and isn’t even the best WR the Cardinals drafted in Nashville. He runs a 4.31 40-yard dash, and has great body control to go back to poorly-thrown balls (see above).

For 2019? I don’t see this unit turning into one that can support Andy Isabella. He’s small and fast but has all the downsides of being small and fast (weak and pushed off his spot a lot). He could develop into a nü-slot type like a Wes Welker, but he will need a lot more after the catch to make that true. I don’t see that happening in 2019, especially not with this cast of characters around him.

TALENT
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 2019 OUTLOOK

Round 4, Pick 103 overall – Hakeem Butler, Wide Receiver, Iowa State

If the Arizona Cardinals had just swapped the Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler pick, their 2019 NFL Draft would have looked a lot better than it did. It’s wild how our brains work, but I’m not a psychologist. Butler is by far the better player than Andy Isabella and works a lot better with Kyler Murray than Isabella. The biggest bugaboo I found with Kyler Murray in the NFL is not his height, but his extremely iffy ball placement. Isabella does a good job of adjusting to the ball, but Butler is the master of the impossible catch.

At 6’5”, 227 pounds, Butler is a bully at every part of the route, routinely getting separation the same way someone running away from a charging bull gives the bull separation. While Butler is somewhat temporally advanced for his rookie campaign (that’s code for “old”), he’s ready to contribute right away for the Cardinals. The only problem is that he falls far down the pecking order, behind Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, and David Johnson. That having been said, he provides an intriguing option in TD-only leagues or for DFS as he is the biggest guy the Cardinals have (“actually capable of catching passes”-division). There’s definitely a scenario where he emerges as the de facto #1 target for Kyler and helps you win your fantasy league, but it’s not the most likely outcome.

TALENT
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Round 6, Pick 174 overall – KeeSean Johnson, Wide Receiver, Fresno State

How does the old saying go? Three’s a crowd? Well, this is a crowd of rookie wide receivers with one clear outcast. KeeSean Johnson doesn’t pop on film, isn’t overwhelmingly athletic, has a ton of focus drops, has bad adjustments to balls, isn’t overwhelmingly strong, big, or fast, and has bad separation. Other than that though, he’s great.

TALENT
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Round 7, Pick 254 overall – Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA

When you watch Usain Bolt get out of the starting block at the Olympics, you get a great idea of what an otherworldly athlete he is. His burst, his get off, the rapid pace at which he gets up to speed. Caleb Wilson invokes the exact opposite of that feeling when you watch him lumber out of his three-point stance. A decent-enough pass catcher and weapon, 2019’s Mr. Irrelevant is aptly named for your 2019 fantasy football drafts. He runs good enough routes, and he has arms that would make Mr. Fantastic jealous, but he will serve more to help Kyler Murray out than your fantasy football squads… if he makes the team.

TALENT
 OPPORTUNITY
 2019 OUTLOOK

 

Does this rookie roundup have you itching for more 2019 fantasy football content? Check out our Early May 2019 Auction Draft Values Chart!

About Jeff Krisko

You can follow me on twitter, @jeffkrisko for the same lukewarm takes you read here.

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