The Houston Texans and Arizona Cardinals completed one of the most baffling one-for-one (plus miscellany) swaps in NFL history on March 16. The Texans sent DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals sent back once-good running back David Johnson, a second-round pick, and a 2021 fourth-round pick. What are the ramifications of this move? Can you find some 2020 fantasy football value in this move for 2020?
There’s no doubt that DeAndre Hopkins is one of the best wide receivers in the NFL, and I am not here to legislate the insanity of trading him for the package the Texans received. Instead, let’s take a look at what this means for the teams involved and the knock-on effects (including Randall Cobb and Kenyan Drake). First, let’s look at the ramifications of DeAndre Hopkins on the Arizona Cardinals.
DeAndre Hopkins in Arizona
First and foremost, we can definitely, 100% expect a decline in DeAndre Hopkins’ fantasy football production now that he is in Arizona. He isn’t the only receiving game in town anymore after being the only wide receiver to get at least 30% of his team’s targets in each of the last three seasons. That’s target dominance that leads to fantasy football supremacy. He’s still a very good player, but he’s starting to show his wear. His yards per touch dipped under 12 for the first time in his career, in which he averages 13.6 yards every time he touches the ball. Hopkins still carries fantasy value, but a lot of that was tied to volume. Hopkins will likely still carry fantasy value based on the offense, but we are likely looking at top-ten for fantasy football in 2020, instead of top-three.
This hurts the players around him in Arizona, except maybe Christian Kirk. Kirk likely won’t grow on the 108 targets he received last year since they all have to make room for DeAndre Hopkins. I’m wary of the narrative of Kirk getting #2 CBs which means he will eat. I’m worried about volume. Hopkins demands the football, and if your options are Nuk or Kirk, you go with Nuk. After all, we are talking about a guy who turned 108 targets into 55 yards per game last year. If you’re still holding out hope for an Andy Isabella break out or even worse, a Hakeem Butler or KeeSean Johnson one… Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.
Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson Fallout
Kyler Murray immediately leaps into the top 3-5 at the position for fantasy football 2020 drafts (depending on how you feel about Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott). After all, why not? He’s a small version of Deshaun Watson who chucked the ball up to DeAndre Hopkins for years to make fantasy football hay. Kyler Murray ranked sixteenth in ten zone completion percentage, and that number should go up, and he could lead the league in ten zone touchdowns next year with Hopkins in tow. This likely moves Murray out of a range where I would recommend drafting him. As for Deshaun Watson, well, you can see my feelings on that passing game below…
DeAndre Hopkins Leaving Houston, and Houston Signing Randall Cobb
The Houston Texans “replaced” DeAndre Hopkins with Randall Cobb in their offense. Bill O’Brien went out and inked the former Cowboy and Packer to a three-year, $27 million deal ($18.75 guaranteed). That leaves them with Randall Cobb, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, and Keke Coutee. Gun to your head, who is the WR1? Will Fuller? Get out of here, he hasn’t played more than 13 games in a season and has missed 20 games over the last three seasons with various injuries. Kenny Stills is a generic brand Will Fuller, with the added bonus that he can stay healthy, and Keke Coutee went on milk cartons last season after inexplicably getting 15 targets in his 2017 NFL debut. Then, we get career gadget player and second fiddle Randall Cobb.
What in the world are the Texans doing?
They have to replace about 160 targets in their offense, and it’s more likely they distribute it equally among these guys than firing them all to one player. The Texans now carry two second-rounders, which, unless Bill O’Brien is certifiably insane, should result in a fancy new WR1. Who’s the odd man out, then? The guy they just gave money, the guy they took in the fourth, the guy who can’t stay healthy, or the guy who they use as a backstop for the WR who can’t stay healthy? It’s a mess, good luck. Don’t fall for Will Fuller’s annual siren song.
David Johnson in Houston
I sort of broke down a David Johnson to Houston scenario in my What to Remember about the Houston Texans. I said that if you took a back that wasn’t appreciably better than Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson and rolled up their production into him, you would get an extremely quality RB2. That’s what I see for David Johnson. He’s not great anymore, he’s not young anymore, and he’s going to be in a dysfunctional offense with (likely) a rookie WR1. One running back getting 75% of their combined production would end with 1,440 total yards and about eight touchdowns. I’ll take that every day of the week, but if you’ve convinced yourself that it’s a scheme misfit in Arizona or that David Johnson is secretly still good, I have bad news for you: he’s not. Will he be productive? Absolutely. Just don’t expect top-ten David Johnson ever again.
David Johnson Leaving Arizona, and Arizona Tagging Kenyan Drake
The Arizona Cardinals signaled their intention to move on from David Johnson before he was off the roster. They slapped the transition tag on Drake, which, given that he’s a running back, means that it’s more likely than not that he stays a Cardinal for 2020. After the Cardinals freed Kenyan Drake from the Dolphins, they ran him hard and they ran him often. He averaged over 100 yards and a touchdown in his games with Arizona, mostly thanks to totaling 330 yards and six touchdowns in weeks fifteen and sixteen. The Cardinals run game will be in good hands with Drake, and the addition of DeAndre Hopkins should open up more ten zone opportunities for Drake. I would expect double-digit touchdowns and somewhere in the range of 1,200 yards for him. He’s a back-end RB1 with an offense that will suddenly live up to its “high flying” billing.