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Are the Arizona Cardinals Tanking in 2023?

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The Arizona Cardinals made the shocking decision to release former All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins on Friday afternoon. With Arizona unable to trade their star playmaker, they decided to cut bait now instead of prolonging the process. We dive into whether that means the Cardinals plan to tank in 2023.

Are the Arizona Cardinals Tanking in 2023?

After enjoying one winning season in three years with Arizona, Hopkins wasn’t shy about his desire to be traded this offseason. He was willing to restructure his contract if he needed to and even went so far as to spell out which quarterbacks he’d like to play with and outline the caliber of defense and management of what his next team would have.

MORE: What Does a DeAndre Hopkins Contract Potentially Look Like?

Alas, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that Arizona opted to release Hopkins after unsuccessfully shopping him all offseason. His $19 million unguaranteed salary figure was “prohibitive” for contenders since that number would’ve still been a factor in a reworked deal.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport clarified the Cardinals made the move prior to June 1 so they could incur his entire $22.6 million dead cap hit on their 2023 books and not spill over into 2024.

We don’t know whether new Cardinals general manager Monti Ossenfort swung and missed on any opportunity to get compensation back for Hopkins. Releasing Hopkins now saved the team $7.38 million in cap space this season and $14.9 million next season. Moving on from Hopkins after June 1 would’ve spread his dead cap more into 2024 but also may have netted Arizona a draft pick.

Regardless of whether there was ever an opportunity to trade Hopkins, the Cardinals have clearly waived their white flag for the 2023 season. This should’ve been the expected route by the end of the 2022 season. Arizona had little to show on their roster despite being relatively capped out entering the offseason.

Cardinals owner Michael Bidwill said quarterback Kyler Murray won’t be rushed back from his torn ACL. Even if he’s ready by midseason as expected, the Cardinals could be well on their way to bottoming out. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy is also rehabbing an unspecified injury that will “limit him in the offseason.”

First-year head coach Jonathan Gannon will face the 12th-hardest schedule this season, and that’s before factoring in any improvement from a healthier Los Angeles Rams team. Already down Murray and Hopkins, the team is also facing a trade request from star safety Budda Baker. Everything about this Cardinals’ offseason has projected a rebuilding situation.

The Cardinals signed only one external free agent worth more than a minimum salary, and that was linebacker Kyzir White. Defensive lineman Zach Allen, 26 years old, and 25-year-old cornerback Byron Murphy departed in free agency.

After Arizona traded down from the third overall pick in order to land the Houston Texans’ 2024 first-round pick, the Cardinals could be in a position with rare draft capital in next year’s class. If Murray doesn’t prove to be a franchise QB this season, Arizona could be able to replace him without moving additional assets. And if the Cardinals are bad despite Murray showing the “growth” that former general manager Steve Keim mentioned he needs, Arizona can invest in Murray further.

There’s no upside in the Cardinals trying to rush Murray back and competing in 2023. Losing Hopkins hurts, especially as he was still producing as a No. 1 wide receiver in 2022, but the rest of the roster is quite bad and somehow expensive.

Arizona already telegraphed their decision to tank and rebuild when they opted against drafting Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson Jr. with the No. 3 overall selection, as taking on future picks is rarely the strategy of a team trying to win right away.

That doesn’t mean internal development won’t be important.

Murray has to grow as a leader and a player. Marquise Brown is fighting for a long-term deal. A quality pass rusher and cornerback has to be identified and developed for Gannon to have any chance of surviving the next few seasons.

But wins aren’t the priority in 2023 with a roster that is arguably the worst in the NFL. With any luck, the Cardinals can become a team on the rise in 2024 if Murray recovers and improves, and the team can allocate their draft picks to revamping the roster around him.





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Should Antonio Brown Make the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame?

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The NFL has given the stage to some of the world’s greatest athletes and performers. While some players have maximized their opportunities and eventually made the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the NFL’s process for inducting some of the greatest of all-time talents has created uncertainty for hopefuls.

And after former Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Antonio Brown tweeted his own Hall of Fame résumé, we’re diving into whether Brown should make the Hall of Fame.

Should Antonio Brown Make the Pro Football Hall of Fame?

Brown has the on-field résumé of an NFL Hall of Famer. A Super Bowl champion who made first-team All-Pro four times and the NFL 2010s All-Decade Team, Brown helped redefine how evaluators looked at dominant wide receivers. At only 5’10” and 185 pounds, Brown was as unguardable as any player to have ever played the position sans Jerry Rice.

Brown’s incredible stretch of play from 2013 through 2018 made up the vast majority of his production, though he also made the Pro Bowl in his second year in 2011. In the six-year span, he caught no fewer than 101 passes for 1,284 yards and eight touchdowns in any season. He led the NFL in receptions twice, in yards twice, and in touchdowns once. His 2015 season featured a career-high 136 catches for 1,834 yards.

After his fantastic career in Pittsburgh came to an end due to a contract dispute, Brown’s off-field issues destroyed his reputation and opportunities. He was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders but never played a down for them, and was released later that season after playing just one game for the New England Patriots.

MORE: Best Wide Receivers in the NFL 2023

Brown rejoined Tom Brady in Tampa Bay for two seasons but ended his own career by storming off the field during a game midway through the season.

Entering 2023, Brown’s all-time ranks are impressive. He sits 21st with 928 receptions, 24th in receiving yards with 12,291, 25th with 83 touchdowns, and is fourth all-time in yards per game with 84.2 across 12 seasons. The only receiver with a similar résumé who isn’t in the Hall of Fame and is eligible is Torry Holt.

Still, Brown’s on-field case isn’t quite bulletproof. His lack of longevity is a glaring hole compared to others who finished their careers with more yards. Across 25 games between 2018-2021, Brown totaled just 107 receptions for 1,251 yards and nine touchdowns. He cost himself the opportunity to continue producing at a high level in those last three seasons.

Even a modest projection of another 2,000 yards from 2019-2021 would have put Brown 11th all-time in yards behind Reggie Wayne. Of the top 25 leaders in receiving yards, Steve Smith, Wayne, Andre Johnson, Anquan Boldin, Henry Ellard, Holt, Irving Fryar, and Jimmy Smith are eligible but not yet in the Hall of Fame. To get in, Brown’s biggest case is that his peak earned him the nod over the lower peaks but better consistency than his peers.

antonio brown

Why Antonio Brown Won’t Make the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Brown’s statistical case is strong but not perfect. However, when Denver Broncos running back Terrell Davis made the Hall of Fame despite only four productive seasons in his seven-year career, there became more of a gray area when it came to voting. Davis, like Brown, was transcendent during his peak, and that should be part of the voting process.

Brown may have to wait for others to get in, though. Larry Fitzgerald is a lock to get in eventually. Smith and Wayne have strong cases, and both Johnson and Holt may be borderline. Brown had a better peak than each of those players, but the same precedent that got Davis in hasn’t been made at wide receiver yet.

Then, there’s obviously Brown’s off-field issues. We saw Terrell Owens, an unquestionable top-three NFL wide receiver, fail to make the Hall of Fame until the third time he was on the ballot. Owens ranked eighth in receptions and third in receiving yards and touchdowns, but both the players and media on the voting committee punished him for being an outspoken personality.

Owens called out the voting process in 2021 when Calvin Johnson made it as a first-ballot inductee over Holt and Wayne, saying “there’s no justification” to who gets in and when they do. While Owens had to wait to enter the Hall of Fame, Brown’s list of transgressions will be much more troublesome for his own case than Owens’ outspoken personality.

From 2018-2022, Brown found himself benched with the Steelers, was traded to the Raiders before being released after fighting with then-general manager Mike Mayock, was sued for sexual assault and later released by the Patriots after threatening text messages were made public, suspended for eight games for a separate felony assault and battery charge, supplying the NFL with a fake vaccination card, then undressed mid-game and ran to the Buccaneers’ locker room in his final NFL contest.

MORE: Predicting the 2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame Class

Pittsburgh head coach Mike Tomlin lauded Brown’s “unbelievable will [and] work ethic,” but the team opted against bringing him back at any point. New England head coach Bill Belichick was willing to give Brown a chance after falling out so quickly with the Steelers and Raiders, but his ominous comments after signing Brown that the team would have to “see how [it] goes” were justifiably cautious that it would ever work out.

Brown also fell out of favor with Tom Brady after Brady pushed for the Patriots and Buccaneers to sign him.

It’s hard to burn so many bridges in the NFL and continue to be rewarded. Owens couldn’t be denied his eventual entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but Brown’s case can be swept under the rug and forgotten much easier. His off-field antics have undoubtedly cost him millions of dollars and will likely be the reason he doesn’t make the Hall of Fame.





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Which Veteran RBs Could Be Set To Fall Off a Cliff in 2023?

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Father Time remains undefeated. Every player in the NFL will inevitably decline at some point in his career. Some last longer than others, but all players lose the ability to play professional football eventually. In fantasy football, we need to avoid drafting these players. With so many of the top running backs getting older, the end is near. Here are the running backs at risk of falling off a cliff in 2023.

Which Veteran RBs Could Decline This Season?

There have been many studies done on the age at which NFL players typically decline. It varies based on position. For running backs, an overwhelming majority of RB1 seasons occur between the ages of 22 and 28.

Of course, outliers exist. Not every running back will go full Shaun Alexander the moment he turns 29. I use Alexander as the prime example because, at age 28, he carried the ball 370 times for 1,880 yards and 27 touchdowns. The very next season, he was done. His yards per carry went from 5.1 to 3.6, and he was never fantasy relevant again.

MORE: Top 250 Fantasy Football Rankings 2023

The NFL saw an influx of talent at the RB position from 2015-2017. That’s where the bulk of the elite running backs over the past near-decade came from. It’s now 2023. Those guys are getting older, and within a couple of years, there will be none of them left in terms of fantasy relevance.

To be clear, I’m not saying any of these backs will definitively fall off a cliff this season. This is merely a list of fantasy RBs who could be looking at a precipitous decline in 2023.

Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

I’m sure no one is surprised to see Derrick Henry’s name front and center on this list. He is, by far, the oldest running back in the top 24, let alone the top 12.

Henry has been a sure thing ever since establishing himself as an elite rushing force in 2019. Since then, he’s averaged 19.6, 20.8, 24.2, and 18.9 PPR fantasy points per game, respectively.

Henry’s also amassed 1,877 career touches, 1,337 of which have come over the past four seasons, which includes his injury-shortened eight-game 2021. Henry has led the NFL in carries per game for four straight seasons. No player has touched the ball more over that span.

Henry is 29 years old with a massive amount of tread on his tires. We’ve seen a noticeable decline in his efficiency each of the past two seasons. He averaged 4.9, 5.1, and 5.4 ypc in 2018-2020, respectively. In 2021 and 2022, that average was down to 4.3 and 4.4.

MORE: 2023 Dynasty RB Rankings

Henry also stopped breaking tackles as well last season. His evaded tackles per touch rate went from a second-ranked 38.8% in 2021 to a 34th-ranked 23% in 2022. Just 4% of his carries went for 15+ yards. That rate was 5.6% in 2020 and 5% in 2019.

The Titans project to be a bad team this year. They have a subpar quarterback and one of the weakest wide receiving corps in the NFL. I’m not saying it will happen, but don’t be surprised if Henry ends up averaging under 14 ppg this season, marking the beginning of the end for the King.

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings

For now, Dalvin Cook remains on the Minnesota Vikings. The fact that he may not stay with them is one of the many reasons he’s trending downward for 2023.

Cook is 28 years old. He’s not quite at the age where we expect a decline, but there are certainly warning signs.

Cook has touched the ball 1,503 times in his career. While he finally played a full season last year, it was not exactly pain-free. Cook has dealt with a medley of injuries, specifically to both of his shoulders. Those injuries have an increased likelihood of recurring each time he gets hurt, which only increases more with age.

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Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (4) runs the ball against the New York Giants during the fourth quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The injuries clearly took a toll on Cook’s productivity last season. His 4.4 ypc was a career-low, and just 4.5% of his runs went for at least 15 yards. He even saw his passing game role decrease, setting a career-low target share of 8.9%.

Cook’s 14.0 ppg was good for an overall RB14 finish, his lowest of his career (not counting his rookie season that was cut short after four games due to a torn ACL).

We’ve now seen Cook’s efficiency decline for two straight seasons. He’s had a ton of injuries and is getting older. It’s possible he ends up on another team where he doesn’t see the volume he did in Minnesota. All of this is to say Cook carries more risk in 2023 than he has at any point in his career.

Alvin Kamara, New Orleans Saints

Alvin Kamara comes with additional risk beyond his play. But even without the looming suspension, I would have no interest in Kamara for the 2023 fantasy football season.

Not only is Kamara getting up there in age (28), but the bigger concern is his decline in efficiency. Efficiency was Kamara’s calling card his entire career. As a rookie, he averaged 6.1 ypc and then was consistently between 4.6 and 5.0 for the next three seasons. In 2021, however, we started to see signs of decline.

MORE: Fantasy Football Sleepers 2023

That’s when his yards per carry dropped to 3.7, and just 2.9% of his runs went for 15+ yards. Kamara’s evaded tackles per touch rate went from second in the league to 41st. By all accounts, Kamara was an awful runner, but he was able to maintain his elite RB1 status on the heels of his receiving.

In 2022, it was more of the same. Kamara averaged 4.0 ypc, with his 15-plus-yard run rate at 2.7%. His evaded tackles per touch rate also fell to 49th. This time, though, Kamara’s fantasy ppg did not survive, plummeting to 14.1, by far, the lowest of his career.

After two straight years of declining play, how likely is it that Kamara suddenly rebounds at age 28? Derek Carr’s addition certainly helps, as the offense should be better. But I just think Kamara is a declining player.

Even when running backs decline as runners, we’ve seen pass-catching backs maintain their receiving ability. This occurred with guys like Matt Forte, David Johnson, and Le’Veon Bell. Kamara’s name certainly deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those all-time greats.

Kamara will still have fantasy value because of his pass-catching. But if the rushing declines even further, Kamara may struggle even to reach the 14.1 ppg we saw last season, making him a very risky proposition in 2023.



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Are the New York Giants a Top-15 Offense Heading Into 2023?

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The New York Giants surprised everyone in 2022 when first-year head coach Brian Daboll brought the franchise back to the postseason for the first time since 2016. After going 9-8-1, the Giants were rewarded with the most difficult strength of schedule for the 2023 NFL season. We’re diving into whether Daboll can once again produce a top-15 offense this year after the team upgraded its talent.

An Analytical Look at the New York Giants’ Offense

A person could reasonably deduce that the Giants had a very good passing offense last year after committing a guaranteed $82 million to quarterback Daniel Jones this offseason, but that wasn’t the case.

The Giants produced the ninth-best EPA per play in 2022 due to an effective rushing game behind an improved offensive line and star rusher Saquon Barkley. Jones helped manage an efficient passing game that mitigated risks extremely well.

Producing the 15th-most points and 18th-most yards while coughing up the second-fewest turnovers was a textbook recipe for ball control. Barkley was stellar after finding the explosiveness that was missing in 2021 after tearing his ACL in 2020. Daboll rode Barkley hard, handing him the fourth-most carries in the league and adding another 76 targets.

Despite the fantastic rushing attack, the Giants’ passing game was as benign as it can get in this era. Injuries certainly limited the ceiling of the unit, as Wan’Dale Robinson, Kadarius Toney, and Sterling Shepard combined for only 11 games played. Kenny Golladay completely disappeared, and Isaiah Hodgins went from the Buffalo Bills practice squad to a starter for the Giants.

MORE: Where Do the Giants Rank Among NFL Defenses? 

Still, the cream rose to the top. Hodgins proved to be a capable NFL player, and Darius Slayton enjoyed a comeback season. The unit peaked when it needed to as Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka worked magic with a group limited in talent.

Jones’ advanced numbers were shockingly low, even when factoring in the limited supporting cast. He ranked 32nd in intended air yards per attempt and 19th in yards after the catch per completion. But the trade-off of their conservative approach was he had the third-lowest bad-throw percentage and No. 1 on-target percentage.

He led a dink-and-dunk offense that no longer featured his signature deep passes that could stretch the field. However, the Giants added talent this offseason to help bring those opportunities back.

Giants 2023 Offensive Outlook

Expectations are for this Giants offense to improve. PFN’s own Arif Hasan placed the unit 18th in his offensive rankings entering 2023. Understandably, Hasan is low on Jones’ past performance despite the additions of tight end Darren Waller and receivers Jalin Hyatt and Parris Campbell.

The key for the Giants is to take their strength from 2022 and continue evolving without losing their foundation. Maximizing Barkley and controlling the ball by limiting turnovers is a limited-upside strategy, but it can help the Giants survive against more talented teams. However, the Giants have to be more than that.

Of starting running backs, Barkley ranked 13th in yards before contact per carry and 17th in yards after contact per attempt. He was fantastic, but those numbers aren’t overly inspiring that he can repeat being the workhorse.

Also, considering he was franchise-tagged for 2023, and though Giants general manager Joe Schoen iterated, “We want him to be here,” paying him long-term hasn’t been enough of a priority to already have a deal done.

MORE: New York Giants 2023 Coaching Staff 

Any sort of drop-off from Barkley in 2023 can crater the Giants’ rushing game. By only adding Eric Gray in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, the team lacks a viable backup for Barkley if he holds out or suffers an injury. Jones needs Barkley more than the other way around, which is why the Giants’ decision to commit to Jones was a fascinating gamble.

Schoen did what he could to give Jones the chance to develop more. Acquiring Waller was a huge swing on a dynamic, difference-making talent at a position that’s difficult to develop a star at. If arguably the best tight end of all time, Rob Gronkowski, is right that Waller is going to play at a Pro Bowl level again in 2023, the Giants’ offense can take a big step forward.

Are the Giants a Top-15 Offense Again in 2023?

The Giants were a top-15 scoring unit last year but were otherwise not generally considered to be average in 2022. There’s more upside for this unit in 2023, with Waller and Hyatt in particular.

The verticality of the Giants’ offense was a significant issue in 2022. Slayton had downfield speed but was also the obvious deep threat. Considering that Jones ranked 30th in deep-ball attempts and 20th in air yards, the numbers spell out New York’s offensive limitations.

Hyatt, drafted 73rd overall, could be part of the solution. Though he was a unique deep threat from the slot in Tennessee’s vertical-spread system, Hyatt knows he can be more than that.

When it came to Hyatt’s experience and skill set, he said, “I’m not going to come in here and say I only play slot, or I only want to play outside. That’s why I said I’m dynamic and explosive. I want to play everywhere. … I’m going to do what I have to do.”

Hyatt’s development can be massive for New York because they oddly added multiple versions of players they already had on the roster. While it’s wise not to count on Robinson or Shepard producing much in 2023 (or ever based on their injuries), Campbell, Hodgins, and Jamison Crowder have similar skill sets as those two.

MORE: New York Giants 2023 Schedule 

That puts unique pressure on a third-round pick, but the offense has to brace for regression from Barkley and the running game. The only way to overcome that and become a top-15 offense in 2023 is for Jones to be more than a mediocre game manager.

Considering he’s failed to show that talent outside of two performances against Minnesota’s awful defense in 2022, and the team’s difficult schedule, it’s a safer bet that the Giants fall just short of being a top-15 unit in 2023.

Even then, being in the 15-20 range is the safest bet because of their quality blocking, improved talent, and high level of coaching on both sides of the ball.

The Giants play a complementary brand of football. Their margin for error is small, and if their turnovers suddenly spike, they’ll be in real trouble of surviving the NFC East. This team needs Barkley to repeat his 2022 season, for Jones to take another developmental step, and for their playmakers to quickly find their peak.

That might be too much to ask, barring a Cinderella-esque storyline.





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