The Arizona Cardinals had the top overall pick in the 2018 draft. they were at the lowest point a franchise can reach. They had been spiraling downwards since appearing in the 2015 NFC Championship, and finally hit rock bottom. NFL teams are rebuilding faster than ever nowadays, and the Cardinals could be the next team to flip their fortune in a matter of years.
A second-year quarterback, a second-year coach and a huge addition at wide receiver could be what the team needs to finally return to contention.
The NFL season is almost upon us! Over the next few weeks I will be previewing each of the 32 NFL teams, and ranking them 1-32 as to how likely I believe they are to win Super Bowl LV. This week we continue the list with teams who could truly contend for title this year.
12. Arizona Cardinals
Kyler Murray—the man who was selected with the first overall pick in 2019—was a revelation in his rookie season. There were many concerns surrounding him entering the league, including his small frame, limited arm strength and the fact that he only played a single year in college. He shined in his rookie year though, eventually winning Rookie of the Year with 3,722 passing yards and 20 touchdowns alongside 544 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
He should be better in year two with more experience and another year working with offensive genius and head coach Kliff Kingsbury. Murray and Kingsbury will have a ton of weapons to work with as well.
The premier offseason addition for the Cardinals is DeAndre Hopkins. Arizona was able to acquire the Houston Texans star wide receiver while also getting to rid of David Johnson, who is far beyond his prime as a running back.
Hopkins struggled early in 2019, but recovered and returned to form, still finishing the season with 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns. The receiver has notched over 1,000 yards in five of the past six seasons, and some of those were playing alongside terrible quarterback talent. He succeeded once Deshaun Watson arrived in Houston and should continue to succeed now that he is alongside Murray.
Arizona’s impressive receiving corps also includes Christian Kirk, one of the league’s budding stars, and the old reliable Larry Fitzgerald, who has somehow not at all been affected by age over the years. Throw in another talented option in running back Kenyan Drake, and Murray has a wealth of options on offense.
There are a few stars on defense, but also some huge questions they will have to answer. Chandler Jones’ 19 sacks last season were largely overlooked last year, but expect the veteran to continue chugging along as an elite rusher despite being 30.
Budda Baker—who became the highest-paid safety in NFL history this offseason—is a star in the secondary. The young safety flies around the field and can lineup anywhere on defense. Baker is an defensive weapon, and a rare versatile talent that many teams may not have access to.
Cornerback may be a problem for the team, though. Patrick Peterson is no longer the player he once was. Robert Alford is set to miss the entire 2020 season with a pectoral injury, and young sophomore corner Byron Murphy will be tasked with replacing him once again.
The most exciting prospect on defense is Isaiah Simmons, another do-it-all safety out of Clemson. Simmons will officially be listed as a linebacker for the Cardinals, but similar to Baker, he can lineup anywhere on defense. Expect to see the Cardinals defense do creative things with both Simmons and Baker on the field at the same time.
Arizona’s defense is not perfect. Their linebacking crew leaves much to be desired, but they should be enough to complement a potentially elite offense. The Cardinals are playing in a tough division where every slip up throughout the season means more, but they could easily find themselves in a wild card spot even if they end up missing out on a division title in 2020.