Solving The Arizona Cardinals' WR Group

Watching the game last night, there was a common theme which has plagued us throughout the year; our wide receivers as a whole are terrible, writes Kyle Morley.

Overview

Larry Fitzgerald (75 receptions, 804 yards, 4 TD’s, 10.7 per reception)

Whether he comes back or not, only Larry knows. Hopefully this game won’t play out too long and he makes his decision quickly.

Fitzgerald is the greatest Cardinal of all time, still offers Kyler a reliable target going forward in the slot/flex TE hybrid role he has carved out in his later years.

Even if he doesn’t retire this off season, some consideration has to be made about replacing his skill set eventually.

Christian Kirk (68 receptions, 709 yards, 3 TD’s, 10.4 per reception)

I am going to say it, I know it is going to be unpopular as he is the local kid, but Kirk has had an absolute stinker this season. All 3 of his TD’s came against the Buccaneers! So out of 13 starts, only 1 game he came away with a TD. Brutal. Ignoring the stats, his general play has been most worrying. He never wins a contested catch, very rarely does he gain yards after contact and finally the drops.

Multiple times this season Kyler has put the ball in to his chest, I’m sure he even bounced one straight in between his eyes and Kirk dropped the pass. Now I am not writing Kirk off, a sophomore slump is a common thing and, in only his second year, he is learning a new offence and has been paired with a new QB, but we HAVE to see an upward curve next year, before I am comfortable saying this is our WR2 going forward.

Damiere Byrd (32 receptions, 359 yards, 1 TD’s, 11.2 per reception)

No, do not rub your eyes in disbelief, Byrd is our WR3 on the depth chart. Signed as a street FA last summer, Byrd has been the Cardinals lone deep threat.

The Cardinals moved on from speed machine and big time butter fingers JJ Nelson and brought in, erm, his clone (insert the Spiderman meme where
he is pointing at himself). For what he is, he hasn’t been bad, but there is no way he should be WR3 for an NFL franchise!

Pharoh Cooper (25 receptions, 243 yards, 1 TD’s, 9.7 per reception)

Now, I am actually going to defend Coop. I think he brings a lot to his roster as a returner, he always brings the juice, whether it works out or not is another matter but 9/10 he is smart on his returns. I also think he has come up with some big catches in important moment this year. I am actually quite happy with him going forward as a WR4/WR5 and ST role.

Andy Isabella (9 receptions, 189 yards, 1 TD’s, 21 per reception)

So many questions around Isabella.

This coaching staff knew exactly what he was as his OC from college is on the coaching staff and anyone who watched the Senior Bowl knew his physical and skill set limitations. So they question is why has he seen so little snaps?

Now I don’t think for one second his is a bad egg or that there is an issue with his work ethic. But I really can’t answer why he hasn’t been utilized
more by Kliff, especially at the back end of the season. Going in to year 2 we still don’t know what we have, which is a problem.

Maybe he will slide in to the Byrd role as the outside speed deep threat, but
this is a huge ‘question mark’ which we can’t answer right now. As it stands, he looks like a huge reach in the second round with the pick from the Josh R***n trade.

Trent Sherfield (4 receptions, 80 yards, 0 TD’s, 20 per reception)

Was given the opportunity to make plays early in the season, dropped some big chance and has since seen his role limited to that of a special teams guy – at which he is pretty adept. Maybe he sticks around as the last WR on the depth chart? Who knows, but I struggle with any opinion on him going forward as his role will mainly be limited to Special Teams.

KeeSean Johnson (21 receptions, 187 yards, 1 TD’s, 8.9 per reception)

The pre season hype guy, there is one every year. Yes his routes are smooth, yes his hands are OK (he has still dropped some absolute gimmies, mind you) but athletically he is like Fitz.

Not the rookie Larry Fitzgerald.

The 36-year-old Fitzgerald.

He has been inactive for 6 games (which may be down to the birth of his first child and the team have him some breathing space while he gets his house in order) but overall, it has been a bit of a disappointment considering the hype.

The question is what is his role going forward?
What is his ceiling?

I’m not sure to answer the first question and I think his ceiling is pretty limited.

Hakeem Butler (IR all year)

Another rookie but didn’t start a game after being placed on IR. All we can go off is the preseason and man he looked raw. He often frustrated with his lack of consistency when catching the ball too, makingsome worldie plays to dropping simple passes. But this was a guy who was hyped as first round talent by draft media but fell like a stone with NFL scouts.

I’m being honest, after seeing and hearing what he was like in the preseason, I think he would have struggled to make the roster if he wasn’t on IR.

So we have Kirk, Isabella, Sherfield, Johnson and Butler all under contract next year.

Fitzgerald, Byrd and Cooper are all out of contract.

So the first question is who do you bring back?

Fitzgerald if he wants to play another season is a gimmie, so there is 1.
Kirk, despite my observations is coming back, so 2.
They are never going to cut Isabella after a season, so there is 3.
I expect them to bring back Cooper due to his special teams play, so there is 4.

After that I really don’t know.

I am going to the conclusion though that this room will have to be improved from either FA or the draft.

Just for some perspective, Taysom Hill this year has 19 receptions, 234 yards, 6 TD’s, 12.3 per reception. The Saints backup QB/gadget guy has more TD’s than any of our WR’s.

Brutal.

Free Agency

Looking at the names, I struggle to get excited if we brought in a lot of these guys (for reference https://www.spotrac.com/nfl/free-agents/all/wide-receiver/).

The one name who I really like is Robby Anderson who would be a great pickup as the deep threat guy, but he is a questionable character and
will get paid well.

Breshad Perriman has had a nice season in Tampa, but are you going to pay him off the back of 1 year of production?

I am avoiding names like AJ Green and Sanders as I don’t think they are realistic, especially if Fitz comes back. So unless the Cardinals dip their toes in FA for Anderson or Perriman, let’s look at the draft, which I think is the more likely option.

The Draft

Prior to the 2019 draft, this draft was lauded as one of the deepest and talented WR drafts in many a year, so why we spunked 3 picked last year on WR’s I don’t know, but here we are and the draft class IS
loaded.

Potential picks with the 8th pick

Jerry Jeudy, Alabama Crimson Tide, 71 receptions, 959 yards, 9 TD’s, 13.5 yards average.

Mainly lines up in the Z or Y position but can also be put in the X and attack downfield. Jeudy is an elite route runner with sudden movement skills that can create massive YAC. Despite some drops this year (he still has a fantastic catch %) he shows soft hands and an ability to win in contested situations.

The knocks are he isn’t an elite athlete and he doesn’t have elite size. On those quick screens to the outside Jeudy could carve a role out for himself early and his route running would give Kyler a legit open target, something he rarely ever has.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XtNZ_pPtwAY

Ceedee Lamb, Oklahoma Sooners, 62 receptions, 1,327 yards, 14 TD’s, 21.4 yards average.

True X, but can also line up in the Z. He is one of the best college receivers in terms of catching the ball and body control, I have no issues with him at the next level in contested catch situation or his hands.

What Lamb is also elite at is yards after the catch, a dynamic play maker with the ball in his hands. The knocks are he plays in a wide open offence, which schemes him open a lot of the time and he isn’t a burner, he is
never going to beat a DB for speed.

Kyler already has a rapport with him (big bonus), the scheme will be
familiar to him and I think he can be a true outside guy, something we haven’t had since Floyd when Fitz got pushed inside.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uv8rzHM2ydU

Henry Ruggs III, Alabama, 38 receptions, 719 yards, 7 TD’s, 18.9 yards average.

I think you can line him up in any position and he can be a difference maker. The dude has elite speed and will possibly break the combine record 40 time. But he isn’t a one trick pony, he has good hands, runs solid routes and can win in contested situations.

The knocks are he doesn’t have elite size and you will have to be creative
with him to get him in to advantageous match ups, but he is a home run hitter.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDR5Lqo8p2o

They are the three would I would realistically take top 10.

Other names if we traded back who could be an option or if they slip to round 2 are (I will keep these short as they are less likely)

Tee Higgins, Clemson, 56 receptions, 1,115 yards, 13 TD’s, 19.9 yards average.

Pros:
– Gaudy stats for a guy who is a size, catch radius and red zone monster.
– 6’4, 215lbs athlete who you throw the ball up to
and usually he comes down with it.
– A true outside X receiver.

Cons:
– Not the quickest
– Route running leaves a lot to be desired.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cns3ctH57Gc

Laviska Shenault Jr, Colorado, 56 receptions, 764 yards, 4 TD’s, 13.6 yards average.

Pros:
– A true gadget guy who is an elite athlete.
– You can get really creative, lining him up at WR, RB or flex TE to give
him the match ups you want.
– Really exciting player to watch.
– Can effect all 3 levels of the field.

Cons:
– Down year in terms of production,
– Doesn’t fit the traditional mould of a WR.
– The OC will need to be creative and scheme him touches.
– Has a limited route tree.
– OK at best when he does run them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xD2rHuPztRw

Jalen Reagor, TCU, 43 receptions, 611 yards, 5 TD’s, 14.2 yards average.

Pros: 
– Rapid. Line him up in the X and he gives you a legit vertical threat.

Cons:
– Another one who had a down year.
– Not the best hands.
– Not the best in contested catch situations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8wem2YdoBdI

I’m just going to throw out a few more days, as I think the need at WR should be/will be addressed early in the draft.  I really don’t think the Cardinals need to be adding quantity to the room.

KJ Hamler – Think poor mans Hollywood Brown (and that isn’t meant to be a slight on him). Very small, but his acceleration and speed and elite and his is a playmaker.

Donovan Peoples-Jones – You may remember the name from the Netflix series (if you watch it). DPJ has been held back by some shocking QB’s in Michigan, put him in Ohio, Clemson, LSU, OU etc he is a 1,000 yard receiver IMO. He will test very well at the combine. He biggest reg flags are production and injury.

Justin Jefferson – I will get the bad out the way, he isn’t going to blow anyone away at the combine. But the dude is a gamer with an alpha attitude which sees him really beat down on DB’s. Has some juice with the ball in his hands too.

Brandon Aiyuk – ASU fans will know the name. Former JUCO who has burst on to the scene after being in the shadows on N’Keal Harry. Home run threat once he gets going, little screens over the middle have the potential to be a massive play.

In conclusion, despite last years investment in the WR room, there needs to be an influx of top tier talent.

I think the Cardinals go early on one of the big name WR’s, Keim will be sucked in by the star names and I think Kingsbury will be begging him for a legit weapon for Kyler.

Personally, Jeudy is my WR1 still and I think he is the one who will make the biggest impact. His routes are so crisp and he is so dynamic in the short to intermediate game, it could really open things up for an Isabella in the vertical game.

Lamb is a hair behind as WR2 for me, though I don’t think you can underestimate the rapport he has with Kyler already.

There are some pieces there, but after taking the Kyler last year, is this the year where we pair him with his long term target?

Do you think the team will address the WR room in the FA or the draft? Who would you like to see brought in?

Love the discussion over on of the most fun groups to evaluate.

The regular season may have finished yesterday, but today is the first day of draft season.

1 thought on “Solving The Arizona Cardinals' WR Group

  1. In terms of fit in our room and emulating Fitz I would take Tee Higgins his catch radius and good hands give him v good success in contested catches and physique is more akin to Fitz. The personality and game intelligence is better suited to the cards than Jeudy or Lamb.
    I think Jedrick Wills will be a serious 1st round alternative if he is still there and Epenesa could be a long shot if the want a Swiss Army knife for the d line.

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