We’ve counted down the top 50 Arizona Cardinals players for the 2020 season over the past few weeks. It all ends today with the top 10. We’ve got a legend, defensive cornerstones, the franchise QB, and a few newer faces. Before we get to them, we’ll list the rest of the top 50. Feel free to check out the previous articles in case you missed them. Here we go!
2020 Redbirds 50 – #11-50
FA = free agent acquisition, R = rookie, T = trade
#50: LS Aaron Brewer (Last year: #50)
#49: DE Michael Dogbe (Last year: #49)
#48: S Chris Banjo (Last year: N/A)
#47: ILB Evan Weaver (Last year: N/A) (R)
#46: ILB Zeke Turner (Last year: #42)
#45: ILB Dennis Gardeck (Last year: #44)
#44: ILB Tanner Vallejo (Last year: #43)
#43: WR KeeSean Johnson (Last year: #40)
#42: WR Trent Sherfield (Last year: NR)
#41: G Max Garcia (Last year: #38)
#40: C Lamont Gaillard (Last year: #46)
#39: CB Kevin Peterson (Last year: N/A)
#38: CB Chris Jones (Last year: N/A)
#37: OLB Haason Reddick (Last year: #25)
#36: TE Dan Arnold (Last year: N/A)
#35: DE Jonathan Bullard (Last year: N/A)
#34: DE Zach Allen (Last year: #20)
#33: DT Rashard Lawrence (Last year: N/A) (R)
#32: DT Leki Fotu (Last year: N/A) (R)
#31: QB Brett Hundley (Last year: #38)
#30: CB Robert Alford (Last year: #17)
#29: C Mason Cole (Last year: #29)
#28: S Deionte Thompson (Last year: #24)
#27: WR Andy Isabella (Last year: #18)
#26: RB Chase Edmonds (Last year: #32)
#25: K Zane Gonzalez (Last year: #34)
#24: TE Maxx Williams (Last year: #45)
#23: OT Josh Jones (Last year: N/A) (R)
#22: OT Justin Murray (Last year: N/A)
#21: OT Marcus Gilbert (Last year: #15)
#20: ILB De’Vondre Campbell (Last year: N/A) (FA)
#19: DE Jordan Phillips (Last year: N/A) (FA)
#18: CB Byron Murphy (Last year: #19)
#17: S Jalen Thompson (Last year: N/A)
#16: P Andy Lee (Last year: #10)
#15: OG J.R. Sweezy (Last year: #27)
#14: OLB Devon Kennard (Last year: N/A) (FA)
#13: WR Christian Kirk (Last year: #11)
#12: DT Corey Peters (Last year: #9)
#11: OG Justin Pugh (Last year: #22)
#10: LB/S Isaiah Simmons (Last year: N/A) (R)
2019 Stats: N/A (rookie)
Projected 2020 Role: TBD
2020 Outlook: Former college superstar Simmons dropped into the Cardinals’ lap at #8 and immediately became a top-10 player on the team. He’ll be a difference-maker right away—that much is clear. What’s less clear, however, is where he’ll line up in Week 1. Over Jalen Thompson at safety? Over De’Vondre Campbell at ILB? Over Devon Kennard at OLB? Any of the above seems plausible—he was a stud at all three positions at Clemson. It’ll be up to embattled DC Vance Joseph to figure out how to deploy him best (a somewhat dubious proposition). He’s likely going to play all over the field, but how Joseph integrates him into the lineup will be one of the most interesting early-season storylines to monitor.
#9: RB Kenyan Drake (Last year: N/A)
2019 Stats: 8 games (8 starts), 12 rushes for 643 yards and 8 TDs, 28 receptions for 171 yards (Arizona stats only)
Projected 2020 Role: Starting RB
2020 Outlook: The Cardinals caught lightning in a bottle with Drake after a midseason trade last year. He exploded out of the gate for 110 yards and a TD against the 49ers just days after the trade. Although he was quiet for the next few games, he racked up 363 yards and 7 TDs over the final three games of the season, earning himself a 1 year, $8.5M contract for 2020. He’ll certainly be motivated to produce this season, but a few questions remain. For one, can he be a true lead back? His career high in carries is the 170 he totaled last season. And for a guy with a reputation as a good receiving back, he didn’t really contribute much as a receiver for the Redbirds. Maybe he’ll be more involved in the passing game with a full(?) offseason with the team. And finally—will he even be playing for the Redbirds in 2021? If he plays well enough, he just might price himself out of the Cardinals’ budget.
#8: ILB Jordan Hicks (Last year: #6)
2019 Stats: 16 games (16 starts), 150 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 3 INTs, 2 FF, 1 FR
Projected 2020 Role: Starting ILB
2020 Outlook: Those numbers above sure look like Pro Bowl numbers, don’t they? Hicks probably would have made it alongside Budda Baker and Chandler Jones (SPOILERS: they are higher up on this list), but it’s difficult to justify sending three players from the last-ranked defense (by yardage) to the Pro Bowl. And Hicks contributed to that ranking a bit himself, struggling to cover tight ends all season. But that’s the only flaw in his game—he’s a sure tackler and instinctual playmaker who should quarterback the Redbirds defense for years to come. And if the defense as a whole can improve, Hicks should be able to add “Pro Bowler” to his resume.
#7: OT D.J. Humphries (Last year: #14)
2019 Stats: 16 games (16 starts)
Projected 2020 Role: Starting LT
2020 Outlook: This might seem a little high for Hump, and players like Drake and Hicks are probably better at their jobs than Hump is at his. But this is where positional value comes into play. Simply put, an above-average LT is more valuable than a very good RB or ILB. Replacing Hump with a league-average LT would hurt the team more than replacing Drake or Hicks with a league-average RB or ILB. Of course, that’s only if you think Hump is an above-average player. I do, and, at 26, it’s possible that we haven’t seen his ceiling yet. He did just get paid, though—will he be motivated to improve? Something tells me that being part of an exciting, up-and-coming offense will keep Hump focused on improving as a player. Let’s just hope his injury issues are behind him for good.
#6: WR Larry Fitzgerald (Last year: #2)
2019 Stats: 16 games (16 starts), 75 receptions for 804 and 4 TDs
Projected 2020 Role: Starting WR
2020 Outlook: Fitz is a legend, but his best days on the field are behind him. He hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2017 and is a longshot do to so in 2020 with DeAndre Hopkins in town and Kyler Murray’s predilection to spread the ball around. That said, he’s still plenty valuable on the field—he’s still one of the most sure-handed receivers in the league and he should feast in the slot this season with Hopkins dictating coverage outside. But he’s so high on this list because of what he means to this team, to this franchise, outside the white lines. He’s a revered leader both in the locker room and the community, and he’s an invaluable mentor to younger guys on the team. All the guys behind him in the top 10 are probably better pure football players than a soon-to-be 37-year-old slot receiver, but none are more valuable to the Cardinals than Fitz.
#5: S Budda Baker (Last year: #5)
2019 Stats: 16 games (16 starts), 147 tackles, 0.5 sack, 1 FF, 1 FR
Projected 2020 Role: Starting S
2020 Outlook: Baker is coming off a Pro Bowl season (his second, but first as a defensive player) and should be a foundational player on the defense for years to come—assuming the Cardinals can lock him up long-term. He flies all over the field and is generally always around the ball—see the nearly 150 tackles last year—but one area where he needs to improve is playmaking. He has yet to record an interception in his career, and he only has 4 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, and 3.5 sacks total in his 3 seasons. That’s basically one turnover and one sack per season. Those numbers need to come up—and they should as the defense improves as a whole.
#4: CB Patrick Peterson (Last year: #3)
2019 Stats: 10 games (10 starts), 53 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INT, 7 passes defended, 1 FF
Projected 2020 Role: Starting CB
2020 Outlook: Peterson had an… interesting 2019. His suspension obviously loomed over his whole season, and it resulted in some very uneven play once he was eligible to return. He showed flashes of the shutdown corner we’ve known him to be, but he also had some of the worst games of his career as well. Which PP7 will we get in 2020? Well, at 29 years old, he’ll be playing for what will likely be his last big contract, so he’ll be plenty motivated. He’s probably lost a step here at the tail end of his prime, but if he can keep his head on right, he’s still a top-10 CB in the league. But he almost certainly won’t be one by the time his next deal ends, even though he’ll be paid like one. Another interesting contract decision to keep an eye on.
#3: QB Kyler Murray (Last year: #8)
2019 Stats: 16 games (16 starts), 349/542 for 3,722 yards and 20 TD/12 INT, 93 rushes for 544 yards and 4 TDs
Projected 2020 Role: Starting QB
2020 Outlook: Kyler is indisputably the face of the franchise moving forward, and only two Hall of Fame–caliber players in their prime are preventing him from taking the #1 spot on this list. And if Kyler makes “The Leap” many expect him to in Year 2, he should easily land at the top next year. Behind a surprisingly solid O-line, working with improved weaponry around him, and with a year of experience under his belt, it’s not too early to start wondering if Kyler can make the Pro Bowl this year—heck, he was already an alternate last year. While it *is* probably too early to start talking about MVP (although both of the last two winners were 2nd-year QBs…), he could certainly be a fantasy MVP this season. At this point, it seems like only an act of God can stop Kyler’s ascension. Unfortunately, the NFL having to cancel its season because of coronavirus is an all-to-real possibility in 2020…
#2: WR DeAndre Hopkins (Last year: N/A) (T)
2019 Stats: 15 games (15 starts), 104 receptions for 1,165 yards and 7 TDs (with Houston)
Projected 2020 Role: Starting WR
2020 Outlook: The numbers above actually represent a somewhat down year for Hopkins as the Texans suffered a bad case of O’Brien-itis. It was such a bad case that the team shipped the WR out to the desert for a 2nd-round pick and a declining RB. The Redbirds were only too happy to relieve the Texans of their burden, just absolutely stealing a 28-year-old stud WR who is one of the best 2-3 in the game. Hopkins probably won’t return to his 1,500 yard, 12 TD glory days—the Cardinals offense is too diverse for that—but his presence will completely change the way opposing teams defend our passing attack. He’s a coverage-shifting beast who will both open up the field for Fitz, Kirk, and Co., as well as become the team’s best red zone weapon. I’m still pinching myself that Steve Keim was able to pull off this coup, and I can’t wait to watch him take the field at State Farm Stadium.
#1: OLB Chandler Jones (Last year: #1)
2019 Stats: 16 games (16 starts), 53 tackles, 19 sacks, 8 FF, 3 FR, 5 passes defended
Projected 2020 Role: Starting OLB
2020 Outlook: Last year’s #1 repeats—and how could he not? He racked up nearly 20 sacks (almost 50% of the team total), had 8(!) forced fumbles, and finished second in DPOY voting, an award he might’ve won if the team defense around him was better. Jones was a one-man wrecking crew last year, terrorizing opposing OTs and QBs on a weekly basis. With more pass rush help around him this year, he’s poised to place on the DPOY ballot again as he continues his Cardinals Ring of Honor career. Also, with a mere 7 sacks, he’ll pass Freddie Joe Nunn (who I must confess I don’t remember) for #1 on the all-time Cardinals sack list. He’ll likely be #1 on that list for a long time. Not this list, though—he’s just keeping this spot warm for Kyler next year.
That wraps up this year’s edition of the Redbirds 50. Just like last year, the list spans from Brewer to Jones, although the names in between have certainly changed a bit. I count 17 new names from last year’s edition (completed around this same time last year).
What’s more is that about 2/3 of the list (33 names) have been added to the roster since the disastrous 3-13 season of 2018. For all his warts, Keim has done a good job of turning the roster over. It’ll be interesting to see what this roster looks like in another year as he continues to build the team around Kyler.
In the meantime, weigh in on this year’s list in the comments. Should Simmons have made the top 10? Who would you have at #1? Predictions for next year’s top 10? Thanks for reading!