With free agency and the draft in the rearview, we’re entering the doldrums of the NFL calendar. So now’s a good a time as any to look ahead to the 2023 season. Walter has already started to see how the Arizona Cardinals 53-man roster might look. Today, I thought I’d take a look at who might lead the team in each major stat category: passing, rushing, receiving, tackles, sacks, interceptions.
Let’s start with the position that might have the most uncertainty on the team in 2023.
2022 Leader: Kyler Murray with 2,368 yards and 14 TDs
2023 Favorite: Kyler Murray with 2,300 yards and 12 TDs
Yes, Kyler is still the favorite to lead the team in passing yards/TDs in 2023, even though he’s likely to miss a decent chunk of the season. But when he’s healthy, he’s going to play—period. The new regime is trying to instill a winning culture, and at 25 Kyler is still ostensibly developing. I still think he plays the majority of the team’s snaps at QB in 2023.
But what does that look like? It’s likely that he starts the season on the PUP list, meaning he’ll miss at least the first four games. Let’s say he’s back after missing six games, and that he misses at least one other game, giving him right around 10 starts. He averaged just about 240 yds/gm last season, but he might be slightly below that since he’s coming back from injury and will be without D-Hop. And touchdowns might be hard to come by this season, hence the low TD number.
Second Option: Colt McCoy. I still think McCoy will play the majority of the snaps while Kyler recovers (assume he doesn’t semi-surprisingly decide to retire). But if Kyler isn’t ready as early as many are thinking and the team is playing relatively well? Maybe Colt keeps the job longer than expected.
Sleeper: Clayton Tune. It seems unlikely that Tune would play enough to lead the team in passing, but he figures to get a look at some point. The most likely scenario for him leading the team in passing would be a setback in Kyler’s rehab and the team just waives the flag on 2023 to see what it has in Tune.
2022 Leader: James Conner with 782 yards and 7 TDs
2023 Favorite: James Conner with 650 yards and 6 TDs
The team’s backfield situation is mighty thin behind Conner, so he figures to lead the team in rushing almost by default. But he’s a year older and has never been the picture of health, and the team’s offense figures to be among the league’s worst with or without without Kyler. Plus the team may elect to spell Conner more often and/or give some of the younger guys a look, so Conner’s numbers might look pretty paltry by season’s end.
Second Option: Keaontay Ingram. The 2022 6th-round pick is #2 on the depth chart and might get an extended look at some point. It could be a situation where, say, 400-500 yards leads the team and Ingram wins the war of attrition.
Sleeper: Emari Demercado. Undrafted RBs coming out of nowhere to make an impact isn’t exactly unheard of. Maybe Conner gets hurt (“maybe”), Ingram is ineffective, and the team gives Demercado a shot. What if he takes the gig and, ahem, runs with it?
2022 Leader: DeAndre Hopkins with 717 yards and Zach Ertz with 4 TDs
2023 Favorite: Hollywood Brown with 850 yards and 5 TDs
Brown looked like a potential WR1 last season before D-Hop returned from suspension and should easily lead the Cardinals in targets. The QB situation isn’t ideal, but Brown would just need to average about 60 yds/gm to reach that 850-yard target if he plays in 14 games, which he did in each of his three seasons in Baltimore. He has a good shot to lead the team in receiving TDs as well giving the uncertainty surrounding Ertz’s health coming into 2023.
Second Option: Rondale Moore (yards) and Trey McBride (TDs). Both of these players could be ready to make a leap in 2023. Moore figures to entire camp as the team’s WR2 and McBride could take the TE1 job away from Ertz anytime.
Sleeper: Greg Dortch (yards) and Michael Wilson (TDs). If Moore just isn’t ready to make that leap, Dortch could serve as the team’s WR2 and could end up leading the team in yards if Brown’s health doesn’t hold up all year. At 6’2”, Wilson has the size to be a red zone threat and, as shown above, passing TDs don’t exactly come a-plenty on this team, so he could lead the team with 3-4 snags late in the season.
2022 Leader: Budda Baker with 111 combined
2023 Favorite: Budda Baker with 100+ combined
If Budda is back (and I hope he is), he should lead the team in tackles. Simple as that. He flies around the field, doesn’t give up on plays, and doesn’t hesitate to put his body on the line. That’s an easy recipe for leading a team in tackles. But note that Jalen Thompson (110), Zaven Collins (100), and Isaiah Simmons (99) were right on Budda’s tail last year.
Second Option: Thompson. He should easily lead the team if we wind up trading Budda (or even if not). But he’s the second-most-likely option after Budda since we don’t exactly know where Collins (edge rusher?) or Simmons (safety? CB?) will play in 2023.
Sleeper: Kyzir White. White had 110 combined tackles for the Eagles last year and has a chance to wind up as the team’s starting MLB. Sleeper almost seems like a silly label for him, especially given his familiarity with the coaching staff.
2022 Leader: J.J. Watt with 12.5
2023 Favorite: Zaven Collins with 8
This is probably the toughest category to predict, as Watt and our second-leading sack artist last season (Zach Allen with 5.5) are both gone. Simmons was next best with 4, and then-rookies Cam Thomas and Myjai Sanders had 3 each. It wouldn’t shock for any of those three to lead the team in 2023. But my money is on Sanders, who could potentially play the Haason Reddick role in our version of the Eagles defense.
Second Option: Thomas or Sanders. Whichever of the two of them winds up getting the most snaps could potentially lead the team in sacks. Both are interesting, ascending players and could challenge for the team lead in sacks even in a reserve role.
Sleeper: Dennis Gardeck. I have no idea what the new regime thinks of him or how they plan to use him, but remember he did have 7 sacks back in 2020.
2022 Leader: Marco Wilson with 3
2023 Favorite: Marco Wilson with 4
Given our relative strength at linebacker and safety, Cardinals opponents figure to pick on our CBs a lot in 2023. Wilson showed a bit of a nose for the ball last year and could set a new career high if he takes a modest leap forward in Year 3. The Cardinals defense will badly need him to make that leap, so let’s hope it happens.
Second Option: Budda Baker or Jalen Thompson. They combined for 3 picks last season but had 3 apiece in 2021. And remember that Eagles safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson tied for the lead league in INTs last season with 6.
Sleeper: Isaiah Simmons. Simmons has four INTs in three seasons and could play more at DB this season, potentially setting him up to challenge for the team lead.
It’s way too early to be making these kinds of predictions, but what else are we supposed to do in the doldrums of the NFL offseason? It’s mostly for fun anyway. If you have any predictions or sleepers, drop them in the comments.