What's the Fantasy Football Fallout of DeAndre Hopkins' Trade to Arizona?
DeAndre Hopkins and a fourth round pick go to Cards for David Johnson and a second round pick this year and a fourth round pick next year.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 16, 2020
They -- essentially -- gave up a depth piece at a non-valuable position and a second-round pick to acquire one of the league's best wide receivers. That's about as pretty as you can get.
Still, they may not have been the biggest winners of this move. Well, at least not the organization as a whole. Instead, that may have been their quarterback, Kyler Murray, who just got himself a brand new toy for his sophomore campaign.
Murray is the big winner of this trade from a fantasy football perspective. We'll get to him in a second. But first, let's discuss Hopkins given he was -- ya know -- the guy who got traded.
Going from Deshaun Watson to Murray as your quarterback is certainly a negative. That's not a shot at Murray; it's just that we've seen Watson be a top-end quarterback over multiple seasons, so it would have been hard for Hopkins to land somewhere that would be viewed as a positive in the quarterback department.
There are other factors that help offset that, though. Namely, Kliff Kingsbury's offense.
Outside of target share and efficiency, two other major components for a wide receiver's value in fantasy are pace and pass-to-run ratio. Deviations there can impact volume and make two equal target shares look very different.
Both numbers look at least slightly better in Kingsbury's system. Here's a comparison between Hopkins' old home and his new one. The "Pace" number is Football Outsiders' situation-neutral pace, and "Early-Down Pass Rate" is how often each team threw on first and second down in the first half, via Sharp Football Stats.
|In 2019||Pace||Early-Down Pass Rate|
It's not a major difference, to be sure. But it'll help offset some of the efficiency, and it may help lower concerns that Hopkins' target share could come down from a gaudy mark of 29.6%. Overall, this seems like a lateral move for Hopkins in fantasy.
Murray's a different story, though. Efficiency is a major driver of quarterback scoring in fantasy, and we should expect Murray's to increase now that Hopkins is in the fold.
Last year, Murray's top two targets were Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk. Fitzgerald was in his age-36 season, and Kirk missed three games and dealt with ankle issues even when he returned. After that, next up on the target tree were David Johnson, Damiere Byrd, and KeeSean Johnson. It was grim.
At minimum, he'll now have Hopkins, Kirk, and Fitzgerald as his top options this year. The Cardinals also held onto the eighth overall pick, meaning they could either add another pass-catcher or further bolster the offensive line. Either outcome would be a plus for Murray's expected efficiency.
If Murray can capitalize on this addition and increase his efficiency, it's not unreasonable to think the Cardinals' pace and passing rates could inflate, as well. The team ranked third in schedule-adjusted rushing efficiency versus 16th in passing last year, so you can understand why they'd be more rush-heavy than you'd think for an air-raid offense. It's also easier to push the pace when the team as a whole is better because you're more incentivized to increase the sample size. Both could work in Murray's favor.
That's why Murray's stock is already on the rise with this Hopkins news and could increase even more in the coming months. Unfortunately, you're not exactly buying low here.
In four superflex dynasty start-up drafts in the month of March on DynastyLeagueFootball.com, Murray has gone at pick 12.75 on average, nestled between Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott as the QB5. Murray was already worth a pretty penny, and this trade certainly isn't going to help matters.
That's going to make it hard to go out and acquire Murray if you don't already have him. Managers with Murray on their roster know that getting Hopkins is a boon, and they're not going to move him for cheap. You should give it a shot, but just know that getting Murray now won't be easy.
Along that same line of thought, if you are a Murray manager, at least listen to the offers out there, especially if you have depth at the position. It would be hard to move a locked-in starter entering his age-23 season, but if it helps you significantly bolster other, tougher-to-fill positions, it's worthwhile to entertain any offers. Although you certainly shouldn't actively look to jump ship, if people boost Murray from where he's already going in startups, you're looking at a delicious return.
While Murray moves slightly up thanks to the Hopkins acquisition, the losers here are Fitzgerald and (to a much lesser extent) Kirk.
Fitzgerald was already facing an uphill battle. The Cardinals seemed likely to address the position in the draft, and Fitzgerald is a player who is heavily dependent on volume at this point in his career. With Hopkins figuring to command plenty of that, Fitzgerald's value is minimal.
Things are certainly better for Kirk, even though he'll also get a bump down to his projected volume.
In the games where Kirk played this year, he commanded 24.5% of the team's total targets, amounting to 8.4 per game. In an offense like this, that's pretty valuable.
That will almost certainly go down with Hopkins in the fold, which is why we can list Kirk as being a "loser" of this trade. There's also the potential for things to get even worse if the Cardinals were to use that eighth overall pick on another receiver. So Kirk's stock does go down here.
We just want to make sure we're not moving him down too far. After all, if Hopkins' arrival makes the team more efficient and increases their touchdown total, that benefits everyone, including Kirk. He should also see less stingy coverage with additional attention drifting Hopkins' way. That's not going to erase all the negatives of Hopkins coming to town, but it keeps things more stable.
For now, Kirk's market is worth monitoring. Before the Hopkins trade, he was the WR31 in March startup drafts on DLF, going right between Michael Gallup and DeVante Parker. That's a pretty reasonable cost, assuming it declines a bit to account for Hopkins' arrival.
If Kirk does slide down boards a bit (or if the manager with him on their roster gets skittish), then Kirk may be worth the risk. After all, Kirk did flash at times both last year and as a rookie, so it's not a lock that the Cardinals add another high-profile receiver to the fold. And even if they do, the fully realized air raid could have enough volume and efficiency to keep Kirk relevant.
We do need to lower the impression of Kirk in our minds. Adding Hopkins is a heck of a lot different than adding a rookie as his counterpart, and they could still do that to boot. It's important to adjust him for those reasons.
But if the market overreacts, there's still a chance we could swoop in and gobble Kirk up. It may feel weird to do so, given that this trade is objectively a downgrade for him. However, everything in fantasy football revolves around value, and there's the potential that some could open up for Kirk, depending on how the public views him in this new-look, jazzed-up offense.