The Arizona Cardinals have a fresh coaching staff and some fresh scheme changes. I break down in tier levels who your IDP targets should be.
The Arizona Cardinals are coming off a season where they finished as the worst team in the NFL. They decided to move on from head coach Steve Wilks and hired former NCAA coach Kliff Kingsbury. They also hired on Vance Joseph to be the team’s defensive coordinator after a failed head coaching stint with the Broncos. The team is moving to more of a hybrid 3-4 defense from a base 4-3. Lets check out how the Arizona Cardinals IDP tier levels break down.
Tier 1- Draft Targets
Jordan Hicks LB
2018 Stats: 91 tackles (61 solo), five tackles for a loss, three sacks, and five passes defended in 12 games
— Cardinals Elite (@cardinalselite) March 13, 2019
Jordan Hicks has quietly been one of the most productive inside linebackers in the NFL as shown in the link above. He was having a great season last year until he missed time due to injury. In 12 games he had 91 total tackles which is on pace for about 121 tackles for the season. Hicks brings excellent cover skills to a team that lacked it from the linebacker position. Between his rookie and sophomore seasons in the NFL he combined for seven interceptions and 14 passes defended.
Hicks comes in as the best linebacker on the Cardinal’s defense. With a running mate of Haason Reddick, Hicks will definitely be the coverage backer on the team. A season over 100 tackles as well as great cover stats is well within reach for Hicks.
2019 Projected Stats: 111 Tackles, six tackles for a loss, nine passes defended, two interceptions, and one forced fumble.
Chandler Jones DE
2018 Stats: 49 tackles (38 solo), 13 tackles for a loss, four passes defended, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery
Chandler Jones has had a beast of a career. He has a total of 77 sacks in seven seasons and has had the most in the NFL since joining the Cardinals with 41 in three seasons.
Most sacks in the NFL since 2016:
1. Chandler Jones (41) 👀
2. Aaron Donald (39.5)
3. Von Miller (38) pic.twitter.com/UbIb6Hunz8
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 15, 2019
Chandler Jones has lined up at both outside linebacker and defensive end, and now possibly both in one season. The Cardinals may be playing a bit of a hybrid defense but a base 3-4. In some leagues Jones is listed as a DE and some he is a LB. If he is a DE then he could be one of the top DE’s off the board. IF he is a LB then is a later round add. Either way, Jones is one of the best in the league at his craft and also be one of the best players on the Cardinals defense.
2019 Projected Stats: 51 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss, 12.5 sacks, three passes defended, three forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.
Budda Baker SS
2018 Stats: 102 tackles (78 solo), eight tackles for a loss, two sacks, one pass defended, one forced fumble, and a Touchdown
Budda Baker is in the top-tier of all safeties in fantasy football. Though he does not offer much in pass defense, he is a tackle machine. The Cardinals, over the past few seasons, have had a weaker than average linebacker corps. This season they added Jordan Hicks but they still remain one of the lower level groups. Baker’s job in this defense should not change much as he is a fierce run defender as seen here by Pro Football Focus:
Budda Baker was a menace on the blitz last season. He had the highest pass-rush rate among slot corners with 12 total pressures (3 sacks). pic.twitter.com/JIWUUe130d
— PFF (@PFF) July 2, 2019
In 30 games (20 starts) Baker has accumulated 160 tackles which is an average of 6 per game. That number is still solid but if you look at the games he has started he averages 7.6 tackles per game. That puts Baker on pace for almost 122 tackles a season. He is a must start at the safety position.
2019 Projected Stats: 102 tackles, five tackles for a loss, one sack, six passes defended, and two forced fumbles.
Tier 2- Depth Players
Haason Reddick LB
2018 Stats: 80 tackles (53 solo), eight tackles for a loss, four sacks, five passes defended and one forced fumble
Haason Reddick is coming off a career year in 2018. After big hype about Reddick leading up to the 2017 draft, he was quite underwhelming his rookie year. 2018 started off the same way, but he was inserted into the starting lineup after four games and played well.
In his twelve starts he totaled 73 tackles(49 solo), six tackles for a loss, three sacks, five passes defended and a forced fumble. Reddick showed great improvement in tackling and technique in 2018. In 2019 he will have to focus much less on pass coverage, having Jordan Hicks by his side, who is one of the best coverage linebackers in the game. Reddick will likely be used in the blitz game often having been a converted edge rusher. I am tempering expectations a bit but if Reddick can pick up 4-6 sacks and keep improving his tackling he may jump a tier.
2019 Projected Stats: 87 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, five sacks, three passes defended, and two forced fumbles.
D.J. Swearinger FS
2018 Stats: 53 tackles (42 solo), one sack,10 passes defended, four interceptions, three forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
D.J. Swearinger is about as hard-hitting a free safety as they come. He can easily line up as a strong safety due to his hitting prowess but his ball skills allow him to be able to switch between positions. He has 11 interceptions in the last three seasons top go along with 193 tackles and 28 passes defended. With Baker playing hard in run defense in the box, Swearinger is usually the last line of defense.
If you have any questions about his hitting ability ask Marshawn Lynch:
D.J. Swearinger just did Beastmode dirty. HOT DAMN. pic.twitter.com/U55SGPhmDC
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) September 25, 2017
He absolutely went beast mode…on beast mode. His ability to recognize the run well allows him to get more involved in the run game even from the free safety position. Baker and Swearinger should make up a nice one-two combo.
2019 Projected Stats: 65 tackles, three tackles for a loss, 10 passes defended, three interceptions, and one fumble recovery.
Robert Alford CB
2018 Stats: 50 tackles (43 solo) and 11 passes defended.
Robert Alford was one of the best cornerbacks on the market this offseason and he chose to sign with the Cardinals. Alford was the CB1 for Atlanta until Desmond Trufant came to town and was a true shutdown corner. Alford is one of the better number two corners in the league. In six seasons he accumulated 85 passes defended and 10 interceptions.
Alford gets to line up across for Patrick Peterson (except for the first four games) for the 2019 season. Opposing quarterbacks avoid throwing at Peterson and should continue to. Alford should see a fair amount of targets for the upcoming season.
2019 Projected Stats: 52 tackles, two tackles for a loss, 12 passes defended, and one interception.
Tier 3- Rotational Players
Byron Murphy CB
2018 NCAA Stats: 58 tackles (37 solo), four tackles for a loss, 13 passes defended, four interceptions, one forced fumble, one Touchdown
Byron Murphy in the second round was a huge score for the Arizona Cardinals. Murphy is the best cover corner coming out of this draft class and quite possibly the youngest. Murphy has terrific cover skills and is physical enough to play in the slot. Not many corners can hit like this:
Byron Murphy! 🔨💥💥 pic.twitter.com/9QHno8hNjH
— WeAreDBnation (@WeAreDBNation1) September 16, 2018
The first four games of the season Patrick Peterson is suspended and Murphy is the favorite to start opposite Robert Alford. Rookie corners are almost always challenged early and often. I fully expect Murphy to play well and possibly even play himself into the starting slot corner for when Peterson comes back. If this scenario plays out there is plenty of volume for Murphy to see year one and possibly move up a tier.
2019 Projected Stats: 48 tackles, three tackles for a loss, six passes defended, and one interception.
Corey Peters DT
2018 Stats: 50 tackles (33 solo), nine tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and a fumble recovery
Kilgore has nightmares about Corey Peters. pic.twitter.com/nonvxUjaVh
— Oscar Aparicio (@BetterRivals) November 8, 2017
Corey Peters enjoyed possibly his best season of his eight year career in his year 30 season. As you see above he wreaked havoc on centers and guards from the tackle position. Peters set career highs in tackles (50) and tackles for a loss (9) in 2018. Now the Cardinals are moving back to a 3-4 base and Peters will be tasked with clogging up the middle in run defense.
Peters showed that he has plenty of gas left in the tank last season. The three teams that the Cardinals face twice all are in the top 15 when it comes to average of plays that are running plays. Seattle was #1 rushing 52.8% of the time, the Rams were #9 at 43.3% of the time, and the 49ers ranked 15th at 42.2%. The 49ers percent may increase with the addition of Tevin Coleman. Peters will be the man in the middle against these teams.
2019 Projected Stats: 41 tackles, five tackles for a loss, two sacks, one pass defended, and one fumble recovery.
Team IDP Sleeper
Terrell Suggs LB
2018 Stats: 34 tackles (25 solo), 13 tackles for a loss, seven sacks, six passes defended, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and a Touchdown.
Terrell Suggs is entering his 17th season in the NFL and will be 37 years old. Suggs is not the player he used to be and it would be smart to use him mostly as a situational pass rusher. Last season though the Ravens dabbled a little with Suggs playing on the interior more at tackle. This could be a highly beneficial move for the Chargers as there is not much real pass rush on the line between Peters, Rodney Gunter, and Darius Philon. Suggs has the strength to make the move to 3-4 DE and become a force. If he stays at LB, his value is minimal, but if he makes the switch to DE than his value jumps making him a sleeper.
2019 Projected Stats: 35 tackles, 6 tackles for a loss, six sacks, three passes defended and two forced fumbles.
The Cardinals are an up and coming team but still need some additions on defense. Jordan Hicks, Chandler Jones and Budda Baker are all tier one players. Hicks is a top 15 LB, Baker is a top 5 safety, and if Jones is listed at DE he is a top 5 choice.
Haason Reddick showed great promise the last 12 games of the season in 2018 and adding Hicks should allow him to blitz more which could bump his sack production a bit. D.J. Swearinger has always been a solid mid tier safety with his mix of tackling and ball skills. Robert Alford also comes in as a tier two player playing opposite of lockdown Patrick Peterson for the season. There should be plenty of volume there.
To round out the Cardinals defense as low-level picks is rookie Byron Murphy. His jump to tier two directly depends on how he plays in the first four games while Peterson is suspended. He has all the skill set to make the jump but needs to make an ascension up the depth chart before I can make him a tier higher. Corey Peters is my final viable choice, mainly if there is a DT designation in your league. Otherwise Peters is more of a late round flyer.
Terrell Suggs is my sleeper on this team as really most of the third tier is in their own right. A possible position switch could keep Suggs fantasy relevant, at least as a bye week flyer.
Follow me on Twitter @JoeyTheToothIDP. Tune into the IDPGuys podcast on a weekly basis for all the IDP info needed to win your leagues. Check out our Arizona Cardinals offensive position tiers on dynastyfootballdigest.com. Find my other articles here.