The Arizona Cardinals are the subject of one of the more controversial trades in recent memory. With their biggest trade now official (pending physicals), it’s time to see how exactly this move impacts the team going forward.
When you think of the Arizona Cardinals, they aren’t a team that screams “splashy trades” or “controversial”. In recent years, the Cardinals have done much the opposite, instead making modest signings like former Philadelphia Eagles Linebacker Jordan Hicks, or Atlanta Falcons Cornerback Robert Alford. Solid guys who will get the job done, but won’t be topping headlines anytime soon. Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim has, to no surprise, followed his formula pretty well thus far. With one notable exception of course.
DeAndre Hopkins, acquired via trade with the Houston Texans.
Few trades in the NFL garner the title of “Blockbuster Trade” more than the Arizona Cardinals trading for superstar wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins has had three consecutive seasons above 1000 yards and has been a Pro Bowler and First Team All-Pro in all three of them. Put it simply, when it comes to age, contract, and pure physical ability, Hopkins is likely the most desirable receiver in the NFL.
Players this good who make that significant of an impact to a team don’t often get traded for less than huge hauls. Upwards of two first round picks aren’t unheard of for players of Hopkins caliber. So what exactly did Arizona have to give up to obtain a top three receiver?
David Johnson and a second round pick, swapping 2020 and 2021 fourths with Houston, per John McClain of the Houston Chronicle. The Houston Texans, who came into the 2020 draft without a first round draft pick, traded away the best receiver in the NFL and still don’t have a first round draft pick. To be honest with you, I didn’t believe it either.
Where is Hopkins in our dynasty rankings? Find out here
The only way this trade is even close to fair, is if David Johnson was at the height of his 2016 campaign. Where he was racking up over 2000 yards from scrimmage and making First Team All-Pro. However, he is not. The “Humble Rumble” missed all of his anticipated 2017 season with a wrist injury. Following that with a down year behind Steve Wilks in 2018, racking up just 1200 yards from scrimmage. He missed large chunks of his 2019 season due to more injury, and even when he was “healthy”, he was RB3 behind second year back Chase Edmonds, and Kenyan Drake, who the Cardinals acquired from the Miami later in the 2019 season.
Team & Draft Impact
It cannot be understated how big of a difference Hopkins makes for this growing Arizona squad. Kyler Murray is coming off an impressive Offensive Rookie Of the Year season. As well as having three cheap years left on a rookie contract. Not only that, but he only had 36 year old Larry Fitzgerald put up anything close to what a top Wide Receiver should be producing. Second year receiver Christian Kirk has put up the kind of numbers you would expect from a teams second string Receiver. Finally, rookie speedster Andy Isabella got limited reps, reportedly struggling in Kliff Kingsbury’s complex offensive scheme.
Trading for Hopkins has two immediate impacts. The first, is that it makes future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald the WR 2. Knocking Kirk down to WR 3. Kirk has struggled in the past gaining consistent separation against top corners, so knocking him down a peg on the depth chart should allow him to thrive against man coverage. It also gives Kyler Murray a reliable Red Zone target, which the Cardinals consistently struggled with throughout the season.
The second, and more important aspect, is it changes how the Cardinals need to approach the draft. Prior to the Hopkins trade, the consensus first round pick for Arizona was Oklahoma star receiver CeeDee Lamb. Lamb wouldn’t just fill the Cardinals need of having a top WR 1. He was also Kyler’s former teammate at Oklahoma. Kyler has made his position very obvious, if it were up to him CeeDee would be the pick.
However, trading for Hopkins makes that campaign slightly controversial. The Cardinals now have much bigger fish to fry than Receiver. Especially on the defensive side of the ball where they were dead last in almost every major category. Between linebacker Isaiah Simmons, Cornerback Jeff Okudah, and Defensive Tackle Derrick Brown, one of them will be there at eighth overall and all three fill glaring needs on the Cardinals roster. There’s also a need for a quality right tackle, which Alabama’s Jedrick Wills, or Iowa Tristan Wirfs would fill nicely.
One last thing to lead off on. Although drafting a top Receiver eighth overall sounds foolish after acquiring Hopkins, there is an argument to be made. Larry Fitzgerald will be 37 for the upcoming season and has, at best, a couple years left to play. Arizona has three receivers coming off a rookie season and all three ranged from underwhelming to some promise. None are surefire to be anything more than WR 3 for the time being.
Taking a promising star like CeeDee Lamb, might give Arizona the most dominant receiving core in the league. Especially if Lamb turns out anything like most scouts and draft experts say he will. Many other teams with young quarterbacks have struggled to surround their franchise guy with quality talent. Drafting a top receiver would set up the Cardinals offense for years after Fitzgerald finally hangs up his cleats.