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Beyond The Box Scores 2023 Retrospective: Arizona Cardinals

Ted takes a look back at the most important fantasy narratives and stats from the Cardinals’ 2023 season.

Hello and welcome back to Beyond The Box Scores 2023 Retrospectives. For a full explanation of what’s going on here, check out the first edition of this offseason column; the short version is that I am going back over each player’s top fantasy football narratives and stats from 2023 to help evaluate their 2024 value. Last week, I covered the Falcons because I mistakenly believed they were first in alphabetical order (oops). This week, I am righting that wrong by heading to Arizona and the Cardinals. My other big mistake last week was writing a 500-word intro, so I’ll make up for that as well by getting right into it!

Ground Rules: All scoring is Half-PPR, Week 18 stats are not included (so a full season is 16 games), and only players currently being drafted in the top 200 of Underdog Best Ball drafts are covered.  


Kyler Murray

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 133.6; QB26
  • Games Played: 7
  • Points Per Game: 19.1; QB10

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Full Games Played: 7
  • Points Per Full Game: 19.1; QB10

The most important thing to note from Kyler Murray’s abbreviated 2023 season (he returned in Week 10 from a torn ACL suffered in 2022) is that he still looked like himself. Coming into the season, Murray was quite simply one of the best fantasy quarterbacks of all time. However, a large part of Murray’s fantasy value had come thanks to his incredible rushing ability: Prior to his ACL injury, the former first-overall pick averaged 39 yards and 0.40 TDs on the ground on 6.8 attempts per game (2.4 scrambles and 4.4 designed attempts). There was plenty of skepticism coming into the year about whether his injury would take away the very thing that made him special. Thankfully, Kyler’s 2023 numbers were encouragingly similar to his previous norms: 30.5 yards and 0.38 TDs per game on 5.5 attempts (2.0 scrambles and 3.5 designed rushes). And, not that it really matters for his Redraft outlook, Murray also revitalized the Cardinals’ offense with his return to the field.


I’m way in on Murray for 2024. Despite being less than a year removed from ACL surgery, he still ranked 10th in the league in fantasy points per game last season. In his seven years in the league, he has NEVER ranked outside the top 11 QBs in points per game, including three top-five finishes … but his current ADP is QB12. Yes, there are lots of great fantasy quarterback options this season, but Kyler’s combination of elite ceiling and very high floor at that price is a no-brainer. And I haven’t even mentioned that he’s almost certainly going to get another elite weapon (hopefully Marvin Harrison Jr.) to throw to from the draft.

Running Back

James Conner

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 159.6; RB25
  • Games Played: 12
  • Points Per Game: 13.3; RB15

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Full Games Played: 11
  • Points Per Full Game: 14.1; RB8

My most accurate in-season take on James Conner came after just two weeks:

UDFA rookie Emari Demercado is cutting into his passing-down work, but [Conner] is seeing absolute workhorse volume on the ground. As long as Arizona can stay competitive, he should be a rock-solid flex or fringe RB2.”

If anything, this take was too timid. He missed some time with a knee injury, but Conner put up legit RB1 numbers once he and Kyler Murray were together on the field; he carried the ball 104 times and scored seven touchdowns in the season’s final five weeks. However, it is still worth noting that Conner was indeed less of a three-down workhorse than in previous seasons. He finished the season with a 21% snap share on passing downs and a 45% snap share in the two-minute drill (counting only the 12 games he appeared in). In 2022, those numbers were 75% and 66% respectively. The primary thief of Conner’s passing-down work, UDFA rookie Emari Demercado, will still be with Arizona in 2024.

Luckily, Conner quietly continued to be one of the most efficient rushers in the NFL in 2023. NFL’s NextGen stats ranked him near the top of the league in RYOE per attempt (fourth) and success rate (sixth), while SumerSports calculated him as the league’s fourth-best RB in terms of yards created. The eye test agreed that Conner was elite in 2023, as PFF graded him fourth-highest among qualified RBs. And, hugely importantly, Conner’s 62% team rush share in his 11 healthy games would have tied for third in the league if maintained for the whole season (and even that is deflated by sharing the field with two mobile QBs in Murray and Joshua Dobbs). That combination of usage and efficiency is what a running back needs to be a consistent fantasy producer without a large passing-game role (and 2.5 targets per game isn’t nothing).


To be honest, I changed my own mind on Conner as I researched for the previous blurb. I came into this article skeptical of Conner’s 2024 outlook, as an aging (Conner turns 29 in May) running back being phased out of his team’s passing game is not usually a recipe for fantasy success. But we’ve seen players in that mold provide elite fantasy seasons before — think Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb. And although he certainly doesn’t have the same name-brand value, the numbers indicate that Conner isn’t all that out of place in a conversation with Chubb and King Henry when it comes to rushing efficiency. Especially given his elite rush share and touchdown equity in an offense that should be improved in 2024, Conner’s current RB26 ADP feels more like his floor than his median outcome.

Wide Receiver

Marquise Brown

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 109.2; WR51
  • Games Played: 14
  • Points Per Game: 7.8; WR53

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Full Games Played: 12
  • Points Per Full Game: 9.1; WR45

Looking back at my in-season analysis of Brown is bringing back bad memories. I kept waiting for him to have a huge game, especially once Murray returned, but it just never happened. Looking at the numbers, I still see why I believed: After averaging 14.7 Half-PPR points as Kyler’s WR1 (in a small sample size while DeAndre Hopkins was injured) in 2022, Hollywood had absolutely elite usage numbers in his 12 full games in 2022, with a 26% target share and a 41%(!) air yards share. But air yards don’t guarantee fantasy points. Even accounting for the two games he left early due to injury, Brown was just the WR45 on a points-per-game basis. It’s tempting to blame his 65% catchable target rate, but that is only slightly below expectation given his 12.7 ADOT. Instead, Brown was simply inefficient, with 1.25 yards per route run (mediocre) and 5.7 yards per target (seventh-lowest among qualified WRs).


I’m out on Brown for 2024. Last season was his fifth straight season with under 1.9 yards per route run and his third straight campaign below 1.7. Coming off a very disappointing year and almost guaranteed to get a downgrade in situation (I don’t see any team where he will walk into a 26% target share, especially not one from a quarterback as good as Murray), Hollywood feels like a losing pick even at the relatively cheap price of WR51.

Michael Wilson

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 83; WR63
  • Games Played: 12
  • Points Per Game: 6.9; WR60

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Games Played: 12
  • Points Per Game: 6.9; WR60

To give you some idea of the expectations for Wilson during his rookie season, most of my updates on him during 2023 were about his battle to stay ahead of Rondale Moore and/or Greg Dortch in snap count. While he did secure a starting role by the end of the season, it’s clear in both the normal and Beyond box scores that Wilson didn’t exactly light the world on fire in his first season. Like Hollywood, his efficiency numbers (1.36 yards per route run) point toward a relatively average NFL receiver.


I’m conflicted here. On the one hand, as a biased Stanford fan, I thought Wilson was an underrated prospect, and he did show a few flashes as a rookie. On the other hand, assuming the Cardinals do what everyone expects and draft one of this year’s multiple elite WR prospects with their fifth overall pick, he will be third at best on the pecking order behind Trey McBride and Stud Rookie WR To Be Named Later. If that is the case, his ceiling will be heavily capped. With all that in mind, Wilson’s WR65 ADP seems more or less fair.

Tight End

Trey McBride

The Box Scores

  • Total Points: 130.1; TE9
  • Games Played: 16
  • Points Per Game: 8.1; TE11

Beyond The Box Scores

  • Games Played Without Zach Ertz: 10
  • Points Per Game Without Zach Ertz: 11.7; TE1

In case you didn’t notice, I’ve made a special filter for McBride’s “Beyond” numbers, which frankly speak for themselves. Following Zach Ertz’s injury in Week 7, McBride was THE TE1. The sophomore also averaged 8.5 targets over those final 10 games, more than any tight end averaged for the season. He wasn’t just a volume merchant, either, ranking slightly above average in yards per reception and boasting a top-five PFF grade at the TE position.


Once again, the near-certain arrival of Stud Rookie Wide Receiver To Be Named Later has to impact how we project this offense. With a new alpha WR1 in town, McBride will be hard-pressed to maintain his 29% post-Ertz target share. However, he could lose 5% off that number and still be tied for the lead at the tight end position. I also think we can expect some positive regression in the touchdown department (McBride had just three TDs on 11 red zone targets in 2023), which should help offset any decrease in volume. No matter how crazy it would have seemed a year ago, McBride’s current TE3 ADP, right in between Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews, seems about right.