Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins will be suspended for six games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy. For fantasy football managers, the suspension means that Hopkins, who was traded to the Cardinals during the 2020 offseason, will be out until late-October.
The Cardinals' shocking trade for Marquise Brown during the draft may have been prompted by this pending news. Fantasy managers were intrigued by Brown's addition prior to word of the suspension, since Brown and Kyler Murray were teammates in college. Brown had more than 1,300 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns with Murray under center at Oklahoma.
Having someone fill Hopkins' void was crucial, because Murray's statistical productivity declined when Hopkins wasn't on the field. Last season, Hopkins missed seven games, due to separate injuries to his hamstring and MCL. In all, Murray averaged 25 fantasy points per game with Hopkins and 19 without him. With Hopkins set to miss so much time, it will be difficult to trust him as anything more than a WR3 in drafts. Fantasy managers may have fond memories of his 2020 season in Arizona, in which he averaged 18.2 fantasy points per game, but drafting Hopkins has an opportunity cost. Imagine the players you'll miss out on by stashing him on your bench while trying to put your team in position for a playoff spot during the first half of the fantasy season. So, what about the effect this has on the rest of the roster?
The player who benefits the most for fantasy is tight end Zach Ertz. Last season, Ertz played in his first game with the Cardinals in Week 7 after coming over in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. In 11 games with Arizona, he averaged 7.4 targets, 52.2 receiving yards and 12 points per game. He also recorded 14 red zone targets, making Ertz an even stronger TE1 this season.
The aforementioned Brown is also an obvious beneficiary. He commanded a 27% target share with Murray back in 2018 at Oklahoma. Last season, Brown averaged 14.4 points per game with the Baltimore Ravens. His 11 receiving touchdowns of 20 or more yards since entering the league in 2019 are tied with DK Metcalf for third most during that span. Only Tyreek Hill (15) and Mike Evans (13) have more. Even though Brown's target share may not be as high as 27% in his first season in Arizona, he can be viewed as a high-end WR2.
Second-year wideout Rondale Moore should also benefit. He was already positioned for success after Christian Kirk left to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars during free agency. Moore can be viewed as a WR4 with upside. Meanwhile, A.J. Green, who averaged 5.7 targets and 10 points per game, can continue to be valued as a low-end WR4.