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DeAndre Hopkins Suspended Six Games: Fantasy Football Impact Analysis

deandre hopkins fantasy football rankings news NFL DFS lineup picks

On Monday, May 2, 2022, news broke that the NFL had levied a six-game suspension on Arizona Cardinals star wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins for violating the league's Performance Enhancing Drug Policy.

Later that night, Adam Schefter also tweeted a note from Hopkins' brand manager, Doug Sanders, regarding the six-game suspension.

Reportedly, he won't be appealing this decision, so Hopkins is set to miss the first six games (~35%) of the 2022 NFL season. This obviously has big implications for the Cardinals and fantasy football managers.

 

Fantasy Football Impact of the DeAndre Hopkins Suspension

Luckily for fantasy managers, it's still very, very early in the offseason and we have plenty of time to adjust to a situation like this one. Not only can we digest this information and adjust our projections, but in this specific instance, we actually have some solid data from last season to use as a starting point.

Hopkins missed a total of eight games last season (five when Kyler Murray was the quarterback) with a hamstring and a knee injury, so we'll take a look and see what happened in those games to help understand the fantasy impact this suspension will have on other Cardinal pass-catchers and Murray.

 

Fantasy Football Impact for Cardinals Pass-Catchers

Marquise Brown

Just a few days before the Hopkins news, the Cardinals traded the 23rd overall pick and 100th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to the Ravens for Marquise Brown. It's been some time, but you'll recall he and Kyler Murray were college teammates at Oklahoma in 2017 and 2018. In 2018, Brown caught 75 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns from Murray. Not too shabby. With Christian Kirk now in Jacksonville, Hollywood immediately steps into his role from a season ago.

Kirk came on strong down the stretch in 2021 for both the Cardinals and fantasy managers alike. In five games without Hopkins but with Murray quarterbacking (Weeks 15-18, including the playoffs), Kirk saw 8.8 targets per game. He saw 9+ in four of those five games. Per PlayerProfiler, he ran nearly 39 routes and averaged nearly 90 air yards per game. He also saw his snap share increase from 65% to 85% in the eight games without Hopkins.

With built-in chemistry from their college days, the thought process here is that Brown steps right into the high-volume role that Kirk had at the end of last season with Hopkins out of the lineup. Between Weeks 15 and 18, he finished as the WR23 on a PPR points per game basis. At a minimum, Brown should be considered a rock-solid WR2 with an upside to start the season.

Zach Ertz

Did you know...

And in the four games without Hopkins but with Murray as the quarterback, Ertz averaged seven receptions on a whopping 10.8 targets per game. The touchdowns weren't there, but the routes run and red zone targets were a thing of beauty. He ran nearly 39 routes and averaged 89 air yards per game between Weeks 15 and 18. He also saw a total of seven red-zone targets in those four games. That's essentially identical to Christian Kirk's opportunity in those weeks. That tells us we should expect both Ertz and Marquise Brown to operate as Murray's top two targets while Hopkins is suspended.

Prior to the Hopkins news, Ertz was looking like a low-end TE1. But now, knowing Hopkins will miss the first six games of the 2022 campaign and may even take a couple more games to re-integrate into the offense, it's not overselling it to believe Ertz can be a mid-range TE1 for nearly half a season. He could absolutely give T.J. Hockenson a run for his money around TE6 or TE7.

Rondale Moore

Is it finally his time to shine with Hopkins set to miss the first six games of the season? Maybe, but also maybe not. We don't have the same sample size on Moore as we did with Kirk (now Brown), but we will still try to make an assessment.

It was a rollercoaster rookie season for Moore and his excited fantasy managers. In Week 2, he went off for 7-114-1 on eight targets, playing nearly half the snaps against the Minnesota Vikings. But that was very short-lived, and Moore went on to see six or fewer targets in 11 of the next 12 games. Outside of one week where he played on 81% of the snaps, Moore's role in the offense left a lot to be desired. It was a rollercoaster, to say the least. But with Hopkins set to miss a large chunk of the season, it's very possible Moore finds himself on the field more in his sophomore season. The problem is, his targets last season weren't the most valuable. In fact, he averaged just 8.06 yards per catch as a rookie. That's a number you'd expect out of a running back, not a wide receiver. But head coach Kliff Kingsbury has vowed to get him the ball, so we'll see. Just don't get too crazy with your Rondale Moore projections with Brown and Ertz set to be Murray's top two targets.

DeAndre Hopkins

What about Hopkins himself? Well, 2021 was a down year for the 29-year-old. He finished as just the WR18 on a per-game basis after being a top-five guy the previous four seasons. As mentioned, he battled numerous injuries a season ago, and now he's dealing with a six-game suspension to start the 2022 season.

A bounceback is inevitable, but it's not going to start until at least Week 7 or 8. That's halfway to the fantasy football playoffs. Were he to play a full season, he'd probably slot in as a high-end WR2. However, come draft day, he's more of a WR3 now that he's set to miss ~35% of the season. I can't see drafting him over guys like Brandin Cooks (WR25), Darnell Mooney (WR27), or even his new teammate, Marquise Brown (WR31) (rankings courtesy of FantasyPros' ECR).

A.J. Green and Antoine Wesley

Green's role in the offense doesn't change much on the Hopkins news. He averaged ~ an 80% snap share both with and without Hopkins on the field a season ago. He was also wildly inconsistent, regardless of who he played next to and who he was catching passes from. Green is 33-years-old and his best days are undoubtedly behind him, but it's certainly possible he has a few solid performances in 2022. He'll be tough to trust on a consistent basis, however.

Wesley meanwhile did see a big boost in snap percentage with Hopkins off the field in 2021. To be fair, anything would have been an increase as he barely played when Hopkins was healthy. He played nearly 75% of the snaps without Hopkins but didn't really make much of his opportunity outside of a few touchdowns. In fact, he never topped four catches in any one game and went over 44 yards just twice. He's not a recommended target in redraft leagues but could have some sneaky cheap value in DFS contests early in the season.

 

Fantasy Football Quarterback Impact

Kyler Murray

Because of his ability as a rusher, Murray should never be considered anything less than a mid-range QB1. However, with Hopkins off the field in 2021, his production did take a bit of a hit, which is to be expected. Check this out:

But guess what, 21 fantasy points per game was still good for QB7. If he's going to fall to QB7 in fantasy leagues, you need to be scooping him up absolutely everywhere. Murray and the Cardinal offense will have an entire offseason to figure out how to work without Hopkins, so it shouldn't be as drastic of a difference as it was when Hopkins was listed as questionable with a chance of suiting up multiple games during the season. As the cool kids say, "buy the dip!"



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