Arizona Cardinals, Larry Fitzgerald

Cardinals could be surprise NFL team in 2020

The Arizona Cardinals are an intriguing team. Haven’t been able to say that in recent years.

After going 5-10-1 last year, there is reason for excitement in the desert. Both head coach Kliff Kingsbury and quarterback Kyler Murray are entering their second seasons. This, in addition to the trade for three-time First-Team All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, somehow only costing a second-round pick and David Johnson.

Last year, Hopkins posted 104 catches for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns. In 2018, the former Clemson star racked up 115 receptions for 1,572 yards and 11 scores.

While the NFC West is likely the toughest division in the NFL, there’s an argument for the Cardinals as a player in it. The Los Angeles Rams have struggled to maintain their Super Bowl contender status over the past 18 months, losing cornerbacks Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, receiver Brandin Cooks, guard Rodger Saffold, center John Sullivan, linebacker Cory Littleton and safety Eric Weddle.

It’s true the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks appear to remain the best teams in the group, but Arizona has gained significant group and should continue to with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. With his first choice, general manager Steve Keim is exceedingly likely to nab a blindside protector for Murray — the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year — whether it be Tristan Wirfs, Andrew Thomas, Mekhi Becton or Jedrick Wills.

The momentum been built in Arizona is clear. It wasn’t lost on Hopkins, who comes over from the Houston Texans as a 27-year-old superstar with plenty to prove. Earlier this week, he spoke to reporters about his feelings on getting dealt to the Cardinals in March, per ESPN:

“I was very excited, actually, about it because [of] what Arizona has been building, having a young quarterback, a young team and also having veterans.

If the Cardinals can improve the defense with some mid-to-late round selections, they’ll be a sleeper pick for many to reach the NFC playoffs, especially with the revamped format allowing seven teams to reach the postseason in each conference.

Of course, it takes a major leap to go from five wins to being a contender in the loaded NFC, but steps have already been taken to respect Arizona. A quality draft and the improvements of many youngsters on the roster — Murray chiefly among them — and the Cardinals could be a team few see coming, but nobody can ignore come September.

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