Football is cyclical, and that cycle shapes our decisions as fantasy owners. Starting with the franchise tags and tenders, the Combine, free agency period, then the draft, mini-camps, OTAs, training camp, and finally preseason kicking off so we can start to get a glimpse how the fantasy landscape has changed since the previous season. In preseason we get a glimpse of who will be future talents, late round steals, valuable handcuffs, and players you know you'll avoid at all costs.
Part of my draft preparation is reviewing some of the top 150 players lists from most of the big names sports sites out there and then doing a few mock drafts to see how my draft "strategy" would shake out in my draft position. During this years preparation I couldn't help but notice that there are very few Cardinals listed in the top 150 lists which is both telling of what the rest of the world thinks of the Arizona Cardinals and what they think of the Cardinals ability to produce in fantasy football. Between you and me, I think they've undervalued some great talents and you may be able to get some late round steals just because the experts didn't rank them, or ranked them very low.
In three sources I've only seen four Cardinals players even listed in the top 150, and in two of them I have only seen three players. Those four shouldn't be a surprise: WR Larry Fitzgerald, RB Beanie Wells, RB Ryan Williams, and the Cardinals Defense/ST. In a default 12 team fantasy football league with a roster size of 16 (9 starters, 7 bench) the total players drafted will be 192, to include your defense and your kicker. Meaning there are a couple of good value picks in the bottom 42 positions, or go completely undrafted. Where you decide to draft them could make you a genius, and picking up other Cardinals talents late could be a key success to your 2012 campaign.
Player Position ESPN Avg. Pick Trend Comment
Larry Fitzgerald WR 13.2./2nd Round Even Fitzgerald is a beast, even the question mark at QB it is proven that Larry will produce.
Beanie Wells RB 70.8/6th Round Down Wells is coming off of knee surgery and is probable to see his first action this week against the Titans, we'll know then how ready he is to maintain his RB1 position on the roster. With Ryan Williams flashing in the Oakland game the number of carries Wells receives will take a hit, but it may be better for his career and as a fantasy player. With split caries he should be more durable and maintain his punishing style throughout the season and hopefully not miss any games.
Ryan Williams RB 137.8/12th Round Up Williams potential in the backfield is huge. Due to his returning from injury and this being his true first season, there are few other than Cardinals fans who understand how much of a steal Williams may be being drafted around the 137th pick. I picked him up with the 141st, in the 12th round while sweating bullets that someone would see through my plan to try to draft him as late as possible. Don't miss out on this opportunity to draft a 1a/b back in an offense that will lean heavily on it's RBs this year.
Michael Floyd WR 147.4/13th Round Down Floyd is being picked up in leagues, but in standard 12 team formats he is being picked up around the 12th round. Depending on your situation at receiver you can pick him up for depth around the 12th, or earlier. Floyd has looked pretty good in his preseason action and I was hoping to pick him up with my next pick in the 13th round but he was off the board. Floyd's moving up the depth chart and could be a major steal in Fantasy by the end of the season.
Cardinals D/ST 159.7/14th Round Down The Cardinals Defense had an incredible run at the end of the 2011 season but have staggered to return to the dominant form in the preseason. Against Oakland they showed signs of returning to being a powerhouse but their schedule puts them against some of the best and worst offensive teams in the league. If they can produce similar results against the Titans as they showed against the Raiders, then I think they're a unit worthy of a roster spot and should be picked up as soon as the run on D/ST begins. They have the potential to be a top 10 defense and point producer.
Rob Housler TE 170.0/15th Round Even Housler is a very under the radar pick who could be used more in the passing game. His blocking skills have improved from his rookie year and he may be worth a late round pick or just someone to keep an eye on if he suddenly starts taking a larger role in the offense. The good news is Housler's been targeted a good number of times in the preseason and is making catches which should be a sign to the team to use him more to take pressure away from Fitzgerald. Housler has the skills to shine in the new receiving heavy TE role that is trending in the NFL.
Jay Feely K 170.0/15th Round Even Feely is dependable, he missed some much needed FGs early in the 2011 season but returned to form later in the year. He doesn't have the leg to blast the ball out of the backfield on kick offs, but he has the dependable leg to hit 79.2% of his FG in 2011 and earn 90 points as a fantasy K. He's a low end kicker, but he's dependable and is a good bye week replacement at the very least. Depending on how effective the offense is he could have a good year through FGs or extra points.
Noticeably there are many starters missing. It is probably due to the trend of the offense that these players don't really add consistent value but flash occasionally, such as Early Doucet in a few games last year.
Andre Roberts and Early Doucet do not have an average draft position because they are not on the list. To make the list they would have needed to be drafted in a significant number of leagues. Depending on your situation at WR and how the Cardinals WR depth chart shakes out one of these guys could be a waiver wire value later, or worth a late pick if you think that they'll add depth to your team and you want to make sure they're on your roster. Roberts is currently the #2 WR and the QBs have shown good chemistry previously with Doucet.
Heap and King were both left off of the list, and with the combination of Housler's slow emergence and the lack of production to the TE spot I think both guys should be passed on. Monitor Heap if he can stay healthy, he could be a good check down threat due to the situation of the offensive line. Heaps' value could increase.
The QBs shouldn't warrant your attention at this point and I hope I eat my words. Whoever is declared the starter should only be used in bye-week replacements until further notice. There are at least 16 better QBs in the league for your team, and eight more that should provide good QB depth if you like to secure your backup.
From that list the two gems that stand out to me are Williams and Floyd, with the Defense as a potential gem. Did I miss anyone? Who's your favorite steal of the draft?
Would you draft Ryan Williams higher? Would you draft Michael Floyd higher?