Fantasy football 2013: Arizona Cardinals offer value, depth

USA TODAY Sports

The depth chart might not be set in stone yet but it's never too early to start thinking about your fantasy team.

The Cardinals have a few players that should be overlooked in fantasy drafts this year but who could be poised to surprise many with better-than-expected seasons. Unfortunately, it's hard to recommend many players as anything other than sleeper picks at this time. Keeping track of the team through the pre-season should help determine whether anyone other than Larry Fitzgerald merits an early selection in your fantasy draft.

QB Carson Palmer
Back-up

Palmer went from the sofa to throwing 300+ yards against Denver in 2011. He's a quick starter but should be considered no more than a number two QB in fantasy. He should be available late in the draft, considering most non-Cardinal fans consider him a washed-up turnover machine. The Cardinals coaching, scheme and weapons could mean he's in for a better season than most anticipate, though the offensive line's ability to protect him could shorten his season.

RB Rashard Mendenhall
Bench

Bruce Arians has said he prefers bell-cow runners to the committee approach, which would make Mendenhall a prime fantasy option in 2013... if he's healthy and able to stay on the field. Between a lingering ACL injury, fumbles, a one-game suspension, and getting benched, Mendenhall was a wasted roster spot in 2012. The pre-season will be an important test to see where he's at, and if he'll contribute for the Cardinals in 2013. He's worth drafting, but don't take him early.

RB - Other
Do not draft

Injuries have been a huge factor for the Cards top two backs. It's not a stretch to imagine the team using rookies Stepfan Taylor or Andre Ellington for a few games out of necessity. If that uncertainty isn't enough, you also have to consider that the Cardinals have been dead last in rushing or close to it for five years in a row. If the backs and offensive line can stay healthy, new coaching should elevate the run game in general, but it's hard to say if one back in particular will be on the field long enough to benefit. Avoid this group for now.

WR Larry Fitzgerald
WR2

This may be the first year that Fitz will consistently be available outside of the first twenty picks. Most expect him to rebound from a mediocre 2012 season though, so he should still be drafted in the first four or five rounds. There were a lot of reasons Fitz didn't get the ball much in 2012, and most of those reasons were out of his control. He'll be better in 2013, but with Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant and A.J. Green out there, you can probably hold off on drafting him a little longer than usual.

WR Michael Floyd
Bench

Carson Palmer should be able to find the end zone more often than the quarterbacks Arizona burned through in 2012, meaning the secondary receiving options could be relevant in fantasy football this year. Andre Roberts actually scored more fantasy points than Larry Fitzgerald in 2012, but Michael Floyd started seeing more targets late in the season. Both were targeted 46 times over the last six games. As a full-time starter, Floyd should be an even bigger part of the Cardinals receiving group in 2013. Look to pick him up late in the draft. Roberts probably hit his fantasy ceiling in 2012 at around 100 points, which means you should wait to pick him up in free agency if you really want him. Don't bother with anyone else.

TE Rob Housler
Bench

Housler was a non-factor in fantasy football in 2012. If the team can get him involved in the red zone or actually hit him in the seam, Hous could be a nice fantasy sleeper this year. Judging by Carson Palmer's 2012 season in which he completed 79 passes to Brandon Myers, we could see good things from our young receiving tight end.

If you miss out on a top five tight end in your draft, it's usually not a bad idea to wait a few rounds before you try to find a second-tier option. In that scenario, try and look for a sleeper tight end at the end of the draft and hold on to both for a couple weeks. Rob Housler fits the bill of a player who will be available in the last few rounds (or free agency) and who could be poised for a breakout season. If you're not happy with your starter, stashing Hous on your bench for a couple of weeks could be a savvy move.

Defense
Do not draft

The Cardinals defense usually finds a way to sneak in to the top 10 in fantasy scoring, be it by special teams scoring or creating turnovers. Questions with the safeties and edge rushers could limit the unit's overall value this season. Rashad Johnson, with three career interceptions, hasn't exactly been an impact player, and Yeremiah Bell only has two picks over the last three years. Tyrann Mathieu could be an X factor in the secondary, but you don't want to rely on a single rookie to buoy the defense.

The lack of an edge rushing threat may be mitigated somewhat by Bowles' intention on returning to a one-gap scheme, meaning Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett should be free to create even more havoc in the pocket than they normally do. However, with a large amount of roster turnover and new coaches and schemes, we don't quite know how the unit will perform in 2013. We know the line will play well but I don't see any proven playmakers after Patrick Peterson. Draft at your own risk.

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