This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Premier Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
The Arizona Cardinals were a bit of a surprise in 2013, as aging veteran quarterback Carson Palmer actually looked like a competent starter under center, while rookie running back Andre Ellington helped the Cardinals form something that resembled a rushing attack.
Larry Fitzgerald enjoyed a rebound year, too, as Arizona finished 10-6 and narrowly missed out on a trip to the playoffs. Arizona’s solid 2013 was arguably even more impressive, considering they had six brutal matchups in the tough NFC West.
Their solid play translated to the fantasy football scene, where Palmer put up over 4,000 passing yards and Larry Fitzgerald make fantasy owners smile again. On the flip-side, would-be sleeper Rob Housler face-planted and Rashard Mendenhall wobbled his way into retirement.
With the 2014 fantasy football season slowly approaching, fantasy owners will be wondering which Cardinals players are worth taking a chance on in drafts. To get a better idea of which Arizona players have the best value, let’s rank the Cards’ top options:
1. Larry Fitzgerald (WR)
After dying away with horrid quarterback play in 2012, everyone thought it was possible we had seen the last of an elite Larry Fitzgerald. We haven’t seen a complete revival, but 2013 showed us glimpses of Fitzgerald still having consistent WR1 ability. Carson Palmer had a lot to do with it, but Fitzgerald’s final line of 82 receptions, 954 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns would have been even better if he hadn’t dealt with numerous injuries. Palmer and Fitz should be even more on the same page in 2014, giving him some real upside and nailed down WR1 value.
2. Andre Ellington (RB)
We really only know Ellington’s value based off of his final eight games, when he went from a change of pace rookie back to a major part of the offense. However, what we do know is that he was leaps and bounds more effective than the now retired Mendenhall and that he’s insanely versatile and explosive. Head coach Bruce Arians has already said Ellington won’t be his main short-yardage and goal-line man, which hurts his overall value. With that said, he’s an elite Flex value at the absolute worst and is probably going to return steady RB2 value in 2014.
3. Carson Palmer (QB)
Palmer isn’t exactly the easiest quarterback to trust in fantasy football. His offensive line is shaky and he’ll be 35 in December, making any argument for consistent QB1 production questionable, at best. With that said, Palmer still put up elite yardage in 2013 and has the weapons and system to have an even better 2014. He’s still an immobile rock in the pocket and has six brutal games a year in the NFC West, but he should still offer elite QB2 value.
4. Michael Floyd (WR)
Floyd showed signs of elite ability as a rookie and entered 2013 as a true sleeper, where he promptly made anyone who trusted him look like a genius with 66 catches and over 1,000 receiving yards. He’s still playing second fiddle to Fitzgerald, but he’s a big target with excellent ball skills, so there’s little reason to think he can’t be even better in Arians’ vertical system in 2014. Look at him as an elite WR3 with reasonable WR2 upside.
5. Rob Housler (TE)
After an inspiring 2012 campaign, the big and athletic Housler was on many people’s sleeper lists as a breakout candidate in 2013. He did finally score his first career touchdown, but otherwise worked his way backwards with 39 receptions and 454 receiving yards. The good news is that most of his issues stemmed from an inability to stay healthy. Potentially, he has the skill-set to really open up Arizona’s offense. If he can realize his potential, he might be able to border on TE1 production. He’s a risky bet, though, so he should only be drafted as a mid-level TE2 for now.
6. Ted Ginn Jr. (WR)
Once thought to be a bust, Ginn seemingly revived his career with the Carolina Panthers in 2013, catching 36 balls for 556 yards and five touchdowns. His role won’t be as good in Arizona, but in the Cards’ vertical system, he actually could be quite dangerous out of the slot. He can’t be drafted as anything more than a WR4 until we know more about his role, however.
7. Jonathan Dwyer (RB)
Dwyer was signed on from the Steelers because he knows Arians’ system and had been a reasonably productive back in Pittsburgh. He’s a solid downhill runner with better than advertised speed, but he’s not a special talent. He could have some Flex value if he ends up being AZ’s main goal-line back, however.
8. John Carlson (TE)
Carlson is in a sense a backup plan in case Rob Housler continues to fail to meet up to expectations. Bruce Arians has also said that he wants a tight end who can both make plays and block, which Housler has yet to prove he can do. Either way, Carlson will be used in two-tight end sets and could have a shot at a much bigger role. Until something breaks, though, he’ll remain a TE2 at best.
9. Stepfan Taylor (RB)
Taylor technically should be at the same level as Dwyer or possibly higher, but he’s a plodder with no guaranteed role. Dwyer’s experience should trump him in terms of value for now, but he has just as much chance as Dwyer to carve out some Flex value if all goes well.
10. Ryan Williams (RB)
Williams is an excellent one-cut back who has a fantastic combination of power and speed. He just can never stay healthy. Luckily, Arizona’s backfield has just one running back that is remotely as talented as him (Ellington). If Williams can prove he’s healthy for the first time in his career, he could still work his way up to a timeshare with Ellington. If not, he could be cut before the season begins. Keep him in the back of your mind as drafts approach, but anything more than a late-round flier would be silly.