This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NFLRankings or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more 2014 Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
The Arizona Cardinals needed a productive showing in the 2014 NFL Draft if they really wanted to get serious about overtaking the NFC West. After all, when you have the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers to contend with, you know staying at the same level isn’t really an option.
It looks like Arizona has made enough moves to warrant some real optimism that they could be better in 2014. The real question for fantasy owners everywhere, though, is whether or not any of their rookies can make a positive impact in the new season.
Let’s break down their new class and see which offensive rookies we may want to keep under tabs as we prep for the upcoming 2014 fantasy season:
Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame (Round 2 - Pick 52)
I wonder if Rob Housler is getting the hint here. Housler entered the past two seasons as a major sleeper thanks to great size and speed for the tight end position. After offering promise two years ago, last year was supposed to be the year he launched off with Carson Palmer coming into Bruce Arians’ pass-happy, vertical offense.
It didn’t exactly work out. Injuries and inconsistency kept Housler from taking off, and the Cardinals naturally decided to bring in some competition and someone who could potentially start over him. Cue the Troy Niklas hype.
Like Housler, Niklas also has the size and speed to create mismatches at tight end, and is basically a wide receiver in a tight end’s body. Unlike Housler, though, Niklas is a highly touted prospect with better tools and much more upside.
That’s an exciting thing for Arizona and fantasy fans to hear, since Niklas could potentially do what Housler failed to do, and that’s open up the offense for everyone else on the Cardinals.
Niklas isn’t a burner at the position, but he has solid speed and fluidity, making him a very good athlete for the position. He won’t be confused with a young Antonio Gates or anything, but anyone calling him a stone-footed giants is just plain wrong. Niklas couldn’t really have fallen into a better situation. He has the size and strength to be a terrific blocker at the next level, too, something that Housler has visibly struggled with.
There could be a changing of the guard here in Arizona, which could actually put Niklas on the TE1 radar. I wouldn’t draft him at that level just yet, but he’s worth a grab in the late rounds like Tyler Eifert was last season.
John Brown, WR, Pittsburgh State (Round 3 - Pick 91)
Andre Roberts is gone and we’re seriously banking on Ted Ginn Jr. to come in and man the slot all season? Thanks to a history of injuries and inconsistency, that may be hard to buy.
That might be one reason the Cards added another solid receiver prospect in this year’s draft, as they grabbed another shifty, athletic slot receiver in John Brown.
The big problem here is Brown’s lack of size and the fact that he faced D-II competition. If you can get past those facts, though, it’s quite clear he’s an NFL athlete with some interesting upside. The biggest thing, too, is that he’s not being asked to come in and light it up. He’s going to be in that next line of small Arizona receivers like Early Doucet and the departed Roberts.
It’s also pretty telling how Bruce Arians has been able to work magic with smaller receivers - specifically T.Y. Hilton in Indianapolis during a magical 2012 season. We can’t compare Brown to Hilton just yet, but the similarities are worth noting.
Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd are locked in as the starters and Ginn is going to be given every chance to man the slot, it seems. Brown should be sprinkled in as a fourth or fifth option, so his redraft value for 2014 is pretty much non-existent. Still, Ginn could always get hurt and suddenly we’re talking about this random kid from Pittsburgh State. Translation: keep an eye on him as the offseason progresses.
Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech (Round 4 - Pick 120)
Thomas has no value for 2014. Let’s just get that out of the way. Carson Palmer is locked and loaded as the starter for 2014 and should still put up solid numbers as a low-end QB1.
With that said, Thomas is extremely interesting going forward and might carry some solid Dynasty value. After all, a fourth round pick isn’t a throw-away shot in the dark like a sixth or seventh rounder is. Arizona clearly liked Thomas a lot and didn’t want to wait to see if someone else liked him more.
Their interest in him makes perfect sense, too, as he has awesome size, a strong arm and very good athleticism. He’s an ideal fit for Arian’s vertical system down the road, but is clearly a long-term project with accuracy and inconsistency flaws.
Look for him to stick as the team’s #3 passer behind backup Drew Stanton. Ryan Lindley is as good as gone.
Walt Powell, WR, Murray State (Round 6 - Pick 196)
Arizona wasn’t done adding talent for Palmer and the offense, as they grabbed another solid athlete in the shifty Powell. He’s another undersized receiver, but unlike Brown, he doesn’t have insane speed or explosiveness. He’s a great runner in the open field and has superb vision, though, which allows him to help out on returns and make defensive players miss in the open field. He’s not guaranteed a roster spot, but he’s a smart and competitive player that truly does just seem to find the right angle and perfect pocket in the defense to make grabs and push plays further than you’d think he would.
Powell isn’t on the fantasy radar on any sense just yet, but anyone in Arizona’s system is worth keeping tabs on.
Overall, the Cardinals added some really solid offensive talent and should be much more dangerous through the air than they were a year ago. Considering they were already very solid in that department, opposing defenses better get ready for some more explosive numbers.