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.
Carson Palmer was a savior for the Arizona Cardinals in 2013. Sure, he got them to 10-6 and looked more than just competent down the stretch of the season, but he did something even better: he revived Larry Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald still struggled with some nagging injuries, but was at least able to show that his floundering 2012 campaign that was ruined by a handful of awful quarterbacks was a thing of the past.
It got started in week one as the two connected on two scores, and at least when Fitz was healthy, it continued on throughout most of the season.
Palmer even helped elevate second-year wide receiver Michael Floyd’s game, as well.
The only question is, can fantasy football owners trust this all to be the case in 2014? Palmer is still an aging rock in the pocket, while he certainly did look a little shaky at times early on in the year.
Can he be the guy he was during the second half of the season, and can his wide receivers take an even bigger jump? We can’t really vouch for Palmer. Who can? All we can do is prepare for the new fantasy season as if he’s the guy we saw a year ago, and go from there.
With that, let’s cross our fingers that Palmer is at least serviceable for one more season. If that’s the case, how do we value Fitzgerald, Floyd and the other desert receivers? Let’s find out:
Fitzgerald proved in 2013 that when healthy, he’s still the man. He failed to hit 1,000 receiving yards for just the third time in his career, but playing in the NFC West and nagging injuries were the main problem last year, not his skill-set or supporting cast.
Provided he can stay healthy, there’s little reason to think Fitz can’t build off the momentum we saw in 2013. His rapport with Palmer should only grow, while Michael Floyd’s improvement should also help free him up a little more. Fitzgerald’s floor for 2014 has probably become what we saw a year ago. At 30 years old, Fitzgerald still has elite size and ball skills and still has the speed to separate and break away. He’s obviously not quite the same guy he was 3-4 years ago, but he still has top-10 talent in the real world, which keeps him a threat to deliver the same type of production in the fantasy realm, as well.
The key here is that Fitzgerald only scratched the surface with Palmer in 2013. He looked ready to dominate out of the gates in week one, and then really battled a hamstring issue for about seven weeks. He just wasn’t himself, yet overall still produced at a fairly high level. If Fitzgerald can stay healthy, it’s very possible he shows everyone that the step he’s lost is very small. He’s still a high level talent with an awesome role.
The best part about Fitzgerald is that he caught just 82 balls and couldn’t crack 1,000 yards, yet he was still fantasy’s 16th best option at the wide receiver position. He’ll still only be 31 in August and thanks to great size and ball skills, can be a factor at a high level for several more seasons. If healthy, he still has a shot at posting top-10, WR1 numbers. If you can get him later in drafts as a high-end WR2, even better.
Floyd had been impressive near the end of his rookie season, but Palmer coming to town last year helped him make a solid jump up. In just his second season, Floyd recorded his first 1,000+ yard year, while hauling in 66 receptions and five touchdowns.
He is obviously going to play second fiddle as long as Fitz is around, but his chemistry with Palmer is only growing and his physical ability is bordering on an elite level. Blessed with terrific size, solid speed and elite ball skills, Floyd’s red-zone presence should only increase and his ability to win jump balls anywhere on the field make him an attractive target.
Floyd can’t really be expected to take an insane jump up from last year’s solid numbers, but 70-75 grabs and closer to 7-8 touchdowns could be in order. He’s a rock solid WR3 with quality WR2 potential.
Tedd Ginn Jr.
Since Arizona will likely use Andre Ellington as a receiver quite a bit and also throw some to their tight ends, Ginn is probably the last receiver in Arizona worth taking seriously. With that said, that doesn’t mean there is no value here.
Ginn proved long ago that he isn’t a starting caliber receiver, but resurfaced last year as a big play guy for the Panthers, as he racked up 556 yards and averaged 15.4 yards per catch on just 36 receptions. Head coach Bruce Arians loves taking shots down the field and he can’t do it with Fitz and Floyd every single time. Having Ginn working out of the slot and helping stretch the defense when his name is called could help this offense a ton.
Basically Ginn is taking over Andre Roberts’ role from last year, which accrued 43 receptions, 471 receiving yards and two scores. Ginn should be used in a more explosive manner, though, which gives him a little more upside than that in terms of yardage and touchdowns.
The good thing about Ginn is he provides versatility and can help out on returns, as well. Depending on your league, that can be an added bonus.
He’s a guy to monitor in case his role heats up, but for now Ginn is simply a WR4 with a little upside.
Brown has no immediate value right now, as he’s Arizona’s fourth receiver and nothing more. He’s also a rookie and will definitely need an injury or two ahead of him, but there is a lot of talent and potential here thanks to elite speed and explosiveness.
In fact, Brown has drawn some comparisons to Colts burner T.Y. Hilton and he potentially fits the system out of the slot beautifully. However, he’s buried under the depth chart right now and would be competing directly with Ginn to get serious action. He’s someone to monitor if Ginn gets hurt, but for now has almost no fantasy value.