The only saving grace of the NFL 'dead' month known as late June to late July is that now fantasy football news dominates the headlines. For some fans the fantasy side of the NFL has become just as enjoyable or popular as the actual game being played on the field. With that in mind, here's boat load of fantasy news related to the Cardinals:
- From SI.com - Are there any backup QB's worth drafting - Normally it's a reach to spend a valuable draft selection on a player who is slated to carry a clipboard and wear a baseball cap, but in the case of Matt Leinart it might just be worth it. Remember last season when Warner took over, the underlying sentiment around the fantasy world was that it was just a matter of time before the oft-injured oldster would find his way back to the bench, clearing the way for the quarterback of the future. That didn't happen last year, but Leinart is again just one big hit away from having the receiving corps of Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston, and the huge fantasy numbers they contribute, at his disposal.
- From SI.com - Should a Third WR ever be taken over a #1 Wide Out - Third-string wideout Steve Breaston caught 77 balls for 1,006 yards in '08, a better output than the WR1 of 12 other teams.
- Fantasy Impact of Warner returning to the desert - For both real-life and fantasy purposes, Warner made the right choice returning to the Cards. He'll continue to play in an up-tempo, pass-first offense that fits his abilities perfectly and won't have to worry about learning a new scheme or meshing with different players in this late stage of his career. He'll also get to keep throwing to the best receiver in the game today, Larry Fitzgerald.
- Fantasy Impact of first and second round players - Things couldn't have worked out any better for the Cardinals, who get their back of the future without having to trade up. Wells is a big, powerful runner who also has the speed to break away from defenders in space. He should immediately become Arizona's starter, handling the bulk of carries on first and second down and maybe some goal-line work, although it's possible Tim Hightower could be inserted in short-yardage situations. As 2009 rookies go, few, if any, landed in a better spot to contribute right away than Wells.
- 2009 Offensive Team Rankings - AZ comes in at #6 - Addition of RB Wells should give them a more complete offense which is quite scary since their passing game was basically unstoppable in 2008.
- 2009’s Contract Year Players - Steve Breaston (RFA) - Breaston established himself as one of the best slot receivers in football last season, and he was one of the Cardinals' three 1000+-yard beasts at the WR position. Of course, Breaston benefits from playing with two elite players at the position, and it'd be unrealistic at best to expect another campaign like the one he had last year. But the fact of the matter is that he's probably already earned a raise over the 460k he's going to make this season, and he could receive significantly more than that if he produces big numbers again and the Cardinals' relationship with Anquan Boldin truly is irreparable.
- OL Previews - T Mike Gandy and G Reggie Wells are the best along the front. Gandy has played well in his two seasons in Arizona, often facing the other team's best rusher. Wells is a physical run blocker. C Lyle Sendlein sometimes has a hard time holding up against the league’s bigger interior defensive lineup. He's a bit undersized, but he improved as the season progressed. The right side of G Deuce Lutui and T Levi Brown is solid and played better in the second half of the season. G/T Elton Brown is a suitable backup, but he tends to gain weight when he's not playing. Ts Brandon Keith and Elliot Vallejo are projects, while C Pat Ross was just an insurance policy.
- 2009 Team Defenses - Arizona ranked #11 - While their numbers don’t really jump off the page, the Cardinals actually finished the 2008 season in the top-10 in terms of fantasy points. The team finished in the middle of the pack in both sacks and interceptions – and they gave up the 5th-most points – but thanks to five defensive TDs, they were still a serviceable fantasy defense, and one with upside each week. Now that CB Eric Green is gone, playmaker Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is the unquestioned starter, a role he took over halfway through last season. CB Bryant McFadden (who will start) and SS Keith Lewis will add some needed depth to a secondary that finished 22nd against the pass, giving up a league-high 36 TDs and registering only 13 INTs. But they are still a little thin in the secondary and need a good nickel corner. They haven’t done much to upgrade a D-line that finished 16th against the run, and they lost some veterans, plus they could have a contract problem with LB Karlos Dansby.
- NFL position battles - Tim Hightower vs. Chris Wells - Hightower was a pleasant surprise for the team last season, but the coaching staff got down on him because of his inconsistency. His yards per carry steadily dropped as the weeks progressed. The team decided that it had to upgrade their RB position and did that with its No. 1 pick in April’s draft with Wells, who is expected to start. Hightower could see time in some passing situations, but look for him to see just 5-7 touches/game, at best, with Wells handling most of the touches.