Too early to think about your fantasy draft? Any fantasy GM who's worth their salt would say otherwise. I'm in two recurring leagues, one of which is a keeper league, and we're getting to the time of the year where the GMs in a 14 team league need to declare their two keepers so that others can bargain and try to trade draft picks for players they're not going to keep, and try to turn the inevitable free agent into draft picks you can use to strengthen your 2013 team. This spurred the idea for me write this article and look around the NFC West at player stocks, who's rising and falling as a result of the draft, free agency, and coaching changes, and who is a value player worth using one of my two franchise tags to keep on my team this year. Today we'll look at the Arizona Cardinals.
The Arizona Cardinals are a team of potential, but only one keeper, and that is Larry Fitzgerald. While Fitzgerald is falling in Mathew Berry's 2013 Fantasy Football Player rankings on ESPN, he's fallen from his 2012 average draft position of 14 down to his suggested position of 32, to me Fitzgerald's upside keeps him in keeper gold. His slide in projected draft position is of course due to last season's offensive woes where Larry ranked 40th in his position groups point rankings, averaging only 6.2 points (per game ppg) falling behind WR2 on the depth chart Andre Roberts who averaged 6.3 ppg. But Larry's future looks bright, for the simple comparison to a different WR1 who was used in Arians scheme with a big armed QB. To do that I would like to compare Larry's future numbers with Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts numbers from 2012 where Wayne was ranked 15th in points in his position and averaged 9.9 points per game. If we keep it simple and split the difference by putting Larry in a new offense that is geared toward his strengths, with a QB who can throw it deep, and someone who can call plays that totally revamped Reggie Wayne's career, I think it's easy for Fitzgerald to average 8.5 points per game, putting him as 18th overall in projected points. This of course would be his floor, I believe 2013 Fitz has a high ceiling, due to his physical gifts and talent he is poised to do much better than Wayne did in 2012. So I say, draft Fitz around the end of the 2nd or early 3rd, if he's available any time after that he's a complete steal. Fitz is a fantasy WR1, chisel it in stone, Fitz is back and he is hungry for the endzone.
The Cardinals also have Rob Housler who Berry ranks 129 overall, after he ended the year 38th in points in his position, averaging 3.2 ppg. There are two factors that I think Berry didn't weight into his deciding factors. One, look at Brandon Myers numbers from 2012 averaging 6.1 ppg and ending up as 10th in points from a player who was undrafted in the majority of fantasy leagues last year. The second is Head Coach Bruce Arians who wanted to draft Housler as a wide receiver in Pittsburgh. He already likes to use TEs in mismatches, now he gets to use Housler for those mismatches. Carson Palmer made Myers fantasy relevant because he could catch the ball and he was available for hot routes when everything else crumbled. Housler is poised as my Cardinals break out player in Fantasy, and could very well be the next Dallas Clark in fantasy line ups. For arguments sake, I predict Housler will end up in the top 12 in fantasy scoring TEs this year, and that his use opens up other parts of the passing game. If you're crafty you can snag Housler late, but if you're in a league with GMs who are already aware of the potential that Housler has to break out in 2013 you're going to have to grab him around the 70th pick, once people start looking for value. Don't let him slip by you once the big name TEs are gone. He's worthy of being a TE1 if you miss the big names or at least worthy of a bench slot at TE2 waiting to prove you're a draft genius.
Running backs for the Arizona Cardinals are going to be a tough situation. Andre Ellington is a talent who was recently spoken of as a 2nd round talent, who while facing criticism for being small is elusive and is a powerful runner. If either Mendenhall or Williams falters due to the long list of reasons why they could, this could open the door to Ellington to be "the guy". Is it worth drafting any of these guys? I'd be willing to grab Mendenhall as a RB3, everyone else depends on ability shown in the preseason and availability at the end of the draft if you want to fill in the bench with potential. Mendenhall is currently suggested to go 93 overall, which is surprising following his 2012 campaign. But in the right offense, and with the upgrades to the offensive line Mendenhall could prove a high value pick as a RB3 around the 90s.
The Cardinals D/ST was top 10 in points in 2012 with an average of 8.2 ppg. Can they repeat their performance, we'll find out soon enough. I'll reserve my inclinations on the unit until we see them in the preseason. Following the transition in DC and the scheme changes, as well as major starter changes. I see potential to return to the number 10 spot, since the Cardinals Defense should get more rest than they have seen for a few years, as well as having depth and youth across the field. So if there's a run on defenses you can definitely do worse than the Cardinals, but at this point look for better if possible.
Finally, Carson Palmer at Quarterback. If his 2012 numbers show anything he's top 15 in the league in most stats meaning in standard 12 team format he's a good bye week replacement until proven otherwise. However, due to the improved offense and the available weapons that he'll be surround by in 2013 Palmer could be a sneaky pick to move up in more than just a serviceable back up. I've got him as the 14th best QB on my board right now with lots of upside. So try to grab him for your QB2 if possible.
Next up, the St. Louis Rams: How early do you draft Tavon Austin?
What are your thoughts? All of my sources and information were gathered from ESPN.com.