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 Rankings visit Fantasy Football Overdose, a fantasy football blog.
Two years ago the Arizona Cardinals went through quarterback hell. Yes, it’s a nightmare Cardinals fans would love to leave buried and forgotten, but it’s important to look back and remember such horrors at times. After all, it took that ugly musical chairs of John Skelton, Kevin Kolb and Ryan Lindley to prompt a coaching change and send the franchise in a new direction.
That new direction brought in former Steelers and Colts offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who quickly installed his vertical passing offense. However, he didn’t have a quarterback on the roster who really fit his system. Truth be told, he didn’t have a quarterback on the roster he probably felt confident using in any system.
That led to the team trading for Oakland Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer, who on paper looked like a perfect fit for Arians’ down field system. All that was left to question is whether or not the then 33-year old Palmer still had enough game left to make some magic happen. Well, that and whether or not his weapons had wasted away already.
As it turns out, Palmer did have something left. And while some thought perhaps Larry Fitzgerald had wilted away with the poor quarterback play the year prior, the two showed right away in week one of 2013 that they just might be a duo worth watching.
In the end, Palmer had solid numbers across the board, as he tossed 24 touchdowns and put up over 4,200 passing yards on 572 pass attempts. That’s not too shabby considering his age and the fact that he was in a new city, playing in a new system and operating with new weapons.
So, the big question for fantasy owners is, can he do it again? Let’s break Palmer down by taking a look at the good and the bad as we try to assess how he might project for the 2014 fantasy football season:
The good news is 2013 was only Palmer’s first season in this new environment, and he put up pretty good numbers. In fact, his 24 touchdowns were his most since 2010 and his 4,274 yards were his most ever.
This system is perfect for Palmer so long as his deep ball is still buzzing, while playing with Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd obviously isn’t a bad thing.
There’s the worry that Palmer plays in the brutal NFC West division, where he has to face the Seahawks, 49ers and Rams all twice a year.
There is also Palmer’s age and the worry of natural regression, potential injury and his ridiculous lack of mobility. Naturally, Palmer is going to get hit in the pocket like any quarterback, and playing in that division certainly won’t do him any favors.
Even if Palmer stays healthy and is still about as good as he was in 2013, fantasy owners might be a little worried that Arizona’s offense isn’t balanced enough to allow him to produce QB1 numbers. They might be right, as the Cardinals do tend to throw a bit too much, and that style of play led to Palmer throwing 22 picks a year ago.
Fantasy Value Summary
Carson Palmer walked into a big bowl of unknown in 2013 and emerged with the best passing yardage season of his career. That’s something to take note of.
The Cardinals will surely try to get a little more balanced on offense in 2014, but the thing that works for them is clearly Palmer and the passing game. We also need to keep in mind that Palmer didn’t have a 100% healthy Larry Fitzgerald for all of 2013. Fitz battled injuries and simply wasn’t himself for at least a third of the year.
Palmer also had a developing Michael Floyd and a fairly lethargic rushing attack. Floyd should be even better in his third season, while the two have the entire offseason to work on their rapport. As for the ground game, better and more use of the explosive and versatile Andre Ellington should help make Arizona a little less predictable and a lot more dangerous.
From Ellington running the ball to Palmer dumping short passes off to him, that aspect of the offense should help open things up quite a bit.
Rookie additions on offense could also help Palmer out, as rookie tight end Troy Niklas could eventually supplant the disappointing Rob Housler. If that happens, Palmer would have another big target for the red-zone, while Housler might even still be able to help out as a number two guy.
Obviously you don’t want to have to depend on a now 34-year old Palmer as your QB1. He could hit a wall, get hurt or just plan old struggle in a tough division.
However, he still has upside at his age and he has the weapons and system to thrive in fantasy football. Last year Palmer finished as the 17th overall fantasy quarterback with roughly 217 fantasy points (depending on your league).
No ability as a runner and the 22 interceptions obviously capped his upside, but as a pure passer, Palmer can get the job done. Unfortunately, we can only work with what we know. And that should make Palmer a very solid QB2 overall and a random QB1 depending on the matchup.
The beauty there is, you can draft him as such, too. Palmer can be found in about the 14th round of most standard fantasy drafts, and in many he won’t even be drafted. However, he can provide very good value for stretches and still has some untapped upside if everything breaks Arizona’s way.
He might be able to get you through the year if you do wait until late in your fantasy draft and make him your guy, but that isn’t the suggested approach. Treat him as a backup that can help during bye weeks and injuries and you shouldn’t be disappointed.