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.
We saw a bit of a revival in Arizona in 2013. Carson Palmer came over from the Raiders and rescued Larry Fitzgerald from some horrid 2012 quarterback play and offensive mind Bruce Arians made the Cardinals creative again.
The team stayed nasty on defense, too, which helped a somewhat underdog AZ team go a solid 10-6 and almost make the playoffs as the third team out of the NFC West.
Perhaps just as impressive, though, was how useful some of their players were for fantasy football purposes.
Palmer was a top-20 quarterback, Fitzgerald was a top-20 wide receiver and Michael Floyd and Andre Ellington had their moments.
But it could only be getting better. If Palmer can fend off Father Time just a little while longer, he could remain the key piece that helps turn an average offense into one of the league’s best.
Let’s break down Arizona’s top fantasy weapons and see which of them are going to be worth drafting based off of 2014 projections:
Carson Palmer (Quarterback)
Palmer is what he is at this point. At 34 years old, he’s not going to suddenly turn into an elite quarterback, but there is always that chance he could drop off dramatically. The good news is that what we saw last year offers hope that his solid play can extend throughout the offense and raise the level of play of his supporting cast.
He’s immobile, aging and playing in a very tough division. All of that could roll up into an awful, chaotic ball of horribleness, but he has enough personal talent and surrounding talent to match last year’s numbers, if not be slightly better. I think Ellington serving a larger role and Michael Floyd developing are going to go a long way. Palmer won’t suddenly be Peyton Manning, but he can still get it done as long as he’s on the field.
Projection: 4,100 passing yards, 28 TD, 18 INT
Andre Ellington (Running Back)
Ellington will have to prove that he’s that legit 300+ touch feature back, but at least for the moment, it sounds like he could be. The Cards are going to give him every chance to prove it, at least.
Rashard Mendenhall is retired and all that stands in Ellington’s way of an elite fantasy season is...um...Jonathan Dwyer? Dwyer might steal some goal-line and short yardage work, but for the most part this is Ellington’s backfield and Dwyer is just living in it.
Ellington won’t see 300 carries, but he could very easily see that many total touches. He showed he can be an effective runner while averaging 5.5 yards per carry as a rookie. Regardless of who you are or what your status is, 5.5 YPC is always impressive. That number will surely drop with more touches, but Ellington remains a highly versatile and explosive play-maker. If he gets the mammoth role Arizona keeps saying he’s getting, he’s going to make fantasy owners happy they drafted him.
Projection: 255 att, 1,155 yards, 6 TD, 55 receptions, 495 yards, 4 TD
Larry Fitzgerald (Wide Receiver)
Perhaps Fitzgerald has lost half a step, but I don’t buy he’s lost a whole one. Before nagging injuries held him back in 2013, his connection with Palmer looked to be spot on and his talent seemed to be fully intact.
The only time I was hesitant to use a healthy Fitzgerald was when he faced Richard Sherman and the Seahawks. That holds true going into 2014, as a healthy Fitz is a legit WR1 and top-10 candidate. The good news is you can still draft him as a WR2, so if he just misses on WR1 numbers (finished 16th last year), it’ll be okay.
Projection: 85 receptions, 1,105 yards, 10 TD
Michael Floyd (Wide Receiver)
Floyd is on the rise. Even if you believe Fitzgerald is in decline, you at least have to pay notice to Floyd’s clear ascension. It’s still a process, but after putting up his first career 1,000+ yard season in just his second year in 2013, the signs of progress are obvious.
Blessed with an elite combination of size, ball skills and solid speed, Floyd will only move further up the ladder in 2014. He still isn’t ready to overtake the somehow underrated Fitzgerald, but he’s inching closer. He was a rock solid WR3 in 2013 and a strong WR2 some weeks, but this year he’ll slide comfortably into that weekly WR2 role.
Projection: 80 receptions, 1,200 yards, 8 TD
Ted Ginn Jr. (Wide Receiver)
Ginn showed he still had some life in Carolina last year, but he’s working out of the slot for a reason: he’s just not that great of an NFL receiver. He’ll help stretch the field a bit with his speed, but he’s a bit offensive player who should help out on returns. Andre Roberts couldn’t crush it in this system a year ago, so odds are Ginn won’t, either.
Projection: 35 receptions, 505 yards, 3 TD
Troy Niklas (Tight End)
Bruce Arians just doesn’t use tight ends to their max potential very much. His offense isn’t built for it. That should send Rob Housler packing, while leaving rookie tight end Niklas and veteran tight end John Carlson to fight for scraps. Niklas is the more balanced of the two, as he’s a great blocker and has the skill-set to be a terrific pass-catcher, as well.
He’ll have to get healthy and learn the offense, but he should hold the early edge to finish the year with better overall numbers. With that said, no tight ends in Arizona can be counted on for elite or really even consistent fantasy production:
Projection: 35 receptions, 425 yards, 2 TD
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