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2014 fantasy football: 5 players to monitor in the preseason

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The Arizona Cardinals play in a brutal division. They went 10-6 a year ago and didn’t even make the playoffs. Suffice it to say, luck doesn’t always appear to be on their side.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NBAandNFLInfo or the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose.

The Arizona Cardinals play in a brutal division. They went 10-6 a year ago and didn’t even make the playoffs. Suffice it to say, luck doesn’t always appear to be on their side.

As rough as they seem to have it at times, there could be some good coming their way. For one, second-year running back Andre Ellington just might have the explosiveness and versatility to be truly special. Third-year wide receiver Michael Floyd seconds that notion, but because of his size, speed and ball skills.

With a growing offense, the Cardinals could have the playoffs in sight in 2014. More importantly for managers in fantasy football leagues, they might be stacking their team with talent.

The obvious calls are there for everyone to see and make. There are some more not-so-obvious calls we may want to pay attention to, however. Let’s break down five guys we may want to monitor in Arizona during the preseason:

Logan Thomas (Quarterback)

Thomas isn’t even the direct backup to Carson Palmer, but that could quickly change if the aging and immobile Palmer takes a good hit and goes down for good. Horrible play from Palmer could lead to a change at quarterback, too, which could prompt head coach Bruce Arians to go right down the line and force rookie passer Logan Thomas into action.

Thomas was a bit of a sleeper pick in the 2014 NFL Draft and definitely has the size, arm and athleticism to be a special player if groomed correctly. If Arizona’s season starts going down in flames, he could be a guy to watch on fantasy football waiver wires. Realistically, though, you’ll want to merely keep an eye on him during the preseason to see how his ability translates to the league. That’ll make it a lot easier to feel good about hanging onto him in dynasty leagues.

Jonathan Dwyer (Running Back)

Unlike Thomas, Dwyer has a real shot at having solid fantasy value in 2014, and it could come right away. Andre Ellington looks to be the true featured rusher in AZ’s offense this year, but that doesn’t mean he’ll get 300+ carries or be the guy that hears his name called at the goal-line.

Dwyer isn’t all that special, but he knows Arians’ system and has proven to be a fairly effective short-yardage back. If he gets the role, he could possess some Flex value as a touchdown vulture.

John Brown (Wide Receiver)

Everyone in Arizona seems to be enamored with Brown. Ted Ginn Jr. seems to have the number three spot and slot duties locked down at the moment, but that could change if Brown continues to impress. He is a smaller guy and is probably going to be restricted to the slot, but he has blazing speed and nice versatility. Comparisons to T.Y. Hilton are a good omen. He’ll be one of the top players on this list worth watching during Cardinals preseason games this year.

Troy Niklas (Tight End)

Bruce Arians doesn’t glorify the tight end in his offense, but it’s worth noting that well balanced tight ends at least stay on the field and get opportunities in his system. Rob Housler wasn’t a bust last year because of Arians’ system. He was a bust because he had inconsistent hands, had nagging injuries and couldn’t block.

He could be cut or traded, while the rookie Niklas should battle solid pass-catching tight end John Carlson for snaps. Niklas is the guy to watch, though, as he’s a fine pass-catcher in his own right, but also is an adept blocker. If he can work his way back from a hand injury and lock down the starting gig, he’ll be worth rostering in deeper fantasy leagues.

Tyrann Mathieu (Safety)

This one is for the IDP (Individual Defensive Player) fantasy footballer in all of us. Mathieu is a potential stud fantasy safety option, as he’s proven to be a great ballhawk, has terrific range and also has the chance to rack up the tackles. He seems to always be around the ball and can even add value on returns. He’s working his way back from a torn ACL, though, so seeing how he looks during camp and the preseason (if he even plays) will be key in trying to decide whether or not to draft him.

Mathieu’s progress from his injury matters for non-IDP leaguers, too. If you think the Cardinals are going to be a team defense worth drafting, you’ll probably want to make sure one of their best defenders is healthy and playing at an ideal level first.