This post comes from Justin Becker of FantasyFootballOverdose.com. You can follow him on Twitter@NBAandNFLInfo or on the Fantasy Football Overdose Google+ Page, and for more NFL Fantasy Football Projections visit Fantasy Football Overdose.
The Arizona Cardinals are ready for the 2014 NFL season, but they still have one more stop -- in San Diego to take on the Chargers. It's a relatively meaningless game by most accounts, but it signifies the end of the preseason and the start of the 2014 season, all in the same breath.
Arizona won't put their top starters out onto the field at all, with the exception of Jonathan Cooper, Kevin Minter and maybe Tyrann Mathieu, but it still might be nice to get something going on offense after a shaky performance overall on Sunday.
Regardless, there is plenty to tune in for on Thursday night, as young players continue to try to make a case to crack the rotation or just make the team. There could even still be some tidbits to pay attention to for fantasy football purposes, as well. In an effort to get as prepared as possible both for the NFL season and the fantasy scene, let's break down the Cards' top things to watch for when they take on the Chargers:
Tyrann Mathieu's Week 1 Status
Head coach Bruce Arians said earlier in the week that young star safety Tyrann Mathieu needs to suit up and play in Thursday's preseason finale if he wants to play in Week 1. Arians recently added that there is "still a chance" of that happening, as Mathieu continues to rigorously rehab a torn ACL from last season. Arizona has had a lot of bad luck on the defensive side of the football, so getting their stud safety back would be huge.
Just as important as Mathieu hitting the field to make it back in time for week one is actually seeing how he performs. Mathieu is a ballhawk who made quite an impression last year as a rookie as a big time playmaker. If he does hit the field, it will be interesting to see how effective he is and how long the Cards' keep him out there. More importantly for IDP fantasy football league managers, a healthy Mathieu could make for a dynamite IDP steal.
More John Brown, Please
Brown has quickly vaulted himself into the conversation for the main slot spot, which had previously been occupied by veteran receiver, Ted Ginn Jr. It sounds like Arizona has moved Brown into that role permanently, however, and will have Ginn focus his energy solely on special teams, while operating as a fourth or fifth option in the passing game.
That's potentially awesome news for fantasy football league managers that have been thinking about taking a shot on the athletic Brown, who is small but has the explosiveness and versatility to be a terror in the fantasy realm. Brown is only the Cards' third wide receiver at best, but he carries loads of upside. In the event of an injury to either Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd, he could be a major steal in drafts. He really only is going to carry value in deeper leagues as his role is still fairly undefined. It's also worth noting that last year's slot man, Andre Roberts, wasn't exactly a fantasy beast, as he secured just 43 receptions. The upside is that number could potentially be Brown's floor, however.
For now, fantasy owners need to treat him as a high upside stash for deep leagues, but he's obviously a player to monitor. After already showcasing his skills previously in preseason play, he'll be one of the top Arizona players to watch on Thursday night if he suits up.
What's going on with the tight ends?
It's common knowledge by now that head coach Bruce Arians doesn't draw up plays specifically for tight ends very often. He really hasn't had one to urge him to do so while he's been in Arizona, though, either. Rob Housler was the default starter last year and disappointed greatly due to lingering injuries and inconsistency, but for now he appears to still be in the mix for the starting gig, along with veteran John Carlson and rookie Troy Niklas.
Niklas fell behind in camp due to a broken hand, but projects as the best value of the three thanks to his offensive capabilities, as well as his stout blocking ability. That's long-term, however. For now, it Carlson is the clear starter and should have the most fantasy value. As long as Housler stays in town, though, this could end up being a three-headed horse. That's not a situation for fantasy owners to mess with, although we could gain further clarity in the preseason finale. It's a situation worth monitoring, as the Cardinals do pass a good amount.
Logan Thomas should play a good amount
Thomas doesn't have any appeal for the 2014 fantasy scene and is third in line at quarterback. With that said, there's loads of upside to be had here, as he has what NFL teams look for in a prototypical passer. He's also shown well in preseason play and projects as a very interesting Dynasty fantasy quarterback.
Due to excellent size, a strong arm and nice athleticism, Thomas appears to be the total package. Even better is the fact that he fits Arian's vertical offense perfectly. He still has a lot of work to do when it comes to timing, accuracy and overall consistency, but Arizona plucked him out of the 2014 NFL Draft for a reason -- they want to develop him. We should get to see a good amount of that developing as he plays a solid chunk of Thursday night's preseason finale.
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