Jun 152013

QB Carson Palmer (Arizona)

Carson Palmer is a better fantasy quarterback than real quarterback. In reality, he turns the ball over too much, is too inefficient inside the red zone, and produces too much of his production in garbage time, which is why he was able to throw for 4000 yards with a 85.3 QB rating on a 4-12 team that scored 18.1 points per game last season in Oakland. He’s a year older now and there won’t be as many chances for garbage yards in Arizona, where the defense isn’t nearly as atrocious as the Raiders’ league worst in 2012.

However, he’ll have a much better group of supporting playmakers as Larry Fitzgerald is one of the game’s best receivers, Andre Roberts has emerged as a solid complimentary option, and Michael Floyd and Rob Housler both have big time upside. He also gets a great offensive minded Head Coach in Bruce Arians who is going to give him a lot of opportunities to make things happen downfield and accumulate yards. He should approach 4000 yards again and be a solid QB2, albeit one with minimal upside.

Projection: 3900 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 40 rushing yards, 0 rushing touchdowns (222 pts standard, 270 pts in 6 pt TD leagues)

RB Rashard Mendenhall (Arizona)

Mendenhall was an overrated running back thanks to fantasy football in his first 4 years in Pittsburgh. He would accumulate a lot of yards and touchdowns, but benefitted largely from the offense he played on and the large volume of carries he received, averaging just 4.2 yards per carry and doing little in the passing game. Last year he bottomed out, limited to 51 carries by injury, averaged 3.6 yards per carry, and didn’t score, but he lands in a good situation in Arizona.

He’s a year and a half removed from the torn ACL and reunites with his former offensive coordinator Bruce Arians on a team that ranked dead last in rushing yards and yards per carry last season. Ryan Williams still has some upside on the depth chart behind him if he can ever stay healthy and they drafted a pair of intriguing backs in the late rounds, but Mendenhall will get the first crack at early down work, with Williams serving as the chance of pace back so there’s some value here. He’s the Arizona back to own if you’re into that kind of thing.

Projection: 180 carries for 740 rushing yards 7 total touchdowns 20 catches for 140 receiving yards (130 pts standard, 150 pts PPR)

RB Stepfan Taylor (Arizona)

8/25/13: Ryan Williams just can’t get healthy. The Cardinals are shopping him ahead of final cuts and could cut him if they can’t find a taker. He’s not worth drafting anymore. 5th round rookie Stepfan Taylor is the handcuff you want for injury prone Rashard Mendenhall.

Projection: Projection: 120 carries for 520 receiving yards 4 total touchdowns 15 catches for 110 receiving yards (87 pts standard, 102 pts PPR)

WR Larry Fitzgerald (Arizona)

One of the great receivers of his generation, Larry Fitzgerald has sadly never really had great quarterback play, except for those couple Warner years, but he’s always produced. Last year, however, was too much for even him to handle as Arizona’s pathetic quarterback play limited him to 71 catches for 798 yards and a career low 4 touchdowns. From 2005-2011, Fitzgerald averaged 94 catches for 1309 yards and 10 touchdowns per 16 games and he’s only missed 4 games with injury in his career. Carson Palmer isn’t great or anything, but he should be able to allow Fitzgerald to bounce back in a big way and approach those averages.

Projection: 80 catches for 1200 receiving yards 8 touchdowns (168 pts standard, 248 pts PPR)

WR Andre Roberts (Arizona)

8/26/13: With Floyd locking up the starting job, Andre Roberts will mostly just be the slot receiver this year. There’s still room for production with him in that role because the Cardinals will be passing a lot and passing out of 3-wide sets, but he’s just a late round pick.

What was lost in Arizona’s miserable 2012 season was that wide receiver Andre Roberts had a breakout year, as so many receivers do in their 3rd year in the league, just no one noticed because his production was limited by the guys throwing him the ball. Roberts’ 64 catches for 759 yards and 5 touchdowns not only  were all career highs, but they are pretty close to what Larry Fitzgerald produced and he did so on 40 fewer targets and 80 fewer pass snaps. Like the rest of this Arizona receiving corps, Roberts will benefit from improved quarterback play. He’ll probably rotate snaps in 2-wide sets with promising 2nd year Michael Floyd, but there will be enough 3-wide sets and enough yards to go around for both young receivers to get theirs.

Projection: 57 catches for 750 receiving yards 4 touchdowns (99 pts standard, 156 pts PPR)

WR Michael Floyd (Arizona)

8/26/13: Michael Floyd has locked up a starting job. He has big upside opposite Larry Fitzgerald in Bruce Arians’ offense.

Because of this fantasy football centric/immediate results world we live in, Floyd was seen as largely a disappointment as a 1st round rookie last year. However, when you look at history, there is nothing disappointing about his rookie year. Receivers, even 1st round picks, take at least a year to come around.  Since 2005, 28 receivers have gone in the 1st round. They’ve averaged 40 catches for 557 yards and 3 touchdowns per season. Floyd’s 45 catches for 562 yards and 2 touchdowns are actually right in line with that and he got better as the season went on, catching 32 passes for 435 yards and a touchdown in his final 8 games, culminating in a 8 catch for 166 yards and a touchdown performance week 17.

Plus, he did that despite some of the worst quarterbacking in the NFL. The Cardinals ranked dead last in the NFL, averaging 5.6 YPA, 28th totaling 3005 yards, 31st totaling 11 touchdowns, and led the NFL with 21 interceptions. The only serviceable one of the bunch, Kevin Kolb, only played the first 6 weeks of the season and Floyd only played 162 of 424 snaps in those 6 games, 38.2%. The rest of Arizona’s quarterbacks threw 3 touchdowns to 18 interceptions. It’s no surprise that Floyd’s big game week 17 came in the first game he played serious snaps with even a legitimate NFL backup caliber quarterback under center in Brian Hoyer.

Projection: 65 catches for 900 yards and 6 touchdowns (126 pts standard, 191 pts PPR)

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