It’s time to start thinking about fantasy football, and we will be going team by team to let you know what each NFL franchise can do for your fantasy squad. We will start out in the NFC West and work our way through each division leading up to the season.
*Rankings are based on a 12-team, standard scoring format.
2011 RECORD: 8-8
2012 BYE WEEK: 12
TOP DRAFT PICKS: (1) Michael Floyd- WR- Notre Dame
(3) Jamell Fleming- CB- Oklahoma
(4) Bobby Massie- OT- Ole Miss
QUARTERBACK: This position has continued to be a sore spot for the Cardinals since Kurt Warner’s retirement. After paying Kevin Kolb good money to be the starter, he did little to make anyone think he was a viable solution before being injured in week 8. Kolb averaged 217 YPG passing while putting up 1 touchdown and 1 interception per game. The most damning number is the 2 wins he was able to muster as a starter compared to 6 losses. Kolb was sacked 30 times in his shortened season, and fumbled the ball 8 times. For reference, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan and Drew Brees, all who started 16 games, were all sacked less times than Kolb. San Francisco’s Alex Smith led the league being sacked 44 times, a number that Kolb was on pace to smash. While backup John Skelton was able to put together a better record, going 6-2 as the starter, his fantasy numbers were not much better. He completed less than 55% of his passes and averaged just under 240 yards passing per game. He threw 11 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. Kolb will get first crack at the starting job, and drafting Michael Floyd should open up the offense a little more and take some pressure off star wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. I am in the camp that believes Kolb isn’t starter material, and at his best can be a lower level QB-2 for fantasy purposes. If he is injured again, Skelton should only be considered the most desperate of options.
RUNNING BACK: Beanie Wells finally had the kind of year the Cardinals expected out of him when they drafted him out of Ohio State, as he went over 1,000 yards and scored 10 touchdowns last year. That put him in elite company as one of only six backs who eclipsed both marks last season, and Wells did it in fewer carries than the other 5. The Cards drafted Ryan Williams a year ago out of Virginia Tech to push Wells, but he had surgery in August and missed the season. He should be healthy this season, and is a good handcuff to the oft-injured Wells. The third back is LaRod Stephens-Howling, who has proven to be little more than a kick returner to this point. Wells was the beneficiary of the Cardinals abysmal passing game, and truly had a breakout season. Look for him to carry the load again, though Williams will cut into his carries. Draft Wells as an upper to middle tier RB2, but make sure you grab Williams as a security blanket in the later rounds.
WIDE RECEIVER: Despite the pathetic performances the Cardinals received from the quarterback position last year, Larry Fitzgerald remains an elite fantasy option. He somehow managed over 1,400 yards for the 4th time in his 8 year career, despite only having 80 receptions. His YAC was 6.4 last season, by far the highest in his career. He managed only 8 touchdowns though, his second consecutive year in single digits after three straight with 10 or more. Top draft pick Michael Floyd gives the Cardinals the most legitimate #2 WR since the departure of Anquan Boldin. Floyd has good size at 6’3″ and 220 pounds, and comes from a pro style offense at Notre Dame. He is arguably the most NFL-ready rookie receiver this season, Until he is more proven expectations should be limited, especially given the poor quarterbacking Arizona will likely get. Early Doucet, the number 2 option on last year’s team, will be bumped to the third spot. He had a decent season last year with 689 yards on 54 receptions with 5 touchdowns. Andre Roberts, who will see the biggest drop in looks this season, had 51 catches for 586 yards last year, but only hit pay dirt twice last season. Fitzgerald is a WR1 in any format, and is in the discussion as the best wide receiver not named Calvin Johnson. While I think Floyd is going to be a nice player, he is going to be limited by the guys throwing him the ball. I think he has WR 3 potential, but is probably more of a flex player or bye week fill-in.
TIGHT END: There was a time when Todd Heap was fantasy gold at tight end. Those days are gone, as last year he was limited to just 24 catches and 283 yards. He was also only good for 1 touchdown last year, and may have given up his role of primary tight end to Jeff King. King averaged 17 yards a game, but did catch 3 touchdown passes. Neither player would be one of my top 24 tight ends, thus they probably shouldn’t be drafted. Heap could be considered a very low level backup, but only if he stays healthy. The Cardinals don’t utilize the tight end as much as other teams, and neither of these guys are talented enough at this point to make them change that strategy.
KICKER: It looks like the Cards will go with 12 year veteran Jay Feely. At 36, he doesn’t have the same leg he once did. He was 6-9 from 40+ last year. He should be looked at as nothing more than a bye-week replacement, and even then you will probably have better options than him.
DEFENSE-SPECIAL TEAMS: While there are some decent individual playmakers on defense, namely Calais Campbell, Adrian Wilson, Patrick Peterson and Sam Acho, but as a team they managed only 10 interceptions and 42 sacks. They play in the offensively challenged NFC West, and Peterson had 4 return touchdowns last year, but that is only enough to make them average for fantasy purposes. The Arizona defense doesn’t need to be drafted, but if your usual defense is on bye or has a bad matchup, they aren’t a bad spot play.