The Arizona Cardinals ended their 2014 with a whimper when third string quarterback Ryan Lindley was beaten down by the Panthers in the Wild Card Round. Their regular season play with Carson Palmer however was fantastic, with the team going 8-1 and showcasing an impressive offense. The Cards haven’t had a superstar NFL fantasy option since the decline of Larry Fitzgerald, but there are some solid mid and late round options which can be valuable assets as reserves.
Quarterback: Carson Palmer
Carson Palmer was a fantastic late-round fantasy football option at quarterback last season and after a solid 6-0 start, he surprisingly outplayed his draft position. As long as he recovers normally from his ACL tear, Palmer should be a serviceable starter and could offer QB1 upside if he plays as well as he did last year. Nonetheless General Manager Steve Keim didn’t change the offense much in free-agency and the draft so Palmer could see his numbers dip from his 2014 campaign.
Running Back: Andre Ellington, David Johnson
Andre Ellington never exceeded 100 rushing yards in the thirteen games he played last season. He will once again be taking the majority of touches in Arizona’s backfield and should improve from his abysmal 3.3 yards per carry with an upgraded offensive line featuring run blocking king free agent Mike Iupati. Look for Bruce Arians to run the ball more in order to take the pressure off of thirty five year old Carson Palmer coming off a torn ACL. His pass-catching (8.9 yards per catch) is a nice bonus as well.
Considering Ellington's injury history, fantasy owners should add rookie David Johnson to their deep sleeper list. The third-round pick from Northern Iowa may contribute immediately in the passing game.
Wide Receiver: Michael Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown
Fine, maybe there isn't an elite playmaker in this group, but there are three players each week that could produce WR1 numbers for fantasy owner.
Consistency is always a problem with Michael Floyd, but it looks like the Cardinals expect an improvement seeing as they picked up his option for this season. He has been an athletic player on the rise but Floyd has not had a breakout season yet. Numbers went down in 2014 with only three 100-yard games. The red-zone size always provides hope for 8+ touchdowns. For now he's a WR3 with WR2 upside.
Larry Fitzgerald will never be the annual 1,200 plus yard receiver again. He faded towards the end of the season averaging only 31.8 yards his last five games. Don’t expect too much of an improvement from the older Fitzgerald who publicly said his role would diminish after becoming more of a possession receiver in the slot. That said, he remains a craft route-runner who can burn nickel backs if defenses steer coverage elsewhere.
Consider John Brown as a WR4, but only because he's a No. 3 receiver. PFF's Mike Clay rated the little speedster the top third NFL receiver. Brown has fantastic speed and will be an upside player. He scored five touchdowns during his rookie year. Issue is number of targets. Monitor training camp and preseason in terms of usage. Home run hitter who just needs enough swings.
Bruce Arians utilizes his tight end primarily as run-blockers as seen by last season’s starter Rob Housler who finished with 129 yards and zero touchdowns. The Cardinals will be relying on second year Troy Niklas as their feature TE so there is no one on this team worth drafting at this position.
Stay tuned for more team outlooks and NFL player news!