Arizona Cardinals: 2014 Outlook
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Football > Teams > NFC West > Cardinals > Outlook

Arizona Cardinals

By Brad Kruse, Friday, July 25, 2014

Carson Palmer stabilized the quarterback position for Arizona after his arrival in 2013. He started all 16 games and produced a 36-percent bump in fantasy points for the Arizona quarterbacks. It sounds impressive, but he only scored 18 fantasy PPG. That level of production resulted in a QB15 finish. With Michael Floyd continuing his evolution, the addition of a more stable list of tight ends to work with and a year of Andre Ellington as his lead running back, Palmer can improve yet again and approach the 20 PPG totals you look for in a QB1. Palmer should not be expected to have tremendous upside despite having a nice array of weapons (Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and Ellington). The NFC West is a tough place to play and Palmer will struggle to consistently put up difference-making points. Luckily, he doesn't carry anything close to a QB1 value, so he'll be one of the many solid floor, low ceiling options at QB2.

Editor's note: Palmer will sometimes go undrafted in redraft and does not even move the needle on our ADP list. In our high-stakes ADP rankings, the former USC QB is the 21st QB selected at pick No. 151.

BREAKOUT STUD: Ellington had a strong rookie season, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on 118 carries. He was an excellent option in the passing game as well, catching 39 passes for an average of 9.5 yards per catch. He had a total of four touchdowns. Ellington served as the RB2 behind Rashard Mendenhall, who had close to double of Ellington's rush attempts. Mendenhall is no longer in Arizona thanks to an early retirement, leaving the door open for Ellington's role expanding. It's unclear if Ellington will be the true feature back, the front end of a committee or how often he'll be used in passing situations as a receiver out of the backfield. Arizona may want to have one of their other backs involved to keep Ellington fresh and dynamic. His range of usage could vary from 50- to 65-percent of the carries. This is a big range and of course opens the possibility of Ellington becoming a legit RB1. His upside is really high if the situation falls heavily in his favor. Head coach Bruce Arians has already declared Ellington the RB1, with the rest of the backs battling to see who the RB2 will be.

Editor's note: Like his fellow Clemson alum, Ellington should earn a lot of comparisons to C.J. Spiller. Both have speed and have a knack for big plays. Both backs have valid injury concerns and drawbacks. They both can even contribute as a receiver on third downs. Fantasy owners would love Ellington if he can do what Spiller has never been able to do: stay healthy, stay productive and not have to share the backfield. His 35.84 ADP is reasonable since he still has something to prove.

Stepfan Taylor was a rookie last year and he averaged a pedestrian 3.2 yards per carry. After the retirement of Rashard Mendenhall, Taylor finds himself in contention for a RB2 role, possibly earning him significant playing time. He's going to be tough to trust unless his role becomes better defined. Looking over the last four years in offenses Tom Moore and Bruce Arians were involved with, they have typically operated shared backfields. The RB who had the most carries out of the backfield did not have the most receptions. This leads you to believe there will be an active third-down back. Ellington is an ideal fit for that role. This suggests the RB2 might play a lot of first and second downs to keep Ellington healthy. As Arizona's backup running back, Taylor will likely see eight to ten carries per week. Even with the early edge to fulfill that role, Taylor does not justify a draft pick at this time in redraft. He should only be considered in dynasties or leagues with really deep rosters.

Dwyer came from Pittsburgh where head coach Bruce Arians had some exposure to him. Dwyer has been serviceable in short stints or when playing a smaller role over the years. If Taylor doesn't deliver for this team, Dwyer could step in. Neither player has Ellington's upside, but in today's NFL you need two or three running backs to be successful. Dwyer has no fantasy value until he solidifies a larger role in the offense.

2014 BREAKOUT PLAYER: Floyd was picked by the FFToolbox Pros as the 2014 Fantasy Breakout Player. He should outperform the legend Larry Fitzgerald.

PROMISING: Michael Floyd took a step forward last year, improving from 45 receptions, 562 yards and two touchdowns as a rookie to 65 catches 1,041 yards and five touchdowns in 2013. His yards per catch increased from 12.5 to 16.0. Some of this improvement could be associated with the upgrade to Carson Palmer. It should also be attributed to Larry Fitzgerald taking him under his wing. Floyd is at his physical peak and Arizona's system has improved dramatically. At a bare minimum, his numbers should stay the same, but the consensus out there suggests he will improve again and possibly overtake Fitzgerald as the Cardinals' best receiver. If you can get him at the beginning of the fifth round or later, that would be a tremendous value. He is being drafted as the WR18 with a 43.89 ADP.

Editor's note: It shouldn't be a surprise if Floyd overtakes Fitzgerald. Floyd will see less coverage to start the season and Fitzgerald is being asked to play inside more, which typically means more short to intermediate routes. This leaves more big plays down the field for Floyd on the outside.

Fitzgerald has had an excellent career. He has struggled a bit since Kurt Warner retired, but over his last four seasons he has scored: 240, 269, 175 and 237 points in PPR leagues, respectively. Michael Floyd is coming on strong as a second option, although he might overtake Fitzgerald if 11-year vet doesn't step it up. The former Pitt receiver simply doesn't have that Tier 1 or even Tier 2 upside these days. There are likely some wide receivers drafted in the same range as Fitzgerald who could provide more upside, but they come with more risk as well. His ADP (WR16, 41.63) puts him in Round 4, the same round as Victor Cruz, Cordarrelle Patterson, Percy Harvin, Vincent Jackson, Floyd, Michael Crabtree, Andre Johnson and Sammy Watkins. This round runs the full gauntlet from rookie to future Hall of Famer. This feels like one round too early for Fitz. He just isn't the same player he once was where you should reach for him either.

It goes without saying that it is unreasonable to expect Ted Ginn to break out in his eighth season. He's a deep threat and that could net him some yards the very occasional nice game or two. He's never been on a team with this much talent at wide receiver so his long speed will help clear some open field for his teammates. Ginn has very little fantasy appeal, even in a very large league.

John Brown is a rookie wide receiver who has instantly made an impression in OTAs in Arizona. Unless the Cardinals drastically produce their offensive output, Brown is too far down on the depth chart to offer any fantasy impact. He is a dynasty only option.

Carlson had some productive games sprinkled throughout his career. Landing in Arizona does not look like an attractive spot for Carlson to provide fantasy value. He is probably a better blocker than Housler or Niklas, so he'll have a clear path to some playing time. Considering it has been many years since Carlson was even worth consideration as a waiver wire replacement, you should find a backup TE elsewhere.

The tight end situation in Arizona is a mess. Housler is the incumbent; however, with Arizona's investment of Troy Niklas, a second round tight end in the 2014 NFL Draft and the signing of John Carlson, the Cards are obviously looking for a solution at the position. Until they find an answer, don't bother using a draft pick on any of them, Housler included.

The Cardinals drafted Niklas in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft, which is where you expect to find guys competing for starting jobs. Unfortunately, Niklas doesn't have a ton of upside as a receiver and could eventually become a high-end TE2. He is already an above-average blocker though so he may see the field early in special teams and make a name for himself. His fantasy appeal only applies to dynasty.

Feely's 30 made field goals tied for the third-highest total of his 14-year career. Arizona's inconsistent run game struggled to punch it into the end zone, which will open up more field goal opportunities. With Andre Ellington assuming a larger role, the run game should be modestly improved at a minimum. This makes Feely a better option as a fantasy replacement and not a starter.

Arizona has a strong defense and special teams. With both Patrick Peterson and Ted Ginn involved, they could provide bonus touchdowns for you from their return game. Arizona will be breaking in some new talent between Kevin Minter and rookie Deone Bucannon. Tyrann Mathieu isn't 100-percent as he slowly recovers from ACL/LCL surgery. He will be fortunate to return by October. Definitely consider them as a draftable borderline starting DST1 in 2014.


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