The Arizona Cardinals are a really good team. They’d make the playoffs if they played in just about any other division in the NFL. But like the Rams, the Cardinals are victims of their tough schedule, having to play San Francisco and Seattle both twice a year — even the Rams are no cakewalk. Despite the stiff competition, they finished 2013 with a 10-6 record but just missed the playoffs.
Coming into 2014, Arizona has veteran offensive talent that will put up big fantasy numbers as well as a young and extremely talented defense that’s one of the league’s best. Here’s a look at their full squad and how their NFL value relates to fantasy football this year:
Carson Palmer is just about as solid a QB2 as you’ll find. He’s a reliable veteran you can count on to deliver stats week after week with the potential to have a few really big games. With a myriad of targets to throw to, Palmer even has sneaky, low QB1 potential, but since he won’t be valued as such, wait to take him as a QB2 and cash in on his low draft stock.
Andre Ellington has breakout potential and fantasy superstar written all over him. The one question is will head coach Bruce Arians let it happen. Arians fancies a running back by committee approach, but if Ellington can get 20-25 touches per game, he’s a RB1, hands down. As it stands, though, and with not banking on Arians to change his stripes, Ellington is more of a mid level RB2 with extremely high potential.
The main culprit to steal carries from Ellington in 2014 is Jonathan Dwyer. His roster spot worthiness comes down to how many goal line attempts he’ll get. If I drafted Ellington, I might pick up Dwyer for week one and see how the breakdown of carries plays out. If he’s continually picking up goal line touchdowns, he might be worth a roster spot.
Like Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald is as steady as they come. Once again the Cardinals top receiver as he has been for the past decade, Fitz is a solid 4th round, WR2 guy. No longer the superstar he once was, he’s still putting up solid numbers and finally with a dependable QB again in Palmer, his should produce a 1,000 yard receiving year in 2014.
Fitz’s counterpart, Michael Floyd, has more upside of the two receivers. He’s being drafted a round or two after Fitz, but he actually might end up being the better fantasy producer. Clearly in terms of value, Floyd is a better pick than Fitzgerald.
No Cardinals tight ends are worth rostering at this point. Rob Housler and rookie Troy Niklas will split playing time, but neither should have any expectations of doing anything fantasy-relevant.
As discussed in the St. Louis Rams 2014 Fantasy Outlook, the NFC West is loaded with defensive talent. The Cardinals defensive backs are arguably as good as Seattle’s Legion of Boom. That is, once Tyrann Mathieu is back on the field and fully healthy, which probably won’t be to start the season. Because of that, I am projecting the Cardinals defense a little lower than most in 2014. While still a top seven defense and worthy of a weekly starting spot on any fantasy team, St. Louis (and San Francisco and Seattle) will have better defenses in 2014.
Jay Feely should be treated as a spot starter kicker. I wouldn’t start him on weeks when the Cardinals are facing an NFC West opponent as those will be low-scoring slug fests, but the other 10 games of the season when Arizona’s high powered offense can really shine are when Feely should be considered as a spot starter.
The Cardinals have all the pieces in place for a playoff run, it’s just a matter of getting through their division. With solid veterans, breakout stars, and a talented defense, the Arizona Cardinals are one of the more interesting teams from a fantasy perspective heading into the 2014 season.