Don’t sleep on the Cardinals this year. There is some real talent on this offense. Interestingly enough, the Cardinals face a tough strength of schedule for QBs (#21), but fairly decent for WRs (#10). Palmer is going to need some help, and for the first time in a long time, he just might have the weapons around him to break back into the top 10 for fantasy QBs. Once upon a time, Palmer called that area his stomping ground. In 2005 he was the #1 fantasy QB, one year later he ranked #5, and in 2007 he was #9. He has the best chance since then to crack the top 10. Pyro pegs him as a sleeper, although I don’t know if he really qualifies as such. He is more like a MILF. He was definitely hot at one time, some years have passed since then, but he is still do-able.
Last year was his first year with the Cardinals and thus his first year in the Bruce Arians offense. Arians, who likes to have his QBs do long drops in order to run a wide receiver deep, has accommodated Palmer’s style. Last year, we saw more three step drops, quicker reads, and of course, he uses the tight ends primarily as a blocking position. How did this work for Palmer? He put up 4,274 yards, the most of his career (Palmer came into the league in 2004). Those numbers should increase as does Palmer’s familiarity with the system. Last year, Palmer completed 362 passes, the most since 2007. He threw 24 TDs with 22 INTs. He needs to reduce the interceptions. They accounted for – 44 points, tied for the worst out of the top 20 fantasy QBs. Looking at his 2013 fantasy points, while the INTs are not good, his points from yards are exceptional. Generally, you want a guy who relies on his fantasy value from yardage, not TDs, as they are just too hard to replicate. Palmer’s yardage accounted for 78.7% of his fantasy value. That is the highest out of the top 20 QBs. If he can manage the turnovers, and just toss a few more TDs, he can crack the top 10. That is a great value. As of mid-August, his ADP shows him going after guys like Andy Dalton and Johnny Manziel. Pyro likes Palmer better than both of those cats. Pairing Palmer with a Cutler or a Tannehill could make for a winning combination.
Larry Fitzgerald is undoubtedly a stand up guy. However, while we like his character, Pyro does not have him ranked inside their top 20 this year. He finished last season ranked at fantasy WR #16. One of the reasons I like Palmer is the very reason I am leery of Fitz. Last year, Larry was touchdown dependant for his fantasy value. In fact, no other WR in the top 20 was more touchdown dependant than him. TDs accounted for 38.9% of his fantasy value. Last year, he had 10 touchdowns. The year before, he had 4. This just shows you how unpredictable touchdowns can be. If you want to dissect the TD Dependency chart for yourself, it is just 1 of the 19 tabs available on the latest version of the draft kit. Plus, you get extra pieces like the multiple draft manifestos, relevant rookies, and more.
There is no question that Larry is a durable player. However, he is just not as dependable as he once was. Last year was the second year in a row he failed to gain over 1,000 yards. While he will still get you catches, last year he had 82, he is not used as the down field threat he once was. That role has been passed to Floyd. I still like Larry in PPR leagues. Just be aware, he seems to be targeted less as Floyd’s looks are on the rise. Larry was targeted just 136 times last year. That is the lowest number of targets he has been given since 2006. Larry is being overvalued. He still has the big name recognition. As of mid-August, his ADP shows him going in the 4th round for 12 team leagues. He is being drafted as the 17th WR off the board. That is too high for a guy who may not end up in the top 20 this year.
Quite frankly, there is only room for one Arizona receiver to fit in the fantasy top 20. Like I said, that player is not Larry Fitz. This is the first year Pyro is ranking Michael Floyd ahead of Fitzgerald. Last year, Floyd came in at WR #23 in fantasy. He actually had more yards than Fitz 1,054 to 954. Once again, Larry ranked higher primarily due to his scoring, which as discussed, is not the stat to use when building a team. A much better indicator is the percentage of points coming from yardage. In Floyd’s case, that is 77.8%, which is 5th highest for the top 25 ranked receivers from last year. The fact is, Floyd catches passes at almost exactly the same percentage rate than Fitzgerald does, and he is several yards further downfield when he is targeted. This is one of my favorite ways to identify a good receiver. Floyd’s catch percentage is 61.1%, to Larry’s 61.2%. However, on average, Larry is only 7.12 yards down field when he is targeted and Floyd is 9.76 yards downfield. The boy has the skills and could possibly get near the top 10. As of mid-August, his ADP has him going behind Fitzgerald and guys like Roddy White and Andre Johnson, all of whom are Pyro ranks below Michael Floyd. His ADP has him going in the 5th round as WR. That spells a great value for you.
So there has been some scuttlebutt about John Brown. I am not referring to the anti-war ballad by Bob Dylan.
Nor am I referring to the reggae dub band, or even the famed abolitionist. I am talking about the rookie WR out of Pittsburgh State. Brown has a slight frame, 5’11” and 179 pounds. These dimensions don’t instill confidence, but hopefully, no one will be able to catch the kid. Brown is a burner with 4.34 speed. He reminds me of T.Y. Hilton. He could be a crucial piece in this offense if he supplants Ted Ginn at the #3 spot. Brown was a surprising third round pick that has been sensational in camp. He has played himself from a special teams guy into the lineup. If you want to dominate your league, you have to pay attention to training camp news like this. Houdini goes deeper into this under the radar guy and other camp news and notes on the podcast: episode 25, show 138 “Training Camp Insight for all 32 Teams”.
The other WR to note is Ted Ginn. He is currently their special teams return man. Last year, he had 36 receptions for 556 yards and 5 receiving TDs. Both Ginn and Brown are ranked in the 90’s as of version 4 of the draft kit. You pretty much know what you are getting out of Ginn, who has a low ceiling. Between the two, I would rather roll with Brown. At the very end of the draft, you want to take a flyer on guys who are unproven, who might just pop. We have not seen Brown’s ceiling, he could be one of those guys that lights it up out of nowhere. Keep watching the preseason. The best way to get a feel for guys is to see some tape on them.
If you were downloading the Pyro podcast last year, than chances are you had Andre “the Duke” Ellington on your team. He was just another one of those guys that Pyro unearthed far before his name was mentioned anywhere else. Damn, the Duke sure can play!
Ellington finished the season as the 24th best fantasy RB. That is impressive considering he did not play at all in week 1 and he was not given double digit carries until the 8th game. In fact, the only problem was the fact that he did not get the ball enough. It was almost maddening to see how effective he was and yet the coaching staff did not utilize him. In his 2013 rookie season, Ellington ran the ball 118 times and totaled 652 rushing yards and scoring 3 rushing TDs. He averaged an amazing 5.53 yards per carry. Out of all running backs who carried the ball at least 100 times last year, Ellington’s 5.53 was the absolute highest. He also adds points in the passing game. He caught 39 balls for 371 yards and another TD. Of Ellington’s total fantasy value, 51.6% came from rushing yards. What is nice to see, especially in a PPR format, is the fact that his receiving yards accounted for 29.4% of his value. Out of the top 30 running backs, only four other players had a higher receiving yard value. He is a duel threat in the offense. Arians has talked about getting him the ball more this season, which was plainly obvious to everyone last year except, well, Arians. For some reason, last year Rashard Mendenhall got 217 carries for a whopping 3.2 yards per carry. Mendenhall is a thing of the past, and all signs look to point to a big year for “The Duke”. Without a doubt, he should receive a vast majority of the looks for the Cardinals this year. If that happens, he can easily be a top 10 guy. Ellington is going smack in the middle of the 3rd round. That is just about right. The only worry is that Arians continues to under utilize “The Duke”. The flip side to that is the question. If he does see 20 -25 looks a game, will he be able to with stand the toll it takes on the body? At 5’10”, 199 pounds, he is not exactly an imposing figure. Regardless, the boy has amazing skills and could pay off big time in 2014.
Behind “The Duke”, the Cardinals have Stepfan Taylor. Taylor had one game last year where he carried the ball 14 times. Aside from that, the most carries he got in a game was 5. There were several games where he did not touch the ball at all. Listed at #3 on the depth chart currently is Jonathan Dwyer. However, chances are he moves into the #2 spot for the regular season. Dwyer is entering his 5th year. The last two years in a row, he averaged 4 yards a carry. There were a couple games in 2012 that he showed flashes, but nothing ever materialized. Although he is a big back and one would think he would have a nose for the end zone, the dude has scored only 2 TDs in his career. Here is the thing: Dwyer comes from Pittsburgh and was there for a while under Bruce Arians. The two are familiar with one another. We all saw what Arians did with Mendenhall last year. If you do draft “The Duke” it would not be crazy to pick yourself up a Dwyer voodoo doll just in case Bruce gets some crazy notions and wants to get cute like he did last year. Really though, Ellington is just too good not to play, Arians is talking a good talk as of right now, but none the less, keep that doll handy just in case.
As far as the tight end position goes, they have John Carlson, who comes from a long line of talented pass catching Notre Dame tight ends. The Cardinals have the 31st ranked schedule at the position. When asked about how he might utilize his tight end as a pass catcher in his offensive scheme, Arians responded: “Wait, you mean those guys are allowed to run routes?” Alright, so maybe those weren’t his EXACT words, but it is unfortunate for Carlson, who really does have nice hands and can run a clean route, that he is playing in a system that ignores the tight end in the passing game.
Defensively, they should finish just outside the top 5 inside the top 10.