The PYRO Fantasy Football Depth Chart is a rundown of where Team PYRO projects the fantasy production for each team at each position. It is NOT an attempt to inform you of the current starters for each team. For example, we are well aware that Brandon Manumaleuna is currently the starting TE for the Chicago Bears, but if you look at the Bears Team Page, we have Greg Olsen listed at TE. Why? We’re projecting that Greg Olsen will be the most Fantasy Football relevant TE for the Bears this season. Since Olsen will be the Bears leading FF point scorer at TE, it’s his name at the top of the TE column on our PYRO Fantasy Depth Chart.
A little more than two years ago, while sitting still on my couch in Pittsburgh, I saw something very clearly. Some people would call it a vision. I could see myself swimming in a large body of water, most likely an ocean. It was very late at night, remote from any shores and the waters were far from steady. It was not a comfortable place to be. Such a circumstance would seem to be very dangerous, or at least frightful; however as I watched myself journey those dark waters, for some reason, I knew I'd be okay. Deep down inside, I knew I was protected.
I was moving towards something, that I could barely see in the distance. I would have to work hard to get there. There was no way I could stay where I was and survive, nor did I want to. Getting there would be anything but easy. But it would ultimately be worth it.
What I saw in the distance was a statue of the Blessed Mother.
That day I sat on my couch two years ago was the very next day after I tore my ACL in week 17. The journey I envisioned is the two years of rebuilding that would follow. And as I write this, today is the day that the journey is over and I am fully at peace. Eagerly looking to a new way, which lies ahead.
Pyro's take: This is a good portion of a strange blog that Rashard Mendenhall posted to the Huffington Post. It is clear that he has found peace in his life, although it remains unclear what his stance is on football.
Needless to say this was quite a weird way and place to let this out, but so be it. Rashard is a free agent and is not going to get resigned in Arizona, and this appears to be his coming to grips with life after football.
He only averaged 3.2 YPC last season, and seemed to have lost his burst. Mendenhall is still only 26 and will be 27 when the season starts, but he is just not the same player since his injury.
The best tight end in the NFL? Bruce Arians doesn’t name Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. He picks Heath Miller. “Not because he catches 90 passes,” the Cardinals’ coach said at the Scouting combine Friday. “But because he blocks big defensive ends.”
Herein lies the Arians philosophy on tight ends, and why those guys piling up catch totals in spread college offenses might not be the guy the Cardinals will want going forward: “Tight ends for me block first, catch second,” Arians said.
Pyro's take: Housler is a tight end that has a lot of talent, but that talent is as a receiver. As long as Bruce Arians is around, and he is not going anywhere, Housler is not going to be a relevant fantasy tight end.
The best chance he would have is to be like Heath Miller and be a factor in the redzone. There is only one problem, he only has one touchdown in three seasons, and there is a target in Arizona by the name of Larry Fitzgerald that has a better track record.
It is time to put Housler out to graze in the pasture until he finds another home.
Arians’ description of Ellington’s situation was the most intriguing Friday as Arians met the media
at the NFL Scouting combine. A day after General Manager Steve Keim again cautioned that the second-year back wasn’t going to be a 25-carry a game guy, Arians made it clear Ellington’s role will expand from his rookie season.
Arians said Ellington has been in the weight room and has already added 10 pounds to his 199-pound frame, something Ellington already said was an offseason priority.
“I’ve never been around a running back who stepped on the field and tried to do things he’s never done before and played wide receiver as good as he does,” Arians said. “He plays it as well as most of our starting wide receivers.
“He has a unique talent we want to look at and continue to build our offense around this year.”
Pyro's take: Halleluiah!!! We have been saying, for what seems like forever, that the DUKE should be main running back for the Cardinals. Now that Rashard Mendenhall will be seeking employment elsewhere the opportunity is there for Ellington.
Arians flat out contradicted what his General Manager said, and I will side with the coach, as he calls the plays. He knows that Andre was everything and more last season. With the added strength he should be in good shape to take on the extra carries in 2014. We love the DUKE and his stock will continue to rise as we get closer to your drafts, so don't expect to sneak him past anyone. Hopefully you nabbed him last year if you are in a Dynasty league.
Arians confident in Palmer for next year and beyond
Though Palmer is a veteran who just finished his 10th NFL season, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians sees no reason to think the former number one pick is nearing the end of his career.
In fact, the coach believes Palmer has plenty of football left in him.
"He's in great condition, he's always in great condition," Arians said from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis Friday. "So I would think he could be playing up to 36, 37 easily."
And with how the offense fared last season, especially in the season's second half, the coach has reason to believe big changes are not needed.
"I thought the last eight games we were real close," Arians said of the offense being where he wanted it to be. "We were running the football much better, and it helped our offensive line so much. Our receivers and quarterbacks got on the same page. Third-down efficiency improved, red zone started to improve.
"So we were playing the way we want to play the second half of the season. I was extremely pleased with where we were offensively."
As to the quarterback specifically, Palmer completed 65 percent of his passes for 2,361 yards and 14 touchdowns with just eight interceptions over the second half of the season, posting a QB rating of 95.3 over that stretch.
Pyro's take: You have to remember that the Cardinals were basically a playoff team last season, they just got screwed by the NFC North having to have a playoff representative.
When you look at his stats over the second half of the season and he threw eight interceptions, that does not tell the whole story. In their week 16 victory, in Seattle, Palmer was intercepted four times. He followed that up by throwing for 407 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 23-20 loss to the 49ers. Palmer should continue to improve in Arians offense.
The toughest thing going against Palmer is that he plays in the AFC West. All of those defenses are tough, and that represents six games. They also face the NFC East and AFC West, so if Palmer improves, he will have done it against some real tough competition.
“We rode him like a mule (in 2012) and the year before. People thought if he wasn’t an every-down guy, that he was an injury-prone guy. There’s this perception of him that wasn’t accurate, for whatever reason. He didn’t miss many games at all. Missed maybe one as a junior and senior.” -Clemson coach Dabo Swinney
Pyro's take: Nobody was on Ellington earlier than us...
He's bulking up a bit, which is ok if it doesn't lose the explosive nature of his game. But Mendenhall is gone and this is Andre "The Duke" Ellington's backfield. He led all RB with yards per rush and catch last year - beast!
He'll get buzz heading into draft's so I don't see him being invisible, but keep your eye on this fella', he's got as much if not more potential than any other running back in the NFL right now, no exaggeration.
Larry Fitzgerald was back in Arizona Tuesday after a week at the Super Bowl and made an appearance at the team’s Tempe facility.
The Pro Bowl wide receiver made it a business visit.
With the Cardinals facing Fitzgerald’s bulky salary cap number for the 2014 season, Fitzgerald officially restructured his contract, easing the impact of his deal on the cap and giving the Cards much more flexibility in which to maneuver this offseason.
Specific details of the restructuring were not immediate available, nor how much cap space was created. However, Fitzgerald’s cap number had been scheduled to be more than $18 million, and the Cardinals were expected before a restructuring to have less than $2 million of cap space once the new league year commenced in March.
Fitzgerald had been scheduled to make $12.75 million in salary for 2014. The easiest way to create cap space would be to convert some of that into a signing bonus that could be pro-rated cap-wise over the life of the contract. Fitzgerald’s deal runs through the 2018 season.
Pyro's take: This should put an end to the rumors that Fitzgerald would be traded this off-season. Fitz had a bounce back season with 10 touchdowns, which is the first time he has had double-digit scores since 2009. Although, he failed to have more than 1,000 yards for the second season in a row.
Now that his contract is out of the way, #11 can focus on getting back to the top of his craft. The biggest concern for going forward for Fitz is that he will continue to lose looks to Michael Floyd, as he continues to develop. This could be most concerning in Bruce Arians offense as Fitzgerald is not the deep target, as evidenced by his 11.6 YPC average last season. At the same time Michael Floyd's YPC averaged jumped from 12.5 in 2012 to 16.0 in 2013.
No one likes missing games, let alone a rookie who has quickly established himself as one of the more dynamic players on a team.
Yet, that's exactly what Arizona Cardinals running back Andre Ellington had to do last Sunday as a left knee injury suffered in practice kept him on the sidelines during his team's 24-21 loss.
"It was tough," Ellington said. "Unfortunately we didn't win the game and I felt like I wanted to be out there and contribute what I know how to contribute, but it's behind us and we've just got to move on from it."
Part of the process is getting back on the field, and Ellington said he's ready to go Sunday when the Cardinals host the St. Louis Rams.
"I feel great just thanks to the rehab that I was getting," he said. "I got some time off, rested a little bit and I feel great."
Pyro's take: Ellington will be back to face the Rams who are giving up over 22 points a game to running backs. The DUKE has the ability to break the big run, but he has been held in check as of late. Andre should get between 10-12 touches in this game, but he is still a risky fantasy start as Mendenhall will get his share of carries as well as the redzone looks.
Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald didn’t have his best day ever against the Eagles but once again was a thorn in Philly’s side, with five catches for 72 yards – including a 43-yard touchdown that got the Cardinals energized on offense. Fitzgerald was covered, but quarterback Carson Palmer fit it in to Fitzgerald, who had a pair of Eagles’ defenders bounce off him so he could race to the end zone.
“They bounced off me, I saw the end zone, I think it was Mike (Floyd) down there got me a good block from the free safety to help chaperone me,” Fitzgerald said. “We needed that play to get us going. We were a little stagnant before that. We just didn’t have enough of those plays to get us over the hump.”
Pyro's take: Larry has not been all world as of late, but he has been finding the endzone. Over his last three games Fitzgerald has at least five catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. The only problem is he has not had more than six catches or 72 yards. The last 100-yard game for Fitz came back in week 6. Although, #11 has found the endzone five times in the last three weeks, and seven times over his last nine games.
It is not going to be east for Larry in the fantasy playoffs as he has tough match-ups against St. Louis, Tennessee and Seattle who are 18th, 1st and 3rd against wide receivers.
Jaguars defensive end Jason Babin swears he wasn’t trying to rip out Andre Ellington’s hair, but he ended up with a handful of the running back’s dreadlocks during one particular tackle.
“Remember, I started playing when horse collaring was still acceptable,” Babin, a 10-year veteran, told reporters after the game. “It was one of those things that happened in the moment. I wasn’t trying to get his dreads. If I have to make a tackle, I’m going to make a tackle. That’s more important.”
He didn’t realize what happened right away.
“But they were stuck to my glove,” he said. “I was walking back to the huddle and said, ‘What is this?’ Sometimes that stuff happens.”
Pyro's take: I am a big fan of the DUKE, but if you have dreads or long hair I have no sympathy when it gets pulled. This is not like a chick fight where hair pulling is usually the first move, this is football and it is not about looking pretty out there.
I imagine that it must have hurt a lot to have a bunch of your dreads ripped out of your head, not to mention what it must have sounded like. You are an amazing talent, so hopefully this will make you run even faster in the coming weeks. Jason Babin shall now be known as the "Barber".
Ryan Williams’ name is above his locker, just like every other player in the Cardinals locker room, but the running back knows that some people would attach other labels if they could.
Like fragile. Unwilling to play through injuries. Resident of coach Bruce Arians’ doghouse.
“I’ve been labeled,” Williams said, “and none of them have really been positive. I don’t really worry about what people say on the outside, but what I do want to do is bring light to this offense.”
That’s impossible to do if you aren’t in uniform on game day. Williams, a second-round pick in 2011, has been inactive for all six games, a healthy scratch.
That’s fueled speculation the Cardinals will try to trade him before the league deadline of Oct. 29 at 1 p.m.
Maybe they will, but at present, the Cardinals aren’t pursuing a trade. There likely are several reasons for that.
Pyro's take: What a disappointment Williams has been, and it would only make sense for the Cardinals to trade the 23-year old running back. The Cardinals have a ton of depth at the running back position, and after all of Williams’s failed attempts to produce it would only be fair to him and the organization to ship him out of town. A change of scenery could help Williams, but even if he is moved he is a major risk to count on in fantasy.
Larry Fitzgerald, who has a hamstring injury, is questionable.
Head coach Bruce Arians said it is the same hamstring that Fitz has had bothering him for a while, but this week "it's a different spot" and the team "would wait and see at game time" whether he would be able to play or not.
Pyro's take: Fitz is going to be a game time decision, and that makes going with him a tough call, as the Cardinals are a late kickoff on Sunday and we won't know his status until well after the early games kick off. If you have a better option it may be smarter to go that route this week.
Andre Ellington still impressing, but Arians backtracks
Ellington played a season-high 30 offensive snaps against the Panthers Sunday, his number of plays increasing all the way from eight
in the season opener. The production was there too, with a team-leading 52 yards rushing on only seven carries (7.4 yards a try) and another 31 yards on four receptions.
Arians added he doesn’t want to overload a rookie like Ellington. “He’s a runner (and) we’ve kind of turned him into a receiver,” Arians said. “I think that’s his role as a future player, as a 30-down player. I don’t think his body-type is going to be the lead-dog runner.”
Pyro's take: The quotes this week are very interesting with Arians saying that "I don’t think his body-type is going to be the lead-dog runner.” This comes only a few weeks earlier when Arians said that Ellington is a guy who can "carry the load". Regardless, the fact remains that Ellington is getting on the play for more snaps each week, and is pretty much a lock to be on the field for at least 30 snaps a game going forward.
I know a lot of people, me included, are expecting that Ellington would take over for the Cardinals, but in reality he already has. The DUKE is more effective than Mendenhall rushing and receiving, and he has done this with half as many touches as Mendy. Ellington is going to continue to impress, and while he is not going to get 25 carries a game, he is going to make explosive plays.
Mendenhall accounted for 21 yards on 12 carries with a pair of fumbles. He also dropped a pass and scampered out of bounds late in the game as the Cardinals were angling to burn time off the clock.
"Rashard had a very tough day, and he can't play that way," Arians said, per Kent Somers of The Arizona Republic. "He can't run out of bounds. He's a veteran. And to run out of bounds at the end of the game, that was probably the worst mistake he made all day."
Arians openly suggested his so-called featured back needs to do more during the week to be ready for games.
"We need to practice him a little bit harder," Arians said. "I think we've been too easy on him in practice because of his injuries, and we need to hone him up more because he's not gaining anything."
Pyro's take: We have been saying all along that Mendenhall is not the answer in Arizona, and that you have better keep your eye on Andre Ellington. Well, after 2 fumbles and a horrible game for Mendenhall it was Ellington once again who looked like the more explosive back. Ellington finished the game with 29 yards on 4 carries and another 22 yards on 3 catches. It is only a matter of time, probably this week, when "The Duke" will start to see a minimum of 10 touches a week.
Rookie running back Andre Ellington continues to impress and it’s not like Arians only sees him has a third-down, change-of-pace guy. “This kid can carry the load,” Arians said.
Pyro's take: Well, we have been telling you about Andre Ellington for a few weeks now, and it appears he is going to get more opportunities going forward. Ellington had 4 carries for 20 yards, but added 2 catches for 42 yards including a nice touchdown catch.
Andre "Duke" Ellington is showing the explosiveness that made us a believer that he would become fantasy relevant. There is no other back on the Cardinals that has his agility or speed, and offenses in the NFL are looking for the Darren Sproles type of back that can be a game changer in the passing game, and Ellington fits that mold.
The Duke is not going to be the starter, but he is going to see more opportunities, and if he continues to play as he has through the first 2 weeks, he will become a bigger part of this offense before too long.
Rashard Mendenhall still was sporting a brace on the sideline during Monday's practice, but Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians no longer is worried about the "looseness" in his starting running back's knee.
"I did not let him go today, but he's more than ready," Arians said, via the team's official website. "And Ryan (Williams) is full speed, so we're fully healthy at running back."
Pyro's take: It looks like Mendenhall will be ready to lead the way for the Cardinals in the season opener against St. Louis. Mendenhall should have an opportunity for a decent game, but this will be his first true test since feeling looseness in his knee. He definitely has the support of his head coach and will be given every chance to succeed, but he is still a major injury risk this season.
In the third quarter, Rob Housler was forced to leave the game with what was eventually diagnosed as a high ankle sprain.
"I think I'll have a better grasp of it after the swelling goes down," Housler explained. He added that barring any setbacks he doesn't expect to miss much more than a few weeks, the typical time it takes to recover from that injury.
"Coming off the field, you always think you can play through a lot of that stuff," Housler said when asked if he knew how serious the injury was when it happened. "I wanted to be optimistic about it."
Pyro's take: This is rough new for Housler, who was going to be the starter for the Cardinals and still will be, but he is most likely going to miss at least 4 weeks and up to 6 weeks, which means he could miss 2-4 weeks to start the season.
This injury will definitely have him fall in drafts, but if you are in a deep league and have a solid starting tight end who is not on a bye until at least week 6, Housler could be a nice late draft pick with value.
In one reassuring sequence, Larry Fitzgerald caught four passes on the same drive, in the span of seven plays.
One was called back on a holding penalty, but it didn’t change the aesthetics or the overarching message:
We might be witnessing the return of a dominant Hall of Fame receiver.
There are times when Fitzgerald clearly feels the same way. Last week in Green Bay, a teammate said Fitzgerald was acting like a kid at Christmas, prancing about the sidelines and joyously saying, “We’ve got a quarterback!”
“I can not confirm that,” Fitzgerald said, grinning.
Pyro's take: Fitzgerald is an elite talent, and coming off the worst season of his career. He has every right to be happy as a kid on Christmas, as I will be if I can grab our 6th ranked wide receiver this season.
From the mouth of 2012 NFL coach of the year, and new Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians: "We'll be able to play him in multiple positions so that no one can find him. To be able to play in the slot and move everybody around, move the chains on third down and still hit home runs on first down, that's the thing."
Watch this video: http://bit.ly/154zO9w
And this video: http://on.nfl.com/14nggQ1
Pyro's take: Think of how much better Larry Fitzgerald is than Reggie Wayne, the benefactor of Bruce Arian's throw happy system last year in Indy. Think about how motivated Larry will be after the worst season in his Hall of Fame career. Think about Larry lining up in the slot, in the backfield, in motion and spilt out wide with a Carson Palmer locking in on him. Short routes, hitch routes, across the middle and deep - it's a gonna be a whole new ballgame for #11.
Larry Fitzgerald is skyrocketing up my tiers and I will happily take him somewhere in the third round in upcoming drafts. He'll be a top 5 WR this year, which is saying a lot, in a year where the WR position is as deep as it's ever been since I started playing fantasy football in 1998!
Patriots tight end Jake Ballard in line for significant playing time to start 2013 season
With TE Rob Gronkowski looking like he may miss at least a game or two due to offseason forearm and back surgery and fellow tight end Aaron Hernandez's situation getting worse by the minute, Jake Ballard could be in line for significant playing time to start the Patriots' 2013 NFL season.
Pyro's take: Ballard is talented enough to turn in low-end fantasy TE1 or high-end TE2 numbers within this Patriots offense if neither Gronk nor Hernandez is on the field to start the season. Ballard tore his ACL during the 2011-12 Super Bowl and missed all of last season, but he is close to 100% now and is starting to look like an incredibly foresighted waiver wire pickup for the Pats when they snagged him back in June of '12. Keep him on your sleeper radar for this upcoming season.
Rashard Mendenhall turned just 26 years old today.
Pyro's take: This might explain Arians blowing smoke up his ass in an interview on NFL.com earlier today. We'll see how things shake out over the summer, but all signs point towards Mendenhall getting another chance to live up to his former first-round draft status.
06/19/13, 05:45 PM CDT by Dawgmaticå