32 Teams in 32 Days – Day #1: Arizona Cardinals
Welcome to the first installment of our new segment, entitled “32 Teams in 32 Days.” In this segment, we will look in-depth at each and every team before the season is set to kick off in early September. With training camps in full swing and fantasy draft season finally upon us, it’s time to identify our sleepers and studs and single out our players to avoid as we look toward the dawning of another NFL season. In this first installment, we will look at the Arizona Cardinals (declining?) aerial attack and exciting ground game. Let us take a peek at the analysis the experts at fantasyisntfun have prepared so far this summer (note: rank amongst position included before player name):
20. Carson Palmer, ARI
2017 Proj: 4200 yards / 28 TD / 16 INT / 0 RuTD (307 points)
Outlook: The guard at quarterback is clearly changing, as we see Rivers, Palmer, Flacco, Dalton and Bradford at low points in my personal rankings this year. A once-feared fantasy starter in the high-flying Arizona attack is now nothing but a low-tier option at the quarterback position. Larry Fitzgerald continues to play at a high level, but the lack of tight end utilization and a consistent #2 threat to the offense leave Palmer with just his Hall of Fame option out wide. In an offense that projects to revolve more around David Johnson this year, I expect Palmer to revert even more into the game-manager role he has created for himself over the last year and provide solid numbers. His upside is limited, and the NFC West continues to improve defensively around him.
1. David Johnson, ARI
2017 Projection: 310 attempts / 1364 rush yards / 14 rushing touchdowns; 82 receptions / 943 receiving yards / 4 receiving touchdowns (420 points)
Outlook: In just his second season in the NFL, David Johnson took the NFL and the fantasy world by storm en route to a historic fantasy campaign. Entering his second full year as the lead dog in the Arizona backfield with no real competition or threat to steal carries, DJ is the concensus #1 overall player in most formats this year, PPR included.
14. Larry Fitzgerald, ARI
2017 Projection: 100 receptions / 1000 yards / 7 touchdowns (242 points)
Outlook: The ageless wonder, the Canton-bound Fitzgerald returns to an offense that actually wasn’t as bad as it seemed over the last half of last season. There is speculation that this will be Fitzgerald’s last season in the NFL, and if so, he will undoubtedly go down as one of the all-time greats. He has been consistent even as he as aged, and returns again as the Cardinals #1 passing game weapon. With the departure of Michael Floyd and the uncertainty in the health of some of the other Cardinal pass catchers, I like Fitzgerald to provide the same consistency that he has put forth for his entire career.
17. John Brown, ARI
2017 Projection: 72 receptions / 1051 yards / 9 touchdowns (231 points)
Outlook: Another surprise Top 20 entrant, John Brown is the second option in the Cardinals once-feared passing attack who has done well in the past (see 2015.) 2016 was supposed to be a big year for Brown as well, but he was severely hampered by a sickle-cell trait and other soft tissue injuries that made it difficult to play. Brown is now healthy and ready to assume the #2 role in the Cardinals offense once more. He is an excellent compliment to Larry Fitzgerald, and with Fitzgerald and running back David Johnson drawing attention from the defense, I expect Brown to get many opportunities this season and to cash in on most of them. A great bargain at his ADP.
Schedule (with win/loss prediction): 8-8, 2nd NFC West
Week 1: @ Detroit Lions (L)
Week 2: @ Indianapolis Colts
Week 3: Dallas Cowboys (L)
Week 4: San Francisco 49ers
Week 5: @ Philadelphia Eagles (L)
Week 6: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (L)
Week 7: @ Los Angeles Rams
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: @ San Francisco 49ers
Week 10: Seattle Seahawks (L)
Week 11: @ Houston Texans (L)
Week 12: Jacksonville Jaguars
Week 13: Los Angeles Rams
Week 14: Tennessee Titans
Week 15: @ Washington Redskins
Week 16: New York Giants (L)
Week 17: @ Seattle Seahawks (L)
Analysis: The Arizona Cardinals took a big step back in 2017, thanks in large part to the regression of quarterback Carson Palmer. Injuries amongst the receiver group took a big toll on Palmer, and added pressure he wasn’t used to seeing back in 2015 meant a step back for every player on offense not named David Johnson.
Carson Palmer had a first-half to forget last year. However, in the second half of the season, he actually played far, far better. He was a solid QB2 in most weeks after Week 8 last year, and even approached the QB1 conversation at times. Health at the wide receiver position in 2017 will only serve to make this a more productive year for Palmer, and as he approaches the end of his career, we all know he is looking to make one last push at a championship. That push can come this year, and at his current ADP, he seems like the perfect QB2 for your fantasy team, or cheap plug-in for your daily leagues. I like Palmer at his ADP, especially if you wait on a quarterback. He gets a pretty mixed schedule as far as passing strength of schedule is concerned, however with the weaposn at his disposal, he will be a mega-value if his ADP stays where it is.
As we all know, David Johnson is generally accepted as the #1 overall player in fantasy football leagues this year, and rightfully so. He scored the most points out of any skill position player last season, and seemed to prove his durability and playmaking ability week-in and week-out. This offseason, he has been the subject of puff pieces outlining how he can handle 30 touches a game, a thought that makes fantasy owners salivate. David Johnson is an excellent player and a guy who stays out of trouble; you can even catch him posting training videos on social media. Nothing points to this guy slowing down and he is the most-sure bet you can get for a fantasy player this season next to Antonio Brown. Draft #1 overall in every format and enjoy your 20+ fantasy points per week from DJ.
Out wide, we have two of my favorite players in the league in Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown. I expect both to put up Top 20 fantasy seasons this year as they look to make a push for the NFC West crown. Fitzgerald has quietly been a Top 20 wide receiver forever now, and the older it gets it seems the less respect he gets in fantasy. He is a virtual lock for 5 scores and 1,000 yards at a price that is way lower than most elite receivers, and his durability has never been in question. He will play and produce in most games, even at age 34. John Brown is one of my sneaky picks to make it into the Top 20 this year. Injuries derailed Brown’s 2016 season, and as 2017 opens, he is finally healthy, a little bulkier, and still sporting that trademark speed. A favorite of Palmer and a perfect compliment to #1 cornerback-drawing Fitzgerald, Brown will exploit weak coverage on multiple occasions this year and is a perfect mid-round target for those who load up on running backs in the early-mid rounds.
As for the Cardinals defense/special teams unit, their schedule features some great match-ups thanks in large part to getting to play against the Rams and the 49ers twice each. Other soft offensive match-ups include the Jaguars, the Texans, and the potentially Luck-less Colts. This is a great defense for streaming purposes in the right match-ups. However, I’d be a bit nervous about having them as an every-week defense, as their schedule boasts some very tough assignments in the Seahawks twice, the NFC East (all with some very potent offenses,) and the upstart Titans and Buccaneers. I’d treat carefully, especially since this is a special teams unit that does not feature a player that can return kicks and punts for touchdowns. Great to stream, weak to use weekly.
Overall, I expect the Cardinals to finish 8-8 and second in their division this year. The NFC is simply too strong overall for them to find consistent success with many older players on their roster and a defense that seems to be a little past their prime. Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson are solid, and Chandler Jones is an excellent pass rusher, but they are otherwise very weak on the defensive line and in the secondary and I believe NFC opponents will get the best of them this year. A new era is on the horizon in Arizona, and this could potentially be the Cardinals last season of relevence for some time. As far as fantasy goes, though, they boast these 4 weapons that I believe will be assets to any fantasy team this year, provided the value is there.
Join us every day here at fantasyisntfun.com for a look at every team for 2017! Coming up tomorrow are the Atlanta Falcons!