Arizona Cardinals 2012 Fantasy Team Outlook
It’s safe to say the Arizona Cardinals are not flush with a lot of excellent options for fantasy football owners, though wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald continues to be one of the top options at his position despite a quarterback situation that has been in flux since Kurt Warner retired.
Running back Chris “Beanie” Wells did have his best season in 2011, topping 1,000 rushing yards for the first time with 10 touchdowns on the ground, despite not playing in all 16 games.
The quarterback situation will be front and center for the Cardinals during training camp and the preseason, as Kevin Kolb and John Skelton will battle for the starting job. Whoever wins the job will have two excellent wide receivers to throw to, with first-round pick Michael Floyd most likely stepping right in as a starter opposite Fitzgerald.
Let’s take a closer look at what fantasy owners can expect from members of the Cardinals in 2012:
QB Kevin Kolb
Kolb’s first season in the desert was a big disappointment, as concussion issues limited him to just nine games and he threw multiple touchdowns in just three of those games. The effects of his concussion apparently lingered into the offseason, which creates a lot of concern that he can make it through a full season if he does win the starting job. The investment the team has made in him stands to give Kolb the inside track at starting Week 1 barring injury or disastrous performance during the preseason, but he is still nothing more than a low-end QB2 for fantasy purposes. And a fairly risky one at that, since he may have a short leash if he struggles early.
QB John Skelton
Skelton was 5-2 as the starter for Arizona last season, and played most of a sixth victory over the San Francisco 49ers. He was also quite productive, throwing for 271 yards or more in five of those eight games. Interceptions have been an issue for him, including 14 in 2011, and he has completed less than 53 percent of his passes for his career, so if opposing teams have a better opportunity to prepare for him he may struggle. Skelton may actually have a bit more appeal to fantasy owners than Kolb if he is able to win the starting job, but since he will have to clearly outperform Kolb to make that happen he is best left on the waiver wire in most leagues.
QB Ryan Lindley
Lindley was a sixth-round pick by Arizona in April, and may start his career as the team’s No.3 quarterback or on the practice squad. Fantasy owners in very deep dynasty leagues may want to keep him in the back of their minds, but Lindley has no fantasy value for 2012 without virtual disaster happening above him on the depth chart.
RB Chris Wells
“Beanie” had a breakout season in 2011, setting career-highs in carries (245), yards (1,047) and touchdowns (10) while starting 14 of the 15 games he played in. But he continues offer little as a pass receiver (27 career receptions in three NFL seasons), and 2011 second round pick Ryan Williams is a threat to steal playing time and touches if he can be healthy after missing his entire rookie season with a torn patella tendon suffered during the preseason. A closer look at Wells’ production from last season shows he had 549 of his yards in just four games and six of his 10 touchdowns in those same four games. Add in offseason knee surgery, and you have a low-end RB2 or high-end RB3 with injury concerns and questions about playing time.
RB Ryan Williams
As previously mentioned, Williams missed his entire rookie season in 2011 with a torn patella tendon, so any threat he was to Wells’ workload had to be postponed a year. He seems to be on track to be ready to go for the start of training camp, and he offers capability as a pass receiver Wells does not. That means Williams could be in line for a significant role if he can stay on the field, but fantasy owners should not regard him as anything more than a late-round flier on draft day as of now.
RB LaRod Stephens-Howling
Stephens-Howling had 21 carries for 93 yards in Week 17 of 2011, which far and away set his career-high for carries and total touches in a game. He has proven to be a very capable kickoff returner in his three NFL season, but it will take significant injuries to both Wells and Williams to make him fantasy relevant.
RB Alfonso Smith
Smith had one productive game last season, with 17 carries for 54 yards and three catches for 21 yards against the Seattle Seahawks in September, but otherwise had just 13 more touches all season. He should not be on the radar of any fantasy owner.
WR Larry Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald is one of the sure things at the wide receiver position, with at least 80 receptions, 1,000 yards and six touchdowns in five straight seasons. The uncertainty the Cardinals have under center creates some downside potential, but there is no reason to think he can’t continue to overcome it and put together another excellent campaign in 2012. Fitzgerald will turn 29 prior to the start of the season, so he is still firmly in his prime and belongs in the top tier of fantasy wide receivers.
WR Michael Floyd
Learning how to be a professional from Fitzgerald will definitely benefit Floyd as a rookie, and with Fitzgerald commanding plenty of attention from opposing secondaries he could be very productive right out of the gate. Arizona’s quarterback situation may hamper him, but Floyd was able to overcome similar mediocrity under center for part of his collegiate career at Notre Dame. Floyd should be considered as a WR3 in single season leagues, with increased value in keeper leagues. It would not be a surprise to see him be the most productive rookie wide receiver in the 2012 class.
WR Andre Roberts
Roberts finished his second NFL season strongly in 2011, with 24 catches over the final five games helping propel him to 51 catches for 586 yards and two touchdowns on the season while he started all 16 games. He is likely to get bumped down the pecking order some now with Floyd’s arrival, but the team thinks he is well suited to play in the slot so he could see a lot of action there if he is not a full-time starter. Fantasy owners should view Roberts as a WR4 in deep leagues, with the potential for some upside if his role winds up being significant.
WR Early Doucet
Doucet set career-highs last season across the board, with 54 receptions for 689 yards and five touchdowns and he also played all 16 games for the first time in four NFL seasons. He will compete with Roberts during training camp to be the Cardinals’ slot receiver, and could be someone to keep an eye on in PPR leagues as a WR3 or WR4 if he sees the field enough.
WR Stephen Williams
Williams has nine receptions over two NFL seasons. It would take a miracle for him to land on the radar of fantasy football owners.
WR DeMarco Sampson
Sampson was drafted in the seventh round in 2011 out of San Diego State, and had three catches for 36 yards as a rookie. It will take multiple injuries for him to move up the depth chart.
TE Rob Housler
If OTAs are any indication, the Cardinals will use their tight ends in the passing game more this season and Housler in particular could benefit from that. He had just 12 receptions for 133 yards as a rookie last season, but could make for a solid upside pick in very deep leagues as a TE2.
TE Todd Heap
There’s no denying the solid body of work Heap has put together over his career (491 career receptions), but he had one of his worst seasons in 2011 with 24 catches for 283 yards and one touchdown over nine games as a hamstring injury hampered him. Heap may be the starting tight end for the Cardinals come Week 1, but he could lose his job to Housler at some point and should only be considered a low-end TE2 for owners in leagues with 12 or more teams.
TE Jeff King
King had 27 receptions for 271 yards and three touchdowns in 2011, which are fairly solid numbers all things considered. But he suffered a torn quadriceps tendon during offseason workouts, which has his status for the start of training camp up in the air. Even if he is healthy, fantasy owners can safely ignore King.
K Jay Feely
Arizona’s overall ineptitude on offense last season kept Feely below 100 points (90) for the first time since 2007, but it is notable that four of his five missed field goals (19-for-24 total) came in two games. The Cardinals should improve some offensively no matter who is under center and give him more opportunities, but Feely is still a fringe fantasy option and only worth carrying as a backup kicker or bye week fill-in in deep leagues.
The Cardinals’ defense finished strongly in 2011, allowing only 12 touchdowns over the final nine games of the season while not allowing more than 23 points in any game over that span. They forced just 19 turnovers last season after forcing 30 in 2010, but 42 sacks ranked among the league leaders. Cornerback Patrick Peterson is a dangerous return man, which bolsters this unit’s fantasy value in a way not many teams offer. A full offseason in defensive coordinator Ray Horton’s system should yield better results at the start of the season, and fantasy owners should keep an eye on the Arizona defense as a potential sleeper. Owners in IDP leagues should have linebacker Daryl Washington on their radar.