Juggernaut Index No. 13: The once and future buzzsaw

The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here, only fantasy potential. These rankings rely entirely on personal biases hard, incontrovertible math. They are not to be questioned.

13. Arizona Cardinals

Last season, Kurt Warner was the tenth highest-scoring fantasy quarterback (216 points), and he only played 14 games. It's not like he was flawless, however. He threw 17 interceptions and lost six fumbles.

This year, Warner will likely begin the season as a back-up. Matt Leinart is expected to reclaim his role as the Cardinals' starting QB. Leinart did nothing to lose the job in Arizona's first preseason game, going 7-for-8 for 91 yards. But before he suffered the broken collarbone in Week 5 last season, Leinart often appeared indecisive and slow. Which obviously gave admirers like those on the right more time to ogle.

We learned in 2007 that Ken Whisenhunt is willing to platoon his quarterbacks. That option is not entirely off the table in '08:

Ideally, Whisenhunt said, the Cardinals would use one quarterback for all offensive packages, but he didn't rule out using Warner in a specialist's role this season.

"I wouldn't anticipate it," Whisenhunt said, "but I wouldn't rule it out."

A return to that situation would make Leinart and Warner equally un-startable in fantasy leagues. But of course we're not there yet, and Whisenhunt has suggested that Leinart is "much better" at calling audibles inside the red zone.

For now, Leinart is 22nd in our composite QB ranks, and Warner is clinging to the list, thanks to Brad's stubborn affection. The Arizona team QB is an excellent choice in leagues that allow the option. In fact, if we were simply ranking TQBs, Arizona would work its way into the top 15. Just check the points and passing yardage below.

The Cardinals clearly have two of the NFL's premier receiving threats. Larry Fitzgerald has reached 1400 yards, triple-digit receptions, and double-digit TDs in two of the past three seasons, and he's still only 24 years old. Someday, possibly this year, he's going to be the No. 1 overall fantasy receiver. His ADP at Mock Draft Central is currently 21.7, so he's typically paired with an elite running back. (As if you needed confirmation that having the first or second pick in a football draft is a good thing).

Anquan Boldin is No. 13 in our receiver ranks, just a tier below Fitzgerald. Despite the worries about hamstring, he's reportedly "looked like his old self" in recent days. Thus, you're drafting him like he's his old self. Like Fitzgerald, Boldin is a double-digit TD, triple-digit reception, quadruple-digit yardage candidate.

Steve Breaston appears to have the edge in the battle to be Arizona's No. 3 receiver. He caught three passes for 50 yards in the preseason opener, and one of the receptions was a 34-yarder from Leinart. Still, you're not drafting Breaston in 10-team public leagues. He's just a free agent of interest.

Rookie Early Doucet has been dealing with a hamstring injury, but he's the better dynasty play. Our friends at Rivals had this to say, prior to the NFL Draft:

Doucet is a well-built receiver with quickness and the acceleration to emerge as an NFL playmaker. He has improved as a route runner and has the ability to change speeds. He has the speed to run after the catch and the strength to break tackles downfield.

The gigantic Leonard Pope (6-8, 258 pounds) remains atop the Arizona depth chart at tight end. He's a red zone target (5 TDs in '07), but not much else (23 receptions).

To borrow a treasured phrase from former head coach Dennis Green, Edgerrin James is who we thought he was. This will be his age-30 season, and he's averaged fewer than 4.0 yards per carry in the previous two. He's clearly not a home run threat, but he is one of the few NFL backs likely to get 300 carries this season, if he stays healthy. James is also falling to the early fifth round (ADP 41.9), which is odd for a guy coming off a 1200-yard, seven TD season. Perhaps it's the strong 2007 Rudi Johnson-vibe.

Rookie fifth-rounder Tim Hightower is getting a lot of attention in the fantasy community. Check the lengthy note on his player page. He's a little on the slow side, but he's also 6-1 and 225 pounds, and he figures to get goal line work. That gives him end-of-draft fantasy relevance. James isn't the sort of back most public league owners will handcuff, but if he was, Hightower would be the pick.

Arizona's defense has some interesting individual pieces, but you're not drafting the team DEF in 10- or 12-team leagues. The top IDP plays here are LB Karlos Dansby (99 tackles, 3 INTs in '07) and DB Adrian Wilson (85 tackles, 4 INTs in '06), although Wilson is returning from offseason heel surgery.


2007 Arizona team stats

Rushing: 90.0 Y/G

Passing: 254.1 Y/G

Points per game: 25.3

Turnovers: 36

Red Zone possessions and TDs: 50, 34

'08 Schedule strength: .465


The rest of the Index...

32) Chicago, 31) Tennessee, 30) San Francisco, 29) Miami, 28) Baltimore, 27) NY Jets, 26) Oakland, 25) Tampa Bay, 24) Atlanta, 23) Houston, 22) Kansas City, 21) Buffalo, 20) Carolina, 19) Detroit, 18) Seattle, 17) Denver, 16) Washington, 15) St. Louis, 14) Minnesota, 13) Arizona


Photos via Getty Images

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