The parking lot outside the UPS may be SLIGHTLY hotter than the action inside. The Cardinals, currently 10/1 to seize the Lombardi Trophy, are knocking at the door of potential greatness. In this edition of ‘The Stance,’ Brad Evans and Liz Loza sweat the details on the Desert Birds.
Bruce Arians may have more vertical weapons than political conventions do celebratory balloons. Among the receiving triumvirate of Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and Michael Floyd who will have the most fantasy value when the dust settles come Week 17?
Liz – FLOYD. No one can dispute the postseason heroics of Fitzgerald or Brown’s play-making speed. But Floyd was a beast down the stretch last year. Racking up five 100+ yard outings and 4 TDs over the team’s final nine regular season contests, Floyd was the corps’ most productive fantasy asset.
Bouncing back from a hand injury that slowed the start to his 2015 campaign, Floyd made good on the raves he had received over the summer. Entering 2016 in a contract year, the 26-year-old (who, despite having been in the league for two additional years, is the same age as John Brown) is the Cards’ safest fantasy option.
Brad – BROWN. ‘Zona’s plucky jackrabbit is about to embark on a career year. The tremendous strides he made in several key categories last year including yards after catch (’14: 2.4, ’15: 3.2), yards per target (7.1, 9.9) and catch percentage (48.8, 64.4) cannot be overstated. He is, without a doubt, one of the game’s premier wheel turners.
Floyd has always possessed the physical attributes of a No. 1, but he continuously fails to meet unreachable expectations. Motivated by money or not, he simply never measures up.
Despite his diminutive build, Brown’s electricity, growing route tree and larger snap share all point to a WR2-level campaign. Even Arians himself said earlier this offseason he believes the little guy can reach 1,400 receiving yards. Put it all together and he’s a likely 70-1100-7 igniter.
The consensus says David Johnson is Arizona’s sure-fire starter and a top-five fantasy rusher at a minimum. However, there’s a small group of doubters who contend the presence of Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington won’t allow him to reach full potential. Recent news Arians will determine carries distribution “game-by-game” only solidifies that stance. OVER/UNDER total touches for the sought after DJ 299.5.
Liz – OVER. In the NFL Films series ALL OR NOTHING, which chronicled the Cardinals’ 2015 season, Bruce Arians is shown saying that he expects Johnson to be a “bell-cow by Thanksgiving.” The dude didn’t lie. As of Week 12 (which took place three sleeps post-Turkey Day), Johnson received his biggest workload of the season. From that point forward, the rookie averaged 19.5 touches per game. In order to best the proposed line of 299.5, Johnson would need to average between 18 and 19 touches per contest in 2016. So yeah, over… and then more over.
Of course Ellington and CJ?K will be mixed in, but Arians knows that they can’t handle a full load. CJ is too old, and Ellington isn’t built to be a workhorse. After coming so close to the Big Dance, BA is going to ride his young stud (who running backs coach Stump Mitchell predicted would be a “big piece of the puzzle” in May of last year).
Brad – Just OVER. The dichotomy that currently exists in the fantasy community about Johnson is laughable. Everyone should have both cheeks firmly planted on the rusher’s bandwagon. His size/speed blend, soft hands and reliability in pass pro make up an All-Pro level skill set. Arians remarked in May he believes DJ could develop into “an all-time great.” After DJ averaged 114.5 total yards per game as the featured back in six contests last season (RB1 over that time frame as well), the Kangol connoisseur is onto something.
Ignore the ridiculous reports CJ2Lame is ahead of DJ or in a position to force an even carries split. Before falling victim to the injury imp, the former rush king donned a tarnished crown. Recall in his final three games of 2015 he tallied a repugnant 2.55 yards per carry.
When Carson Palmer entered the league in 2004, Arizona’s primary running back was Emmitt Smith. It’s been awhile. Due to his advanced age (36) many fantasy owners are uneasy picking the passer as their QB1. Is the following statement BELIEVE or MAKE BELIEVE: This year, Palmer suits up at least 14 games, crosses the 30-TD threshold with ease and finishes inside the QB top-10.
Liz – BELIEVE. Despite dealing with nerve damage in his shoulder and tearing his ACL in 2014, Palmer managed to stay healthy for all of 2015. Understanding that lack of depth at QB held the Cards back two seasons ago, Arians & Co. assembled a surprisingly stout offensive line, which ranked top-five in pass protection, in order to keep Palmer on the field this past season. This organization knows Palmer’s age. They’re aware of his injury history. And yet, they did relatively little to address the position, adding only UDFA Jake Coker (who projects to be a career back-up) in May.
Certainly Palmer’s age limits his upside. But given the bevy of playmakers surrounding him, and taking into account his consistency when healthy, he’s a lock for a top-ten finish.
Brad – BELIEVE. As seen in 2015, Palmer hasn’t shown any signs of petrification. Last fall he posted a sterling 35:11 TD:INT split and slotted inside the top-five at QB in passer rating, yards per attempt, air yards per attempt and fantasy points per dropback.
In a vertically aggressive scheme, blessed with several explosive weapons and with a suitable offensive line to protect him, it’s completely fathomable he matches last year’s top-10 output. At his 101.3 ADP, he’s one of many reasons why waiting on a QB is a sound strategy.