Last year was tough on the fantasy fortunes of all the Cardinals players. Carson Palmer dropped from a respectable 4274 passing yards and 24 touchdowns to stumbling through 2014 with a nerve in his shoulder injured and then blew out his ACL in week ten. Not something that a 36-year-old quarterback typically bounced right back from. But Palmer worked out in the spring and has not suffered any setbacks. The Cardinals enter the third season of Bruce Arians’ regime hoping to replicate 2013 and not last year.
So long as Palmer remains healthy, there is reason for optimism. Larry Fitzgerald declined badly in recent years but scored ten times in the first season of offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin’s offense. Michael Floyd slumped but already gained over 1000 yards in 2013. And John Brown came on well as a rookie to make this become a legitimate three wideout passing scheme.
Andre Ellington was given the chance to be the clear starter last season but missed four games when he had a hip pointer and suffered with a foot injury most of the year. He fell to just a 3.3 yard per carry average and seemed too small to handle a heavy load. So the Cards used their third round pick to draft the 6-3, 214 lb. David Johnson who will mix into the backfield along with Ellington. It one of those fantasy situations where Johnson seems much more intriguing than Ellington if only because we’ve already seen what Ellington can and cannot do.
This offense can post bigger fantasy points but only so long as Palmer remains on the field. With him there, there are three legitimate weapons with the wide receivers and all will rightfully be taken in fantasy drafts. The committee appearance in the backfield between Ellington and Johnson could spawn just mediocre individual stats but there is always the hope that Johnson performs so well that he takes the primary back job for himself. But it all depends on Palmer…
Carson Palmer, Quarterback
The 35-year-old Palmer enters the third year of Bruce Arian’s system but he is coming off a blown knee back in week 10 last year. He claims he feels as good as ever and he managed 4274 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2013. But that was the second time he’s torn his ACL and there has to be risk considering his age.The Cardinals did not add any new receivers and Larry Fitzgerald is 32-years-old and on the down side. Palmer has been mostly average source for fantasy points. The schedule may be slightly better than last year.
Andre Ellington, Running Back
Ellington had a golden opportunity to be the full-time running back in 2014 but Carson Palmer was mostly injured and the offense never really got on track. Plus Ellington only managed 201 carries while leaving the field for good in week 13 with a foot injury that bothered him all year. Even worse was his 3.3 YPC that reflected how poorly the overall offense did. The addition of David Johnson will cut into his workload but Ellington remains the primary back and more help could allow him to remain uninjured. His workload per game is going down though which will make him hard to rely on for more than a second fantasy back for your team.
David Johnson, Running Back
Johnson is much bigger than Andre Ellington (6-3, 215 vs. 5-9, 199) but both share the same skill set. They are very good receivers out of the backfield and Johnson turned in at least 30 catches in each of his four seasons at Northern Iowa along with two to five receiving touchdowns in each. He’s less impressive as an inside runner though and the Cards already plan to feature Ellington as the primary back. But Johnson will figure in, more so in reception point leagues and the reality is that Ellington is hardly durable and may allow Johnson to get much more playing time than anticipated.
Stepfan Taylor, Running Back
Taylor had his chances last year and only managed at 3.3 YPC and one touchdown on 63 carries. He remains firmly as the #3 running back that the Cards hope to never need.
Michael Floyd, Wide Receiver
Coming off a 66-1054-5 second year, the expectations for Floyd were that he’d take the final step up into being an elite wideout. Did not happen. The problems at quarterback last year were no help but even when Palmer temporarily returned Floyd did little. While he ended with 47-841-6 on the year, the meaningless week 17 earned him 8-153-2 in San Francisco. There were also rumors that Floyd was being shopped around for a trade but nothing came to be. Floyd cannot be considered a fantasy starter but he still has upside that could be realized with a healthy Palmer all year.
Larry Fitzgerald, Wide Receiver
Fitzgerald sorely missed Carson Palmer last season but he’s been on the decline since 2012. He hasn’t topped 1000 yards since 2011 and at 32-years-old he looks like he’s lost a step. His YPC has dipped below 12.5 for the last three seasons as well. He’s still a good bet to have the most catches of Cardinals receiver but he needs a healthy Palmer and some fresh legs this year – both are far from certain. By this point, his best aspect is that he usually catches at least three passes per game.
John Brown, Wide Receiver
The third round rookie from 2014 showed a lot of promise despite ringing in at only 5-11 and 179 lbs. He ended with a stat line of 48-696-5 but slowed down a lot in the final six weeks. He’s added ten pounds this offseason and yet still has big time speed. He’ll remain the #3 this year but will supply enough games to get noticed. His best value is to hold in case of injury to either Larry Fitzgerald or Michael Floyd.
Jaron Brown, Wide Receiver
Brown enters his third season and so far his best season was just 22-229-2 last year. He remains firmly behind Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown. He’ll figure in on occasion but is unlikely to become anything more than just depth.
Troy Niklas, Tight End
The second-year tight end is in line to be the #1 guy with John Carlson retired and Rob Houser moved on. It doesn’t really matter anyway since even with Bruce Arians the Cards remains one of the weakest tight end units in the league. Niklas needed high ankle surgery as a rookie and needed more surgery in June. No reason to invest in a ARI tight end.