Despite a number of player defections, injuries and another long suspension for inside linebacker Daryl Washington, the Arizona Cardinals still managed to field one of the NFL’s best defenses in 2014. However, with maestro Todd Bowles now the head coach of the New York Jets, the Cardinals face even more uncertainty this season.
From an IDP perspective, the Arizona defensive line begins and ends with end Calais Campbell, who finished 8th at the position in fantasy scoring in 2014 despite missing a pair of games. Grantland’s Bill Barnwell believes that the NFL’s “Top 100” List did the eighth-year veteran a disservice this year.
“Campbell does not belong 71 spots below (Gerald) McCoy and 75 spots below (Ndamukong) Suh,” Barnwell said. “That’s for sure. He missed two games because Julius Thomas took him out with an illegal block and still managed to lead a mostly anonymous Arizona front seven to the league’s sixth-best run defense.”
In fantasy terms, Campbell isn’t ranked behind either. Yes, he’s never amassed double-digit sacks and doesn’t have a tremendously high IDP ceiling, but floors don’t get much higher thanks to his annually steady tackle stats. He’s a fine choice as a DL1.
Given how well the Cardinals fared as a unit in 2014, one would think that there would be some IDP hay to be made among the linebackers. One would be wrong. In fact, the most valuable IDP option among the linebackers may well be a player who wasn’t even on the team last year.
That would be Sean Weatherspoon, who admitted that the past two injury-marred years with the Atlanta Falcons weighed on him while speaking with Darren Urban of the team’s website.
“If you look at it in a negative way, it’ll weigh down on you,” he said. “Your days won’t go by the same, and you will have some dark days and dark nights, some long nights. I’ve been there. I’m human. We all think, ‘What if.’ ”
With Larry Foote now a coach, Washington still not reinstated (and facing another suspension once he is) and Kevin Minter just not good, IDP owners should be wondering what a healthy Weatherspoon might be able to do for them – at least enough to merit a late-draft dart throw.
There was fantasy value galore in the Arizona secondary last year, even if it didn’t come from where we expected. No one personified that more than seventh-year veteran Rashad Johnson, who came from nowhere to top 90 tackles and finish third among defensive backs in fantasy points. Johnson told Urban that he credits his time in the film room and ability to diagnose plays for his breakout season.
“It’s something that makes me who I am,” Johnson said. “It makes me that special player that’s vital even if he’s not a Patrick Peterson-type of athlete. Vital because he can help the defense as a whole because he knows the plays. He can help everyone play faster.”
Expecting a repeat of that top-five finish may be wishful thinking, as in Deone Bucannon and Tyrann Mathieu the Cardinals also have a pair of talented young players who will get their share of snaps as well.
If anything, that’s the problem in the defensive backfield for the Cards. Any of these three players could – in theory – post DB1 numbers. Or all could spend the year siphoning upside from the others. As things stand right now Johnson is the preferred option, followed closely by Mathieu. But Bucannon isn’t that far behind, making it a murky (and risky) IDP situation.