At 35 years of age and entering his 13th NFL season, the biggest issue with Palmer isn’t his productivity – it’s his health. Solid when he was in the lineup, Palmer just wasn’t in the starting lineup nearly enough in 2014 as he missed three early season games with a shoulder injury before suffering a season-ending ACL injury during Week 10. During his six starts, he threw for 1,626 yards with 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions, while averaging a very respectable 20.8 PPG. The Cardinals hope that he can remain healthy in 2015, and to help those odds the team invested heavily along its offensive line as well as added rookie 3rd round pick David Johnson to its group of skill position players. At wide receiver, Palmer has plenty of talent to throw to in the form of wily veteran Larry Fitzgerald as well as a pair of promising receivers in Michael Floyd and John Brown. If Palmer can remain healthy for 16 games then he rates as an upper tier QB2.
Taken in the 3rd round of the 2013 NFL Draft, the 5’9”, 199 pound Ellington displayed plenty of playmaking ability as a rookie, gaining 652 rushing yards and three touchdowns while averaging 5.5 yards per carry and adding another 371 yards and a score on 39 receptions. Given his solid production, the Cardinals moved him into the starting lineup and he shot up fantasy cheat sheets given his breakout potential. Sure enough, Ellington’s diminutive stature and overuse proved to be his undoing as he missed four games due to injuries and saw his yards per carry plummet to 3.3, although some of that can be blamed on the team’s porous offensive line. In 2015, Ellington is slated to remain the team’s starter but the Cardinals figure to curtail his workload, having drafted David Johnson in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. Since Ellington is ill-suited to handle major touches and he is unlikely to warrant touches at the goal line, he rates as a mid-tier RB3 this year. And given his current ADP in the middle of the 4th round, he is being drafted as a mid to lower tier RB2 making him one of the most overvalued running backs as training camps open.
With Andre Ellington failing to prove himself as a legitimate starting running back, the Cardinals added to their backfield depth by selecting David Johnson in the 3rd round of this year’s draft. The 6’3”, 225 pound Northern Iowa product would seem to be the perfect complement to the diminutive Ellington, but his scouting report indicated that his biggest failing in college was running between the tackles. In fact, as an outside runner and capable pass catcher, Johnson’s skill set is very similar to Ellington’s despite the differences in their stature. While that doesn’t sound overly promising, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Johnson overtook Ellington in the starting lineup at some point given Ellington’s struggles as a runner last season (3.3 yards per carry). At worse, Johnson figures to spell Ellington on a regular basis and he also has an opportunity to emerge as the team’s short yardage back. We rate Johnson as an above average dynasty prospect and a lower tier RB3 with upside in 2015 who should approach 200 touches.
Taken in the 5th round of the 2013 draft, Taylor has failed to carve out a significant role in the Cardinals backfield during his two years in the league. A bit of a bowling ball at 5’9” and 214 pounds, he has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and found the end zone just once in 99 carries. Since the Cardinals have seemingly given up on him in favor of Andre Ellington and rookie 3rd round pick David Johnson, we suggest that you should follow suit. Taylor may not even earn a roster spot in 2015.
Taken in the 1st round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Floyd emerged as a consistent offensive weapon in his second season in the league, catching 65 passes for 1,041 yards and five touchdowns. A big play threat at 6’3”, 225 pounds with solid speed, Floyd was expected to build on his 2013 production with a big year last season. It never happened as Floyd was regressed, in part due to his own inconsistency but also because of the Cardinals poor quarterback play. As their main option on deep passes, Floyd simply had too many uncatchable balls thrown his way. With Carson Palmer back from the ACL injury that ended his season early in 2014, there is hope that Floyd will emerge as an upper tier fantasy option in 2015. But head coach Bruce Arians needs to help that out by making Floyd a bigger part of the team’s offense. He was targeted just 99 times last season and was targeted five or fewer times in seven of his last 11 games last season. With Floyd sharing the target count almost equally with Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown, he rates as a mid-tier WR3 but a huge season could be in store if Arians makes the decision to feature him in the Cardinals offense.
At 31 years of age (32 on opening day) and entering his 12th year in the league, the sun is beginning to set on Fitzgerald’s career. While the Cardinals were willing to restructure his contract so that he could finish his career in Arizona, signing him to a two-year, $22-million contract, that was as much of a reflection on his outstanding career and leadership abilities as it was a reflection of his current abilities on the field. In 2014, with Carson Palmer under center for just six games and the team going through a carousal of backup quarterbacks, Fitzgerald (who missed two games himself) suffered through the worst year of his career, catching 63 of his 103 targets for 784 yards and just two touchdowns with the targets and touchdowns hitting career lows. In 2015, Fitzgerald figures to share the load at wide receiver nearly equally with Michael Floyd and John Brown, as was the case last season. While his production last season was disappointing, the truth is that a rebound season for Fitzgerald isn’t out of the question provided Palmer can remain healthy. The Cardinals failed to top 20 points during their last eight games including the playoffs. Fitz is the team’s main threat in the red zone so we can view his two touchdown season from a year ago as an anomaly. A realistic view of his upside is 80 receptions for 900 yards and 7-8 touchdowns, which is lower tier WR2 territory. Consider Fitzgerald an upper tier WR4 with upside.
Taken in the 3rd round of last year’s draft, Brown wasn’t expected to make much of an impact in his rookie season until he put together an impressive preseason. In this case, the production matched the hype as Brown produced a solid rookie season despite quarterback Carson Palmer appearing in just six games. Brown caught 48 passes for 696 yards and three touchdowns while averaging 14.5 yards per reception. At 5’10” and 179 pounds, Brown doesn’t possess great size but he has blazing speed, having run a sub-4.4 40. As a rookie, Brown was targeted a healthy 103 times, the same amount as Larry Fitzgerald and four more times than Michael Floyd. Unfortunately, his reception to target percentage of 46.6% left something to be desired but that wasn’t helped by the Cardinals revolving door situation at quarterback last season. An ascending talent, Brown should benefit from better quarterback play in 2015 and given his big play ability, we rate him as a low end WR3 or high end WR4. And as a future replacement for Larry Fitzgerald, he is a solid option in dynasty formats.
Is Arizona where tight ends come to die? No. It’s where they come to block. Bruce Arians doesn’t utilize his tight ends as receivers and, with a solid trio of wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd and John Brown, who can blame him? In Fells, Niklas and the recently signed Gresham, the Cardinals feature a trio of players who are similar in one way – they are all big dudes and capable blockers. This is situation to avoid for fantasy, folks. Plain and simple.