It's time to start thinking about fantasy football, and we will be going team by team to let you know what each NFL franchise can do for your fantasy squad. We will start out in the NFC West and work our way through each division leading up to the season.
*Rankings are based on a 12-team, standard scoring format.
2012 RECORD: 5-11
2013 BYE WEEK: 9
TOP DRAFT PICKS: (1) Jonathan Cooper- OG- North Carolina
(2) Kevin Minter- ILB- LSU
(3) Tyrann Mathieu- CB- LSU
QUARTERBACK: This position has continued to be a sore spot for the Cardinals since Kurt Warner's retirement. Carson Palmer takes over as the starter after coming over in a trade from the Raiders. Last year was his best statistical season since 2007, and he actually had some success with the deep ball, which is something he lost from his game after his injury. Larry Fitzgerald will undoubtably be excited to have Palmer around, as his stats had fallen off over recent years due to poor quarterback play. Bruce Arians, the new head coach in Arizona, will bring a downfield passing game with him. The offensive line is still a question mark at best, giving up a league high 58 sacks last year. They get left tackle Levi Brown back from injury and added Jonathan Cooper in the draft, but there is not much depth or talent across the board. If Palmer can stay upright, I expect another strong season from him, though I think at best he is an upper level QB2. Drew Stanton, the likely backup, is not worth grabbing if an injury happens.
RUNNING BACK: Last years was not a great one for Arizona running backs. They had 4 players who got more than 50 carries, and combined they totaled less than 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Beanie Wells and William Powell aren't on an NFL roster anymore, and LaRod Stephens-Howling is in Pittsburgh. The lead back for the Cardinals this year is set to be former Steeler Rashard Mendenhall, who has had his share of injuries and has dealt with a gimpy knee in this preseason. While he hardly played last year, Bruce Arians brought him in expecting him to be the featured back, and that is what he will start the year as. I can't picture him being much more than a low-tier RB2, and would feel much better drafting him as a flex or reserve player. Backing him up was supposed to be Ryan Williams, the only returning running back from last year, but his knee has kept him off the practice field this offseason and in Arians' doghouse. The other options are special teamer Alfonso Smith and two late round rookies, Stanford's Stephan Taylor and Clemson's Andre Ellington. Taylor would be my favorite to get carries if something were to happen to Mendenhall, but with this offensive line, it's hard to get too excited about any of these backs.
WIDE RECEIVER: Larry Fitzgerald stock has got to be as low as it can get. He still has the tools of one of the best receivers in the game, but his numbers from last season definitely do not back that up. He caught a career low 4 touchdowns on 71 catches for 798 yards. Those numbers don't get it done if you drafted Fitzgerald as your WR1. I can't knock Fitzgerald down to WR2 status for this season, especially with the addition of Palmer. He will be a mid to low end WR1 though. 2nd year Michael Floyd showed some promise last year, though his numbers were also heavily plagued by bad quarterback play. I have him just outside my top 36 wide receivers, making him a bench player for me, but he is not a horrible option as a WR3. He should be opened up by double coverage on Fitzgerald. Andre Roberts appears to be the only other roster worthy player at this time, but only in leagues where you will carry more than one backup WR.
TIGHT END: Third year tight end Rob Housler will be a trendy name on draft day, with the expectation that the Palmer-Arians combo can take his tools and finally make him a fantasy factor. Housler wasn't used much in the red zone last year, which is likely to change at least a little bit. More exciting is the fact that Palmer targeted Brandon Myers, his tight end in Oakland, over 100 times last season. Housler is a weak TE1 or a solid TE2 for this season. Jeff King is still on the roster, but has been banged up in the preseason and is more of a blocking tight end. He shouldn't be rostered.
KICKER: It looks like the Cards will go with 13 year veteran Jay Feely. At 37, he doesn't have the same leg he once did. He was solid last year, hitting 25 of 28 FGA. He should be looked at as nothing more than a bye-week replacement, and even then you will probably have better options than him.
DEFENSE-SPECIAL TEAMS: Arizona made a big jump defensively last season, and should be even better this year. They have playmakers all over the field defensively, especially in the secondary, where Patrick Peterson has turned into a fantastic player. Calais Campbell, Sam Acho, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett highlight a strong front 7, Rookies Tyrann Mathieu, Kevin Minter and Alex Okafor could all contribute as well. They aren't quite elite level yet, but they are worthy of being drafted and played most weeks.