Clark Barnes
Coronado's Gold - Fantasy Value in Arizona

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If you didn’t catch all the Arizona Cardinals games last year, or even if you did, here's the skinny on some fantasy outlook.

There are great values to be had out in the dessert this year. Coach Bruce Arians and the Cardinals will be more prolific on offense this year. In their second campaign, timing should be better, the offensive line has improved and players will be more familiar with what Arians wants.

So what does Arians want? He wants to throw. He wants to throw deep, and he wants to throw deep often. Arians asks Carson Palmer to chuck it and the dude from USC abides.

Carson Palmer finished No. 3 last year in total quarterback air yards (quarterback air yards equals a quarterback’s total passing yards minus yards after catch) according to Palmer finished No. 1 last year in quarterback air yards per completion for quarterbacks who had more than 4,000 yards passing. No one throws it deeper and more consistently than Palmer with Arians. After a full season to improve timing and reading the defense, Palmer will finish as a top 10 fantasy quarterback this season.

In 2014, Palmer will throw for a few more yards, more touchdowns (getting a little help from Andre Ellington), and fewer interceptions (don’t worry, not many fewer). I’ve got Palmer finishing around QB8 or QB9 in 2014. Palmer is currently going in the 13th round in 12-team points per reception leagues. Picking a top 10 quarterback in the last round won’t hurt your team.

Larry Fitzgerald still has it. Fitzgerald can dominate and make plays but for some reason Palmer does not rely on him like Matthew Stafford leans on Calvin Johnson or Tom Brady fawns over Rob Gronkowski. Safeties and other help do tend to roll toward Fitzgerald, but that may not always be the case with Michael Floyd improving on the other side. Right now, Fitzgerald is the No. 1 and that won’t change this season.

I think we saw Fitzgerald’s floor with Palmer last year where he clocked in as the WR16 in standard and WR17 in points per reception. He’s currently WR18 in standard and WR15 in points per reception leagues. Fitzgerald is a must-pick in the mid-fourth round in all formats. He’s not only a lock to at least live up to his average draft position, he marks a clear line at the end of this wide receiver tier.

Michael Floyd is a hot name this year after he posted more than 1,000 receiving yards and five touchdowns in his sophomore season. If you prescribe to the third year breakout school of thought, Floyd is poised for a monster season. I do not prescribe to a mythical third-year breakout phenomenon.

While Floyd would be a great WR3 and add some pretty safe depth to your roster, if you expect much more from him this year, you’ll be disappointed. Floyd should finish about where he did last year, around WR20-25 in points per reception and standard formats. He may do a bit better, but his breakout potential is severely limited by his All-Pro counterpart. Unless he falls from his current average draft position, or I am desperate for a wide receiver, Floyd just won’t be on many of my teams this year.

Andre Ellington is in the cat-bird seat for the Arizona backfield. You don’t need to know what number Ellington wears when you watch tape on the Cardinals. He’s that little guy, that guy who’s faster and quicker than everyone else on the field. Ellington can do everything, but I hope that Arians doesn’t ask him to. Even if Arizona taps Stepfan Taylor or Jonathan Dwyer for goal-line carries, there will be plenty of work for Ellington. Arizona’s vertical passing game creates a lot of space underneath. A simple checkdown can net a big gain with safeties and linebackers falling back to keep a lid on Fitzgerald and Floyd. Ellington has the hands, rout running and open field ankle-breaking quicks to feast in space.

With Ellington, the only real question you need to ask is do you think he can hold up under a heavier workload than he had last year. If you think he’s going to play 16 games, he’s the best pick in the third round. We might even see Ellington sneak up to the end of the second round if he can pop a big play on a nationally televised preseason game. Draft Ellington.

Stepfan Taylor and Jonathan Dwyer will get a little time in this article, a reflection of their fantasy value. They’re grouped because we’re not too sure how they will be used this year other than they will be the specialists spelling Ellington and helping with the heavy lifting. If you can figure out which back Arians will tap at the goal line, there is desperation flex value available here. I’ll always err on the side of the new and youth. That, along with seeing Dwyer play last year, I might roll the dice on Taylor before I pick up my kicker and defense.

John Brown is getting some hype in training camp. We know that there is opportunity for the No. 3 receiver in Arians’ offense due to the success of T.Y. Hilton and Andre Roberts. You could take a shot here as a speedy slot receiver can make hay in this system. However, I’ll take my chances on someone who isn’t a rookie and a fourth option.

Arizona’s defense/special teams was stingy last year, but will be missing some key pieces after a few ugly off-field incidents. The Cardinals play in the toughest division in football so I think they’ll still be stout. You could do a lot worse with your second-to-last pick if Arizona falls to you.

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