Back in 2009, I wrote a piece for a magazine that focused on how consistent and predictable Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had been. I based it on statistical data with a focus on points-per-reception formats. In 2008, he recorded 10 games of 18 points or more. Last season he recorded just five games of 18 points or more, caught 71 passes for 798 yards, and scored a career-low four touchdowns.
Now for the first time since his rookie and sophomore seasons, Fitzgerald is what I consider to be a fantasy underdog. His average draft position in
MyFantasyLeague.com leagues has him coming off draft boards outside the top-10 just inside the third round, which pretty much runs parallel with the consensus of analysts who rank objectively.
Nevertheless, he is still Larry Fitzgerald. He still has plenty left in the tank. And he may be in line for a big rebound season that will put him back in the class of the elite where he belongs. Faith. Focus. Finish.
It is rare to hear about a veteran with almost 10 years of NFL experience showing the commitment level of a rookie trying to establish himself. Such is the case though when it comes to Fitzgerald. According to
USA Today, the seven-time Pro Bowler and four time All-Pro is in the midst of learning three receiver positions in Bruce Arians’ new and slightly different offensive system. Fitzgerald is also proactively using new offensive consultant Tom Moore as a tool to learn more efficiently.
“Everybody wants to be good,” Moore said. “But do you really want to do everything you have to do to be good? And he does. That fires me up to see a guy who has had great success, but he’s not satisfied.”
That is Fitzgerald in a nutshell – never settling and always working hard to get better for himself and his team, something I suspect he will continue to do until he retires from the NFL.
No more Kevin Kolb. No more John Skelton. And no more Ryan Lindley, for now. In other words, there will be no more ugly wounded ducks being misfired to the most physically gifted wide receiver in the NFL outside of Calvin Johnson. Instead, the Cardinals will be rolling with veteran signal caller Carson Palmer, a quarterback who can accurately throw a 12 yard out and every other pattern on the prestigious route tree.
Stat backup: In 2012, Fitzgerald caught just 46 percent of the 156 passes targeted for him. Andre Roberts, Michael Floyd and Early Doucet snagged 56, 52 and 53 percent respectively. Fitzgerald dropped just 1.92 percent of the available accurate passes, the best and lowest percentage among receivers with at least 70 receptions.
The Cardinals also added beefy and athletic guard Jonathan Cooper, future slot wide receiver Ryan Swope, veteran running back Rashard Mendenhall, and backfield pass protecting connoisseur Stepfan Taylor to their offensive arsenal. Cooper is the most important addition. His athleticism and pass protection skills should afford Palmer the space he needs to step up in the pocket and find receivers like Fitzgerald down the field.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
When I look at strength of schedule I look at specifics, as the general win-loss data does nothing for the fantasy owner like me looking for unambiguous information. In relation to this underdog evaluation, I believe it is critical to understand what Fitzgerald and the Cardinals passing attack will be up against in 2013. I have broken down their strength of schedule in accordance to their opponent’s 2012 passing yards, touchdowns and receptions allowed. I have also combined their rankings and averaged them out to give a nice overall breakdown.
Note: Rankings are noted in the parentheses and then tallied and averaged in the final column. They are rounded up or down accordingly.
The reason I took this approach was so that you can get a better look at different statistical categories that fit your scoring format.