By Cole Hoopingarner (with Contributions from Joe Zollo and Chris Tyler)
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One of fantasy’s most anticipated storylines entering the 2017 season surrounded David Johnson’s ability to replicate his stupidly good 2016 numbers. Expectations were sky high, and DJ was drafted first overall in many leagues. Unfortunately, Johnson went down with a dislocated wrist in the third quarter of the season opener last year and didn’t play another snap the rest of the season. This wrecked many fantasy owners’ seasons (not mine though, I drafted him 1st overall and still beat Josh for the championship) and derailed any chance the Cardinals had at competing for the NFC West. Quarterback Carson Palmer was QB10 from Weeks 1 – 6 before suffering a season-ending injury in Week 7. Future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald shoved experts’ concerns about his age right back down their throats en route to a WR5 finish at 34 years old.
|(Projected Starting Lineup)|
|QB1||Sam Bradford (w/ MIN)||32.98||QB46|
|QB2||Mike Glennon (w/ CHI)||41.72||QB44|
|QB3||(R) Josh Rosen||N/A||N/A|
|RB4||(R) Chase Edmonds||N/A||N/A|
|WR2||Brice Butler (w/ DAL)||51.70||WR100|
|WR4||(R) Christian Kirk||N/A||N/A|
Injury prone and underwhelming. That’s all that can be said about Sam Bradford. There are at least 25 other quarterbacks you can/should start over Bradford at the beginning of the season. He may surprise us with a hot start to the season, in which case he’d be a decent pickup off the waiver wire, but there’s no reason to draft him or talk about him further in this preview.
Behind Bradford is one of the most-talked about rookies from this year’s draft, Josh Rosen. He’ll start the season behind Bradford but he absolutely will take over at some point this year. He’s not worth drafting in season-long leagues, but in dynasty leagues, if you’re looking to the future at quarterback he’s your guy.
What’s there really to say about David Johnson? I’ve got him ranked number two overall, and quite frankly, he probably should be number one. He’s going to see 25 total touches per week, easily, and he’ll likely total at least 15 touchdowns. You don’t need me to elaborate further. Draft him first or second overall. The only other Arizona back worth owning is T.J. Logan, and only as a handcuff to Johnson.
Larry Fitzgerald may be my favorite wide receiver of all time. The dude always performs at an elite level, has maybe the best hands in football, and over the last three seasons has defied “experts” who warned us about his age slowing him down. Every year since he turned 32 in 2015, Fitzgerald has caught at least 101 passes during Weeks 1-16. In those three years, he’s finished as fantasy’s 8th, 10th, and 5th wide receiver.
Look, we don’t need to discuss the guy’s abilities and credentials. As an unquestioned first ballot Hall of Famer, I’d just be wasting your time. So let’s instead focus on what else there is to love about Fitz this year as he enters his age-35 season. First, David Johnson returns, which means defenses will have to dedicate a lot of attention to the Arizona backfield. Second, Arizona’s quarterback situation is the perfect one for a veteran like Fitz. Sam Bradford’s yards per attempt throughout his career is a paltry 6.6. Fitzgerald’s yards per catch hovers around 10. If/when Josh Rosen takes the reigns, you know he’s going to gravitate to the veteran as his primary receiving target.
You know what the best part is? He’s primed for another top 10 season and he’s still being drafted on average 37th overall in ESPN leagues. That’s the seventh pick in the fourth round of a standard ten team draft. Insane! Mark him down for at least 90 catches, 1,000 yards, and 6 touchdowns, and don’t be shocked if he eclipses the 100 catch mark again. He’s a top-tier talent with WR10 potential.
Behind Fitzgerald, you’ve got one rookie with potential and a slew of others who probably shouldn’t be on your roster. The Cards desperately needed youth at wide receiver and they got it when they selected Christian Kirk in the second round of the draft. Kirk played in the slot for most of his college career, so there will be a bit of an adjustment as Larry’s got that covered. And deep, explosive plays are not his forte, so don’t kid yourself – he’s going to have to adjust. But he’s got the talent to do it, and while he may not start the season as Arizona’s number two wide receiver, he’s got a great shot to secure that job soon, because Arizona’s other receivers are simply not good. Kirk’s worth a late-round pick as potentially the only other viable wide receiver on the team.
The rest of the Arizona wide outs aren’t really worth discussing for fantasy purposes. All I’ll say is don’t get fooled by J.J. Nelson. He’s a deep threat who rarely lives up to his promise. Leave him off your team.
Ricky Seals-Jones made a little noise last year with a couple of superb weeks in the middle of the season, putting up 37.6 total points in Weeks 11 and 12. He wasn’t able to replicate that production over the remaining four weeks of the season, but that shouldn’t keep him off your radar this year. Now, he’s not someone you should draft unless you’re in a really deep league or for some reason need a backup tight end, but you should definitely keep your ear to the ground early in the season. He has good size and last year he averaged nearly 17 yards per reception. Seals-Jones is on my watch list as a tight end to potentially pick up if my primary tight end doesn’t work out.
I’m not thrilled about Jermaine Gresham’s prospects in 2018. Last year, he finished as TE30. He also ruptured his Achilles in Week 17, so the likelihood of him being completely healthy by the start of the season isn’t great. Like many other Cardinals, he’s just not worth a roster spot until he proves he can produce.
Rookie to Watch
WR Christian Kirk is one of my personal favorites from this year’s NFL Draft. Not only is he a good receiver, he was also one of the best return men in college football the last few years. During his time at Texas A&M, Kirk was used mainly as a slot man. It just so happens that future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald mans that position in Arizona. With teams scheming to stop Fitzgerald, Kirk can use his gifted route running skills and return abilities to be productive early in his career. – Chris Tyler
In his first two years in Oakland and the last three in Dallas, Brice Butler has shown flashes of being a deep threat in the NFL. His numbers are not off the charts but as the 4th string receiver in Dallas, he finished in the top 80 at his position in fantasy last season. Going into an offense with Larry Fitzgerald as the only true option, Butler can make a name for himself this upcoming year at 28 years old. Find Brice Butler as a late round option to be your WR5 on your team with high upside to be a flex during some weeks. We all need that benchwarmer who we can put in with high upside and Brice Butler is that guy for your team. – Joe Zollo
2018 Loose Ends
I really don’t like the Cards’ schedule during the fantasy playoffs. They play the Lions in Week 14, who will probably take a step back defensively this year. But then they get the underrated Falcons in Week 15 and the awesome Rams in Week 16. That won’t stop you from starting Johnson or Fitzgerald, but look for Rosen to struggle a bit against those two defenses – which will adversely impact the rest of the team.
|7||10/18 (Thurs)||vs DEN|
|9||** BYE WEEK **|