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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Arizona Cardinals

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Cardinals had the chance to take a quarterback in the NFL Draft with the No. 5 overall pick but passed and took cornerback Patrick Peterson instead. In Round 2, they went with running back Ryan Williams. In Round 3, it was tight end Rob Housler.

Round by round, pick by pick, the Cardinals passed on a quarterback. It was an odd decision given 12 quarterbacks were drafted this year, and Arizona's roster currently consists of esteemed passers such as Derek Anderson, Richard Bartel, Max Hall and John Skelton.

The prevailing thought is the Cardinals will sign or trade for a quarterback once the lockout is over, and the potential candidates headed to Arizona include Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, Kyle Orton and Donovan McNabb. But until that happens, the Cardinals' Fantasy outlook is somewhat in limbo.

Larry Fitzgerald remains an elite Fantasy option, and he's worth drafting toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3 no matter who is throwing him the ball. But his value could improve if he gets a proven quarterback with good arm strength and accuracy.

The other Fantasy options worth drafting in Arizona include running backs Williams, Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower, wide receiver Steve Breaston and Housler. But until the quarterback position is settled the Cardinals will remain a team in transition.

Impact rookie ... Ryan Williams, RB

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value
Quarterbacks
Derek Anderson
John Skelton
Max Hall
Richard Bartel
Running Backs
Ryan Williams
Beanie Wells
Tim Hightower
LaRod Stephens-Howling
Wide Receivers
Larry Fitzgerald
Steve Breaston
Early Doucet
Andre Roberts
Tight Ends
Rob Housler
Kicker/DST
Jay Feely
Cardinals DST

It was a surprise that the Cardinals drafted Williams out of Virginia Tech with a second-round pick. The Cardinals already have Wells and Hightower on their roster, but Wells has never blossomed and has been prone to injury, while the hard-running Hightower was plagued by fumbles last season. Williams was a productive back for the Hokies, rushing for 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns as a freshman in 2009 but was limited by a hamstring injury last season, finishing with 477 yards and nine touchdowns. Still, he averaged 4.3 yards per carry. Williams might be injury prone like Wells, but he will give the Cardinals a powerful rushing presence. He's expected to have a chance to start, and he should be the best running back in Arizona this season. He is worth drafting with a mid-round pick in standard leagues. We still recommend taking Wells with a late-round pick since he could rebound from last season and still perform well enough to hold off Williams. And Hightower is also worth drafting with a late-round pick, especially in leagues where receptions count.

Keeper-league target ... Rob Housler, TE

The Cardinals drafted Housler out of Florida Atlantic University, and many analysts believe he could have gone higher if he played at a more prominent college. He has the chance to start right away and is a good receiver with 39 catches for 629 yards and four touchdowns in 2010. The Cardinals have not used the tight end much in the Ken Whisenhunt era, but they also haven't had a tight end of this caliber before. Consider Housler a sleeper in deeper leagues, but he's not worth drafting in most standard formats. In keeper and dynasty leagues, Housler is worth a late-round selection, and he could develop into a potential standout depending on who the Cardinals get as their quarterback.

Late-round flier ... Steve Breaston, WR

Breaston remains a free agent during the lockout, but he's expected to return to the Cardinals. Breaston struggled last year in his first season as a starter in place of the departed Anquan Boldin. A knee injury limited his play, and he finished with 47 catches for 718 yards and one touchdown. He posted better stats in each of the previous two seasons, and that was as the No. 3 option. If Breaston does return to the Cardinals he would likely remain the starter opposite Fitzgerald, and his Fantasy value would further be determined by who is throwing him the ball. If he goes somewhere else then his value will be determined by where he signs and what his role would be. In any case, Breaston is worth a late-round pick based on his potential (132 catches for 1,718 yards and six touchdowns in 2008 and 2009). And if he goes undrafted then he is someone to scout because he could be a bye-week or injury replacement.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
CAR @WAS @SEA NYG @MIN bye PIT @BAL STL @PHI @SF @STL DAL SF CLE @CIN SEA

The Cardinals have a tough schedule ahead of them. They have to play three games at 1 p.m. ET, which is never easy for West Coast teams, with matchups at Washington, Philadelphia and Baltimore. Arizona also has tough home games against the Giants, Pittsburgh and Dallas. Now, the good thing for the Cardinals is they play in the NFC West, which means some favorable matchups, and they also get Carolina and Cleveland at home. The matchup with the Browns could be great for Fitzgerald since it comes in the Fantasy playoffs in Week 15. Hopefully by then we'll know who his quarterback will be.

Training camp topics

2010 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Tim Hightower 174
Beanie Wells 121
Larry Fitzgerald 90
Steve Breaston 50
LaRod Stephens-Howling 39

Once the Cardinals add a quarterback, getting him up to speed with the offense will be the biggest thing to watch. He will have to quickly develop a rapport with Fitzgerald and the rest of the receivers and prove he can be successful.

The Cardinals also have to establish a depth chart at running back. Our depth chart would be Williams, Wells and Hightower. We're big fans of Williams this season, and he has the chance to post solid stats in his rookie season.

Breaston and Early Doucet need to show they are healthy after injury-plagued seasons in 2010, and the Cardinals need to establish Housler as a threat early in training camp. There is potential for this offense to be successful with the right quarterback.

Now, if the Cardinals are unable to land a new passer and are stuck with Anderson, Hall, Skelton or Bartel, then it could be another long season in the desert. We hope that's not the case in 2011.

Injury update

Early Doucet (hernia; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Adrian Wilson (groin; probable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Jamey at @jameyeisenberg . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Lions RB Joique Bell (Achilles) might miss NFC North showdown
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:32 pm ET) The Lions might not have running back Joique Bell for Sunday's key game at Green Bay, reports MLive.com. Bell has been limited in practice this week with an Achilles injury, and coach Jim Caldwell said only, "We'll see," when asked about Bell's status.

Bell leads Detroit with 800 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns. He's averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry in four straight games, scoring five times in that span. If he can't play, Reggie Bush would start and Theo Riddick and George Winn would get increased snaps, the report said.

Detroit is a 7.5-point underdog in the game that will decide the division title.


Falcons WR Julio Jones (oblique) held out again
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:15 pm ET) Falcons wideout Julio Jones did not practice for the second straight day Thursday due to his oblique injury, but he's expected to play Sunday against the Panthers, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Atlanta is a 4-point home favorite in the de facto NFC South title game.

Report: Cardinals reverse course, will start QB Ryan Lindley
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(2:12 pm ET) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians has changed his mind and will start quarterback Ryan Lindley, not rookie Logan Thomas, in Sunday's game at San Francisco, reports the Arizona Republic. Lindley hit 18 of 44 throws for 216 yards with an interception in the Week 16 loss to Seattle. He has not thrown a touchdown in 225 career pass attempts.

Arians earlier said he'd play Thomas for at least the first half. But that was before Thomas failed to inspire confidence at Wednesday's practice.

Thomas has appeared in two games, completing 1 of 9 throws. Starter Drew Stanton (knee) is not expected to be ready until the playoffs.

Arizona remains a 6-point underdog Sunday.


Chip Kelly not fully committed to Nick Foles for 2015
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) Asked about his quarterback situation heading into 2015, Eagles coach Chip Kelly expressed support for Nick Foles but did not fully endorse him as the team's quarterback of the future, reports Philly.com. Kelly said he needs to make a decision on Foles based on his limited body of work.

"The reality is the reality," Kelly said, referring to the broken collarbone that ended Foles' season after eight games.

"I can't say, 'Hey, let's not make a decision because I need to see him play 16 more games.' In certain times we're going to have to make decisions, so you have to make it based on what you have. We don't have any control over the injury."

Foles threw 13 touchdowns against 10 interceptions this year after sparkling with 27 touchdowns and two picks last season. Foles has one more year on his contract at $660,000, while replacement Mark Sanchez is scheduled for free agency. Matt Barkley is signed for two more years but has thrown one pass this season.

Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur sounds like a believer in Foles.

"I think we know what we have in Nick, and we've seen a guy that I think, by last count, he's 14-4 as a starter," Shurmur said. "So that's really how you judge a quarterback."


Eagles OLB Trent Cole plans to play Week 17
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12:32 pm ET) Eagles outside linebacker Trent Cole, who sat out Week 16 with a hand injury, practiced fully Wednesday and said he plans to play Sunday at the Giants, reports the Delaware News Journal. Cole has 48 tackles, 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles in 14 games.

'No plans on how long' QB Logan Thomas plays Sunday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:39 am ET) After earlier saying Cardinals quarterback Logan Thomas would play at least the first half Sunday at San Francisco, coach Bruce Arians said there are "no plans on how long" the rookie will play, reports ESPN.com. Thomas will be making his first start after Ryan Lindley predictably flopped Week 16 against Seattle.

Thomas has appeared in two games, completing 1 of 9 passes. That completion was an 81-yard touchdown to running back Andre Ellington.

Quarterback Drew Stanton (knee) isn't expected to be ready until the playoffs, so Lindley is the only option behind Thomas. Lindley has zero touchdowns and eight interceptions in 225 career pass attempts. Arizona has not scored a touchdown in its past two games.

A 6-6, 250-pounder out of Virginia Tech, Thomas had a "shaky" start to Wednesday's practice before finishing "pretty strong," according to Arians.

Arizona is a 6-point underdog Sunday. The line opened at 4.5 before bettors pounced on the 49ers.

Despite their offensive struggles, the Cardinals can win the NFC West with a victory and a Seattle loss to the Rams.


Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse not practicing
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:12 am ET) Seahawks wideout Jermaine Kearse, who injured his hamstring Week 16, did not practice Wednesday as the team prepared for Sunday's game against St. Louis. Kearse also would not have been able to participate had the team practiced Thursday.

If Kearse sits out, rookie Paul Richardson would start in his place. Seattle is a 12.5-point home favorite.


Panthers RB DeAngelo Williams practices fully
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:30 am ET) Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams, who's missed three straight games with a hand injury, practiced fully Wednesday and is on track to return Sunday against the Falcons.

However, coach Ron Rivera has indicated he'll stick with Jonathan Stewart as the starting tailback. Stewart has run for 437 yards over the past four weeks.

Carolina is a 4-point underdog at the Georgia Dome.


Chuck Pagano 'hopeful' T.Y. Hilton will play Week 17
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:21 am ET) Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton put in his second straight limited practice Wednesday, with coach Chuck Pagano saying he's "hopeful" Hilton will play Sunday at Tennessee. Hilton sat out Week 16 with a hamstring injury -- the first game he's missed all season -- and Indy got destroyed 42-7 at Dallas.

Hilton leads the Colts with 82 catches for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns. Indy is a 7-point favorite over the 2-13 Titans.


Ravens RT Ricky Wagner undergoes foot surgery
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(9:12 am ET) Ravens right tackle Ricky Wagner underwent successful surgery to fix a Lisfranc foot sprain, reports the Baltimore Sun. He suffered the injury in the Week 16 loss to Houston.

Wagner, who allowed two sacks and drew high marks from coaches in his first season as a starter, is expected to be ready for next season, the report said.


 
 
 
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