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
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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.
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
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.
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