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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Arizona Cardinals

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Cardinals have one of the league's best receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, one of the league's top rookie receivers in Michael Floyd, a bruising rusher coming off a breakout year in Beanie Wells and a promising young rusher in Ryan Williams.

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They also have arguably the ugliest quarterback battle set to take place in camp.

Last year's offseason prize, Kevin Kolb, only started nine games and accounted for one touchdown per start, leading the Cards to a 3-6 record in those games. John Skelton fared much better in the win column, being a starter in five of seven games he played in, and threw eight touchdowns in his seven starts (and 11 touchdowns overall). But Kolb had a better completion percentage, averaged more yards per attempt and threw fewer interceptions -- and got paid a $7 million bonus to stay with the Cardinals. Odds point to him being the Week 1 starter vs. Seattle.

Nevermind how the Cardinals wound up with two mediocre passers throwing to elite talents; the focus is now on which one is better for Fitzgerald, a consensus Top 25 pick, to catch passes from. Here's the facts: Last year Fitzgerald averaged more targets per game (10.8 to 7.9) and yards per game (92.5 to 82.3) with Skelton. He also caught five touchdowns from Skelton vs. two from Kolb (one from Richard Bartel). So while this points to Skelton being "better" for Fitzgerald, the reality is that the Cardinals might simply tell Kolb to remember his stud receiver and target him much like Skelton did in 2011.

And with Floyd joining the Cardinals' offense to help spread opposing defenses thin, it should only be an easier assignment to pull off.

Arizona Cardinals Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Kevin Kolb Not drafted
John Skelton Not drafted
Running Backs
Beanie Wells 4
Ryan Williams 10
Wide Receivers
Larry Fitzgerald 2
Michael Floyd 10
Andre Roberts Not drafted
Early Doucet Not drafted
Tight Ends
Todd Heap Not drafted
Rob Housler Not drafted
Kickers/Defense
Jay Feely Not drafted
Cardinals DST Not drafted

Sleeper ... Ryan Williams, running back
When is it OK to draft a running back coming off a torn patellar tendon? When he's young with fresh legs and available late in drafts. Williams' rookie season was over when he ripped up his knee last August, but a year later he's rehabbed and ready to roll. Last year the Cardinals were forced to run Beanie Wells more than they initially intended, and now they can feel better about capping Wells' carries while easing Williams back into action. And don't forget that it's Wells who had the most recent knee surgery, getting a clean-up arthroscopic procedure this offseason. Wells won't be a weekly workhorse so long as Williams is able to contribute, and if Wells can't hold up, Williams will get plenty of playing time. There's plenty of upside and not a lot of risk in taking Williams with a pick starting in Round 10.

Impact rookie ... Michael Floyd, wide receiver
Floyd is not Julio Jones, but he's in a situation like Jones was in as a rookie: Playing opposite an established receiver. That's a perk for any wideout much less a rookie, since coverage should be tilted away from him. The end result should be plenty of one-on-one matchups for Floyd and his quarterbacks to consider. But unlike Jones, Floyd's quarterback situation is rocky, which was the case during his senior year in college when he still managed to grab 100 passes for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns. He won't do quite that well as a rookie -- figure for him to land in the 700-yard, five-touchdown range -- but there will be weeks where he'll pay off.

Keeper-league target ... Rob Housler, tight end
The big trend in football is to find mismatches with enormous targets against smaller defensive backs and linebackers. The Cardinals have a potential matchup buster in Housler, who is 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds. He was buried on the depth chart last year behind veterans Todd Heap and Jeff King, catching only a dozen passes for a weak 11.1 yard average. His opportunities have nowhere to go but up, especially with King nursing a quad injury and Heap injury prone and due to make over $2 million in a contract year.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
SEA @NE PHI MIA @STL BUF @MIN SF @GB bye @ATL STL @NYJ @SEA DET CHI @SF

The Cardinals are up and coming, but a tough schedule could keep them down. Playing the AFC East is already tough enough but they are the only NFC West team taking on two of them on the road at 1 p.m. ET. Their game at the Patriots comes in Week 2 and is their only outdoor matchup in the first eight weeks of the season. It wouldn't be a surprise to see some life from the entire offense early on before things get challenging at midseason. Beanie Wells especially looks like a good guy to ride early in the season and bail on before Week 8. Two nice perks: The Cards have 11 dome games overall, and their matchup at San Francisco is neatly tucked into Week 17.

Training camp topics

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Beanie Wells 245 carries, 10 catches
Larry Fitzgerald 80 catches
LaRod Stephens-Howling 43 carries, 13 catches
Early Doucet 54 catches
Andre Roberts 51 catches, 3 carries

There's a lot of sorting ahead for the Cardinals. Who will be their quarterback to kick off the season? How many reps will Wells land on a week to week basis? How much work will Floyd get right away? How the coaches choose to manage their personnel in camp this summer will shed a lot of light on what to expect right from the start of the season.

For Fantasy purposes, keeping close tabs on Wells and Williams is a must. Both have knee issues that will likely keep them from seeing big doses of practice snaps day after day. If they both make it through camp unscathed, odds are on Wells playing two-thirds of the time and Williams one-third of the time. Williams might see a nudge in reps as the third-down back while Wells is better suited for the goal line.

The Cardinals defense doesn't have as many questions, and they're actually in a position to improve in 2012. Gone are aged vets Joey Porter, Vonnie Holliday and Clark Haggans. Returning are Calais Campbell (with a fresh new contract), unheralded pass rushers Sam Acho and O'Brien Schofield and a secondary bolstered by free-agent addition William Gay and returning nickelback Greg Toler. If the Cardinals can keep up the heavy production from Acho and Schofield while containing the opposing run game, they might win a bunch of 20-19 and 17-16 type games.

As for the quarterbacks, Fantasy owners shouldn't count on either Kolb or Skelton to be contributors. Heck, they're barely decent backup choices. With the quarterback talent pool so deep and neither passer promised to play 10-plus games, they're best left to the waiver wire and not your standard roster.

Injury update

Ryan Williams (knee; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Beanie Wells (knee; probable for the start of training camp).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard and on Facebook .

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Player News
Report: Cardinals' Daryl Washington unsure of NFL standing
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7:32 pm ET) Cardinals linebacker Daryl Washington is approaching the one-year mark for his suspension though his NFL status is still in limbo. 

But according to a report from FOX Sports 910 in Phoenix, Washington is unsure about his status with the league. He was suspended a year ago on May 30, 2014 for being a multiple offender of the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

However, he was expected to apply for reinstatement a month ago but did not do so. 

Assuming Washington is reinstated to the NFL at some point he will likely be subjected to punishment under the NFL's domestic violence policy. On March 24, 2014, he pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend. 


Titans' Massaquoi rehabbing shoulder, to miss OTA's
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:34 pm ET) Outside linebacker Jonathan Massaquoi will not participate in the Titans' first organized team activities, per ESPN.com.

Massaquoi, who was claimed off waivers from the Falcons earlier this year, is recovering from shoulder surgery. He had a bone spur removed from the area, but the procedure was categorized as a minor cleanup.

Massaquoi recorded 22 tackles in 15 games with Atlanta last season.


Entering third season, 49ers' Lawrence Okoye eyeing roster spot
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(4:04 pm ET) This might finally be the year Lawrence Okoye can crack a spot on the 49ers' roster, per the Bay Area News Group.

Okoye, a former British Olympics discus thrower and rugby player, is feeling confident about his improvements and feels like his potential is worth a roster spot.

“It’s very different from the first time I came here. I’m feeling very good about things,” Okoye said Thursday while sitting at his locker. “I’m just happy I was given the opportunity to stay here so long, so I could catch up. I have a good opportunity to show what I can do.”

Okoye has worked under new head coach Jim Tomsula for two years and with Justin Smith's retirement, his emergence might be rewarded.

“You’re going to get lots of people telling you things. But the main thing is to just keep yourself motivated, despite what people say about you," Okoye said. "People will write you off. People will say this or that. Just keep yourself motivated, keep going every day and you’ll be good.”

 


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“I don’t know the team. It’s always in black uniforms,” Pryor said. “I didn’t see any orange. No, it’s not the Raiders. But I believe it can happen because I can visualize it like that. I’m into visualization.”

Pryor hasn't played a down since the 2013 regular season, when he passed for 1,798 yards, seven touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 11 games.


Flowers' college position coach thinks he can fill in for injured Beatty
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(3:18 pm ET) Things are moving really fast for Giants offensive lineman Ereck Flowers. The eighth overall pick in the draft, because of an injury to Will Beatty, might have inherited a huge workload this season, per nj.com.

Art Kehoe, Flowers' offensive line coach at the University of Miami, thinks Flowers will be up to the task of protecting quarterback Eli Manning.

"I'm sure he raised his level up a notch or two, but I think he plays every week, I think he plays hard in practice," Kehoe said. "He's an unproven commodity at the next level, and he's a high draft pick, [the Giants] drafted him to be a fixer, so I'm sure he's going in there to do what he did in Miami — scrap his ass off every day in practice, and if you're supposed to be a badass the next weekend [against] your opponent, he's gonna be there and he's gonna bring everything he's got. That's what he does. He wants to know that there's a dude, and he has to take care of him, and he'll be up to the challenge.

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Union: Goodell must back off hearing of Patriots QB Tom Brady
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith is growing impatient awaiting word from Roger Goodell on the request of the NFL commissioner to recuse himself as arbitrator of the appeal hearings ofPatriots quarterback Tom Brady.

The league suspended Brady for the first four games next season for his alleged role in the Deflategate scandal, claiming that he likely knew that game balls were being deflated for his benefit before the 2014 AFC title game.

Smith is claiming that neither Goodell nor the Wells Report, which investigated the incident, could legitimately claim impartiality. He added that the NFLPA will "advance the volume" of the request if they don't hear from Goodell by next week. Part of the union's press release reads as follows:

Given a process that has contained procedural violations of our collective bargaining agreement, the Commissioner's role as a central witness in the appeal hearing and his evident partiality with respect to the Wells report, the Commissioner must designate a neutral party to serve as arbitrator in this matter. The players also believe that the Commissioner's history of inconsistently issuing discipline against our players makes him ill-suited to hear this appeal in a fair-minded manner.

As for the Wells Report, Smith stated that "you can't really have credibility just because you slap the word independent on a piece of paper." He offered into evidence the findings in regard to NFL official Walt Anderson, who was a key figure in the investigation, citing one part of the report questions his memory and another credits it.


Zimmer happy with progress of Vikings WR Cordarrelle Patterson
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(1:32 pm ET) Mike Zimmer has expressed optimism that underachieving Vikings wideout Cordarrelle Patterson is gaining a better understanding of route-running and the nuances of playing the position in the NFL, which would allow his talent to result in greater productivity.

Patterson took a step back in 2014 after a mediocre rookie year. He played in every game, but managed just 33 receptions for 384 yards and one touchdown. He has since stated that 2015 is his make-or-break year and is apparently acting like it in the offseason.

"He's done real well," Zimmer told Fox Sports North. "He's running routes good. He's working hard. So we just need him to continue to do those things and continue to keep getting consistent and keep improving. I've been impressed."


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(1:22 pm ET) Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey has expressed optimism that left tackle Branden Albert will be ready to roll by the regular season opener.

Albert has been rehabbing from a torn ACL and MCL sustained last November against Detroit. He had signed a five-year, $46 million contract the previous March and had been performing particularly well before going down.

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(1:15 pm ET) The Bills still want to extend the contract of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, according to a report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport

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(1:13 pm ET) Former Redskins coach Mike Shanahan does not believe injuries have prevented quarterback Robert Griffin III from maximizing his potential in the NFL. Rather, he feels it was the team not creating an offensive system that best fits his talents and his own belief that he could play a traditional role at that position.

Griffin sustained a serious knee injury in the 2012 playoffs. He then struggled in 2013 in an offense designed to transform him into a drop-back quarterback rather than one that took advantage of his mobility. He suffered another knee injury last year and did not perform well in the offense of new coach Jay Gruden.

"I don't think getting hurt has anything to do with it," Shanahan told 106.7 The Fan. "In college he didn't have a route tree, didn't have a playbook. That does take some time. ... If you take a quarterback like that you must run the kind of system that allows him to be successful. ... I really believe Robert thought he was more of a drop-back quarterback. He hasn't done things the NFL asks you to do. It does take some growing pains. You better really work on it inside and out."

Some have wondered why the Redskins went so hard after Griffin if they weren't willing to create an offense that maximizes his skill set.


 
 
 
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