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Offseason Primers: Arizona Cardinals

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Cardinals made two important moves this offseason, and Larry Fitzgerald couldn't be any happier. They added an offensive-minded coach who likes downfield passing in Bruce Arians, and they traded for a capable quarterback in Carson Palmer.

Has Fitzgerald stopped smiling yet?

The Kevin Kolb experiment is over after he was cut this offseason, and the Cardinals are now going with Palmer after he was added in a trade from Oakland. Arians will do a great job of helping Palmer improve. After all, he turned Ben Roethlisberger into a star and helped Andrew Luck develop into a future standout in his past two stops as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, respectively.

2012 Touches Leaders
689 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
LaRod Stephens-Howling 127 (110 car., 17 rec.) 18.4%
Beanie Wells 89 (88 car., 1 rec.) 12.9%
William Powell 79 (60 car., 19 rec.) 11.4%
Larry Fitzgerald 71 rec. 10.3%
Andre Roberts 68 (4 car., 64 rec.) 9.8%
All Others 255 37.0%

The Cardinals still have to fix an abysmal offensive line that allowed 58 sacks, which were the most in the NFL, and that should be a tough task for Arians. But there are plenty of positives in the desert, and Fantasy owners should pay attention on Draft Day.

They also added Rashard Mendenhall, and he should return as a starting Fantasy running back. And Fitzgerald should rebound from a down year in 2012 thanks to Arians and Palmer. Arizona also has other quality receiving options in Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts and Rob Housler, and we hope Palmer can maximize their talents, which would create more options for us to choose from.

Larry Fitzgerald -- Bounce-back candidate

2012 Target Leaders
608 pass attempts
Larry Fitzgerald 156 25.6%
Andre Roberts 114 18.7%
Michael Floyd 86 14.1%
Rob Housler 68 11.1%
Early Doucet 53 8.7%
All Others 131 21.5%

No one was happier with the addition of Arians and Palmer than Fitzgerald. He needs a change because 2012 was the worst season of his career, and it was predominately because of poor quarterback play. Fitzgerald was limited to 71 catches for 798 yards and four touchdowns, and he finished as the No. 41 receiver despite being the seventh-most targeted receiver (156) in the NFL. So it was clear the Cardinals were trying to get Fitzgerald the ball, but they weren't having much success. Now, the Cardinals have a coach who likes to get the ball down field and a capable quarterback, and that will only help Fitzgerald improve. He should be considered a low-end No. 1/high-end No. 2 Fantasy receiver on Draft Day, and we recommend drafting him with a pick in Round 4. If he bounces back as expected then he should be a steal. And something to keep in mind: Arians took Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis coming off a down year in 2011 and returned him to prominence in 2012. Of course, he had Luck on his side. We can only hope Fitzgerald has a similar outcome with Palmer in his future.

Rashard Mendenhall -- Bounce-back candidate, take II

I spoke with Arians at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix, and he hinted that Mendenhall would be the starter this season. "I prefer one guy," Arians said, and he gushed about Mendenhall since the two have a history going back to Pittsburgh. "Adding a player the caliber of Rashard, a proven back who can carry you to the Super Bowl, not only helps the football team but it helps your locker room. Obviously we have a good history together. I know how to use him. He's a heck of a player in all phases. He never has to come out of the game." Mendenhall struggled in 2012, his last with the Steelers, after coming back from a torn ACL in 2011. But he averaged over 1,000 rushing yards a season from 2009-11 before getting hurt. He will likely share carries with Ryan Williams, but Mendenhall has the potential to be a No. 2 Fantasy running back. He's worth drafting as early as Round 5 in the majority of leagues.

Michael Floyd -- Late-round flier

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Carson Palmer 155-163 overall
Brian Hoyer Undrafted
Rashard Mendenhall 39-44 overall
Ryan Williams 92-100 overall
Larry Fitzgerald 42-49 overall
Michael Floyd Undrafted
Andre Roberts Undrafted
Rob Housler Undrafted

Floyd, like most of the Cardinals offensive players, had a down year in 2012. He's hoping his second year in the NFL will go a little better. As a rookie last season, Floyd had 45 catches for 562 yards and two touchdowns. He was the No. 3 receiver behind Fitzgerald and Roberts, but his role is expected to expand this season. He closed 2012 on a high note with eight catches for 166 yards and a touchdown in Week 17 on 14 targets, and we hope he can build off that performance. Floyd is worth a late-round flier in all leagues this year, especially with the addition of Palmer, and he should be taken with a mid-round selection in dynasty leagues. We expect Floyd to eventually become a playmaker, but the passing attack in Arizona will have to improve for that to happen.

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

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Player News
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:44 pm ET) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:58 pm ET) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:32 pm ET) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(4:17 pm ET) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:58 pm ET) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:54 pm ET) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:40 pm ET) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(3:33 pm ET) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(3:03 pm ET) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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