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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
Bears sign DE Austen Lane
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) The Bears have signed defensive end Austen Lane, Pro Football Talk reports.

Lane will fill the roster spot of defensive end Willie Young, who was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Lane was with the Bears during the preseason but didn't survive the final cuts. He's managed three sacks in 30 career games.


Cardinals' Thomas starts practice 'shaky,' finishes 'pretty strong'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians indicated that Week 17 starting quarterback Logan Thomas was "shaky" at the beginning of Wednesday's practice but finished "pretty strong" as he developed an understanding of where to throw his passes, ESPN.com reports.

"He's worked, fundamentally, extremely hard and gotten much better," Arians said. "But putting those fundamentals to use in the offense, that's two totally different things."

Thomas has just three days of practice before facing the 49ers in a game that has the possibility of landing his team with a first-round bye with a win and help from other results.

"It wasn't the greatest, but as it went on, it got better and better," Thomas added. "It just comes with reps and comes with time."

The Cardinals are a 6-point underdog in San Francisco Sunday.


Seahawks' Russell Okung, Max Unger practice Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung (lung) practiced in full Wednesday, while center Max Unger (ankle) was able to return to practice in a limited fashion.

Okung is on track to return in Week 17 after missing last week's game with a bruised lung. Unger hasn't played in any of the team's last five game due to a high ankle sprain. The Seahawks will earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win Sunday, and it's possible Unger suits up for the crucial game.

The Seahawks are a 12 1/2-point favorite at home against the Rams in Week 17.


Raiders QB Derek Carr practices Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was able to practice Wednesday despite dealing with an illness.

"I got here early to work out and see how I would feel during that and after that and I felt pretty good," Carr said at a press conference Wednesday. "So, felt good at practice today, obviously not 100 percent but it felt good to practice and be out here."

Carr has been able to start every game for the Raiders this season, completing 58.6 percent of his passes while racking up 3,112 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. The Raiders are a 14-point underdog in Denver in Week 17.


Broncos RB Ronnie Hillman practices in full Wednesday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Broncos running back Ronnie Hillman was able to practice in full Wednesday for the first time since suffering a left foot injury on Nov. 9, ESPN.com reports.

"We've had a chance to watch him all week, participate and he's obviously further ahead than he was this time a week ago," head coach John Fox said after Wednesday's practice. "And the fact we're on grass, not on Astroturf, lot of variables, but I like what I see."

Hillman has been able to practice in a limited fashion during the last two weeks but hasn't been active on gameday since the injury occured. The Broncos are a 14-point favorite at home against the Raiders in Week 17.


Falcons RB Steven Jackson (quad) expected to miss Week 17
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Falcons running back Steven Jackson (quad) is not expected to play in Sunday's Week 17 matchup with the Panthers, ESPN.com reports.

Jackson missed practice Wednesday and the team promoted running back Jerome Smith from the practice squad. Jacquizz Rodgers and Devonta Freeman are expected to share the workload in the critical regular-season finale if Jackson is indeed sidelined.

The Falcons are a 4-point favorite at home against the Panthers.


49ers RB Carlos Hyde still sidelined
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) 49ers rookie running back Carlos Hyde missed practice again Wednesday with an ankle injury. He sat out Week 16 and appears likely to miss Sunday's game against Arizona, too.

With Hyde out, veteran Frank Gore went off for 158 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries against San Diego. Gore should see another big workload against the Cardinals.


Michael Crabtree doesn't sound eager to return to 49ers
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Impending free-agent receiver Michael Crabtree was asked Wednesday if he wants to return to the 49ers next season. "It depends," Crabtree said, per the San Francisco Chronicle. "I don't even want to talk about it."

Crabtree is finishing up a disappointing season. He's played every game but has only 64 catches for 657 yards and four touchdowns, a far cry from the 85 grabs, 1,105 yards and nine touchdowns he put up in his last full season, 2012.


Ravens LT Eugene Monroe bothered by ankle injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Ravens starting left tackle Eugene Monroe, who hurt his ankle Week 16 against Houston, missed practice Wednesday, reports ESPN.com. His status is uncertain for the regular-season finale at Tennessee.

If Monroe can't play, undrafted rookie James Hurst likely would start, the website said.


Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe (shoulder) unable to practice
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(12/24/2014) Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe, who sprained his shoulder in last week's loss at Pittsburgh, was unable to practice Wednesday, reports ESPN.com. Bowe leads Chiefs wideouts with 57 catches for 724 yards.

Kansas City hosts San Diego on Sunday as a 3-point favorite.


 
 
 
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