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2014 Draft Prep: Have faith in Cardinals offense

Senior Fantasy Writer
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You would think I'm from Phoenix or have been rooting for Larry Centers and Aeneas Williams from childhood based on how much I hype the Cardinals. I just love this offense.

You will love it, too.

The Cardinals have three must-start Fantasy options in Andre Ellington, Larry Fitzgerald and Michael Floyd. Carson Palmer is a sleeper quarterback, rookie John Brown is a sleeper receiver and either Jonathan Dwyer or Stepfan Taylor could play a role for owners at some point this season.

Coach Bruce Arians should allow the Cardinals to put up a lot of points, which will help Fantasy owners if you're willing to buy in. We saw flashes of what this offense could do toward the end of last season, but this year could bring plenty of rewards.

We'll start with Palmer. He might seem old at 34, but he's coming off a career season in 2013, his first under Arians. Palmer passed for a career-high 4,274 yards on 63 percent completions with 24 touchdowns and 22 interceptions, which were also a career high.

Interceptions come with an Arians offense -- Andrew Luck had 18 as a rookie in 2012 when Arians was with the Colts -- but this is a volume passing attack. Palmer attempted 572 passes last season, which was 10th in the NFL. You can count on 600-plus attempts if he stays healthy in 2014.

We saw Palmer start to grasp Arians' offense after Arizona's bye in Week 9. In his final eight games, Palmer had four outings with at least 24 Fantasy points, four games with at least 300 passing yards and five games with multiple touchdowns.

Now he's got a full offseason to master the offense and he could be this year's version of Philip Rivers as a veteran quarterback you draft late but surprises as a top-10 option. I plan to target him with a late-round pick in all leagues.

One of his main weapons will be Ellington, who I consider one of the best breakout candidates this season. He was the No. 24 Fantasy running back in standard leagues as a rookie in 2013 despite playing behind Rashard Mendenhall, who has retired.

Ellington had 118 carries for 652 yards and three touchdowns and 39 catches for 371 yards and one touchdown. Arians plans to use Ellington like a workhorse -- 20-25 touches are a possibility -- and the one area he could lose out is goal-line carries, which is where Dwyer and Taylor come in.

But Ellington has star potential. His 5.5 yards per carry led the NFL among running backs with at least 100 carries and he had 9.5 yards per catch. The upside is endless and he's worth drafting in Round 3 in standard leagues and Round 2 in PPR formats. He's one of my favorite players this year.

Another favorite is Floyd. He's entering his third season, which is when receivers have the chance for a breakout campaign, and Floyd is trending in the right direction.

He was solid in 2013 with 65 catches for 1,041 yards and five touchdowns, and he posted nine games with at least eight Fantasy points, including four with double digits. But there's still room for improvement, and he could easily be a top-15 Fantasy receiver this season -- he was No. 24 last year.

There are some in Arizona who believe Floyd is better than Fitzgerald, but we're not ready to go there yet. The good news is you can draft Floyd in Round 4 or 5, and he might easily eclipse that value.

Fitzgerald showed last season he's not done yet with 82 catches for 954 yards and 10 touchdowns, which was his first time scoring in double digits since 2009. But he now has consecutive seasons with fewer than 1,000 yards, and he's gone three years in a row with less than 90 catches.

Here's a stat to love, however. He led all receivers in red-zone targets with 24 and he should again remain involved near the end zone. Floyd only had 14 red-zone targets last year. In the first preseason game against Houston, Fitzgerald scored on a 7-yard touchdown.

You don't have to reach for Fitzgerald this season, but you can let him fall to you in Round 4. There's still plenty of upside for him in this offense and he should again finish as a top-20 Fantasy receiver.

Brown is a receiver to monitor this season. The Cardinals like the rookie from Pittsburg State and he could emerge as the No. 3 receiver behind Fitzgerald and Floyd. Brown has done well this preseason with 10 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown.

He's not worth drafting in the majority of leagues, but he is someone to potentially use during the season as a bye-week or injury replacement if he continues to play like he's shown in the preseason.

Dwyer and Taylor will compete for the goal-line and short-yardage role behind Ellington and the winner could be a good source of touchdowns. Mendenhall had eight touchdowns last seaso and the Cardinals don't seem inclined to use Ellington in that role.

So far, Dwyer has done a better job than Taylor, including a rushing touchdown in the second preseason game against Minnesota. We wouldn't draft either guy, but this is a position to monitor, especially if Ellington were to get hurt.

Fantasy owners afraid of the Cardinals will point to their division with matchups against San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis, but Arizona scored at least 20 points against those teams in five of six meetings. The lone time the Cardinals were under 20 points was the surprise 17-10 win at Seattle in Week 16.

The offensive line is also brought up, but Arizona should be improved with the addition of new left tackle Jared Veldheer. As an example, Palmer wasn't sacked in the third preseason game against the Bengals, who have a stout pass rush.

And with a defense missing Daryl Washington, Karlos Dansby and Darnell Dockett, the offense could be in more shootouts, which is obviously a positive for Fantasy owners.

So shy away from the Cardinals if you want, but I'm all in. This is going to be an explosive year in the desert, and Arizona will be a team full of Fantasy fun.

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Player News
Vikings' Adrian Peterson to begin probation on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will begin his probation on Wednesday, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Peterson will begin community service, and will undergo counseling to determine whether he has a drug problem. Peterson will report to a probation officer once a month in order to take a drug test. The strict drug testing stems from an Oct. 8 pre-trail urinalysis. Peterson admitted to "smoking a little weed," though the results from the test were never disclosed. 

Probation officials will also determine whether Peterson needs to attend parenting classes. 

Per his plea agreement, Peterson was fined $4,000 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service. He's required to perform at least 16 hours per month, which would allow him to complete to program prior to training camp.

Peterson is under contract with the Vikings for next season, and is set to earn $12.75 million. The team is not allowed to communicate with Peterson during his suspension. 


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Free-agent receiver Austin Collie has signed with the BC Lions of the Canadian Football League, the team announced Thursday.

"I’m excited to be joining the Lions and very much look forward to playing in the CFL," said Collie. "The wide-open play of the Canadian game and the passion of fans across the league is going to be a lot of fun to experience."

Collie played four seasons with the Colts and one with the Patriots. In his last NFL action, he caught four passes for 57 yards in the 2014 AFC Championship Game.


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by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) Eagles running back LeSean McCoy reiterated Thursday that while he'd be willing to restructure his contract if asked, he would not accept a pay cut, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

"I know how hard it is to keep a team together and I want to be part of this team. But I don't want to take less money," McCoy said. "I want to figure a way to make it happen [where] we're all together."

McCoy, who is due to count $11.95 million against the cap in 2015, turned in his fourth 1,000-yard season in the last five years in 2014, finishing with 1,319 rushing yards on 312 carries and 155 receiving yards on a career-low 28 receptions. All five of his touchdowns came on the ground.


Bills' Rex Ryan won't commit to EJ Manuel as starting QB
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(1/29/2015) When asked about who his starting quarterback would be in 2015, Bills coach Rex Ryan said the team would look at every available option, reports The Buffalo News.

"We're going to exhaust every resource we can," Ryan said. "We'll look at free agents. We'll look at the draft. We'll look at anything."

The Bills have former first-round pick EJ Manuel on their roster, but Ryan said he would not commit to Manuel as his starting quarterback at this time.

"To say that he's definitely going to be the guy, it's way too early to say that," Ryan said.


Bills RB Fred Jackson excited to play for new coach Rex Ryan
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(1/29/2015) Bills veteran running back Fred Jackson said he hasn't had the opportunity to meet with new coach Rex Ryan, but that didn't stop him from expressing his excitement about the new coaching regime in Buffalo.

"I can't wait to play for him. I've heard nothing but good things," Jackson said Wednesday of Ryan during an interview on ESPN New York 98.7 FM. "I'm looking forward to that [first] conversation when I sit down and talk to him."

The Bills finished 9-7 in 2014, which was their best record since 2004. While Jackson believes Ryan is going to "be that catalyst that comes in and pushes us over that hump," he didn't have many bad things to say about coach Doug Marrone, who opted out of his contract New Year's Eve.

"I thought he was a tremendous coach," Jackson said. "He showed up, he worked hard, he pushed players to give their best effort. He got us to a 9-7 record -- we hadn't won nine games in 10 years. There's definitely some things about him that made him a great coach. It's just the way he exited. I don't think anybody expected that. 

"Players, the way we found out is we got a generic text from him, saying that he was moving on and he had chosen to opt out of his contract." 


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Raiders defensive end Justin Tuck indicated if Suh wanted to sign with Oakland, then he would be welcomed in Raider Nation.

"(He's) Raider-ish," Tuck said, per the Detroit Free Press. "And that's one of the reasons why I know Raider Nation would applaud that move, beyond the fact that he's an awesome football player. He kind of fits the mold of ... the toughness and the ferocious player that built the Oakland Raiders."

It is speculated Suh will receive a contract worth at least $100 million. Tuck believes the three-time All-Pro deserves such a lucrative deal.

"The thing about him, you know what you're getting every day. Some of the tactics, you could probably do without, but he's a hell of a football player," Tuck said. "I would love to have the opportunity to line up beside of him and let him take all the double teams that I normally take."


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(1/29/2015) There has been a lot of talk about quarterback Nick Foles' future with the Eagles, especially since Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly's former pupil at Oregon -- Marcus Mariota -- will be part of this year's draft class.

On Thursday, Foles addressed the rumors and stated he is expecting to be back on the Eagles' roster in 2015.

"Yeah you hear about it," Foles said in between doing paid appearances at Super Bowl XLIX, per NJ.com. "You are going to hear about it every single year. That's just part of it. The main word is 'rumor.' You can't put too much into it....I plan on being in Philly.

"I only listen to (head coach) Chip Kelly. That's what is most important. He is the one that will make the decision. Right now all I am going to do is work because I plan on being back in Philadelphia and playing with my team. That's all I ever thought. So that is what I plan on doing and I'm not looking at it any other way."

Foles added he hasn't talked with Kelly since the end of the season.

"We haven't talked a lot. He has a lot going on," Foles said. "This time of year you really just get away from everything. He is busy looking at the draft, doing all that. I saw he is more of the decision maker. Haven't really talked to him too much, but I'm sure I'll hear from him soon."


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(1/29/2015) Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer pleaded guilty Thursday in Maricopa County (Ariz.) Superior Court to a single count of disorderly conduct pertaining to his domestic violence case, according to The Arizona Republic.

Dwyer was sentenced to 18 months of probation and community service following the plea, according to a court spokesman.

The 25-year-old Dwyer was arrested Sept. 17 for a July 21 incident in which he allegedly head-butted his wife in the face and broke her nose after she refused his sexual advances and bit his lip, according to reports taken at the time.

Dwyer's wife told police she reported the incident in September because she feared for their child's safety after seeing reports of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's arrest on child-abuse charges.

The Cardinals placed Dwyer on the reserve/non-football injury list after his September arrest. He did not play again during the 2014 season.


Tom Brady on Peyton Manning: 'I certainly hope he comes back'
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) While the football world anxiously awaits official word from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning about his playing status for the 2015 season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady -- and longtime Manning rival -- said Thursday he hopes the five-time NFL MVP will continue his career.

"What a great player he's been for this league," Brady said Thursday, per NFL.com. "He's a great competitor, and I've been fortunate to play against him a bunch of times. I certainly hope he comes back, 'cause the league will miss him if he doesn't. But those decisions are up to him. I'm sure it's up to whether he's mentally and physically -- that's what he wants to do. But I certainly hope he's back."

Archie Manning, Peyton's father, told NFL Network on Thursday that his son hasn't made a decision yet.

"Well, Peyton evaluates things; he's pretty good at that," he said. "I can't tell him what to do, and he hasn't told me what he's going to do. But I do know that he's really giving a lot of things a lot of thought. He's thinking about where he is physically, he wants to see how he can do this some more, trying to get over an injury."

Archie added starting over with new Broncos coach Gary Kubiak will not be an issue for Peyton, if he decides to return next season.

"Yeah, but he loves Gary. He likes Gary," Archie Manning said. "He liked John Fox. He liked Adam Gase. All those things, I think, are considered with. But my deal is he's always made good decisions; he's pretty thorough. He's going to evaluate a lot of things, and I think he'll make a good decision."


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by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1/29/2015) During a radio interview Wednesday night, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III indicated the dislocated ankle he suffered in Week 2 against the Jaguars hindered him the rest of the season. He missed six games due to the injury.

“I had never suffered an ankle injury of that severity before, so I didn’t really know what to expect,” Griffin said, per The Washington Times. “It just became more and more tough the more games that we lost, because you know how hard your guys work, and you want to get out there and help them win games.

“I could’ve sat out the rest of last year, with how bad the ankle was, but I felt like I could play, and I wanted to get out there and play with my guys and help them win games. And that didn’t happen when I got back out there. Then coach made a decision [to bench me]. That was an unfortunate decision, and something we all had to go with because that was coach’s choice.”

Griffin will be entering the final guaranteed year of his contract in 2015. The Redskins have until May 3 to decide if they want to exercise the fifth-year option on his contract for 2016. 

Griffin added his focus this offseason will simply be on getting healthy.

“Last year, I wasn’t healthy, and it sucked,” Griffin told ESPN 980. “There’s no other way to say it other than that. When you dislocate your ankle in the second week of the season, when you and your team had big things in mind. So I guess it’s just getting healthy, getting a mental break, getting a chance to spend time with family, and then formulate my plan going forward from this year so we can go out there and win games.”


 
 
 
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