by Greg Talcott
In 2014, the Arizona Cardinals had a legitimate chance to be the first team to play in a Super Bowl where they would be the host city; then Carson Palmer went down, and that was all she wrote. This season is not much different when it comes to the potential for this team, but it all comes down to 35 year old Carson Palmer. The Cardinals have one of the best coaches in the game in Bruce Aryans and what he has done with this roster in the last two seasons is a testament to that. The Cardinals don’t really have any stars on this team, they just have a bunch of solid players who understand their roles and play hard. There is some value here for fantasy owners, but it will be found in later rounds for sure.
The best value on this team is Carson Palmer. Most fantasy owners wouldn’t consider him a starter for their team, but Palmer was on pace to throw 30 TD’s last season. While that number isn’t elite, it can win you games if you spend the early part of the draft on quality RB’s and WR’s and scoop Palmer late. If you have interest in drafting a rookie like Mariota or Winston, Palmer would be an ideal veteran to pair them with because of his consistency. Similar value can be found late with Larry Fitzgerald who may no longer be the standout fantasy stud of the Kurt Warner Era, but is perfectly capable of 80 receptions, 800-1000 yds, and 8-10 TD’s with a healthy Carson Palmer. Fantasy owners can expect similar numbers from John Brown and Michael Floyd which means the Cardinals have three guys who are legit WR4 or better producers this season.
The RB situation in the desert is not nearly as appealing. Starter in name only, Andre Ellington, is not nearly big enough to last an entire season, so the Cards are looking at the RB by committee approach once again. The long term play here may be rookie David Johnson, the 6’1, 224lb third round pick out of Northern Iowa that has all the size that Ellington lacks. Assuming Johnson isn’t drafted in your league, he will likely become a hot waiver-wire pick after the first few weeks.
The Cardinals defense and special teams are an option for fantasy owners this season, though they may fall short of an every week play. They have a, “bend don’t break” approach that limits teams from scoring, allowing just 18.7 points per game last season, 5th best in the NFL.
The Cardinals are far from a favorite to reach the Super Bowl in 2015, but they are playoff contenders and one of the few teams who have been able to beat division favorite, the Seattle Seahawks.