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You aren’t going to find many bigger Larry Fitzgerald fans than yours truly. I have forever loved the way he approaches the game. He learned how to prepare for an NFL season from Cris Carter and followed in his footsteps of gathering WRs around the league for a grueling camp.

 

Not only does he prepare intensely, and take young players under his wing (Sidney Rice last year for example), but he never seems to be in conflict with the team or his teammates, let alone not getting in trouble off the field.

 

On the field is where he truly captivates me. He does not have blazing speed, but he simply finds a way to get it done. He has great hands, footwork, leaping ability, vision, etc. I should stop before I am accused of a man-crush on Fitz.

 

In six NFL seasons he has averaged 87.2 catches for 1177.8 yards (13.5 ypc), and 9.8 TDs. In four of his last five years he had at least 96 catches and double-digit TDs. In three of his last five years he had 1400+ receiving yards.

 

He’s been just a bout a sure thing for double-digit TDs as any RB out there the past few years. Not only did I consider him a first round pick last year, I considered him a mid-round (6-8) first round pick.

 

Things have changed though. Kurt Warner is gone and Matt Leinart is at the helm. Leinart has had his share of bumps and bruises, but he has had some success with Fitz in the past.

 

In 2006 they played in eight games together when Leinart was the starting QB. Fitz averaged 5.25 catches for 74 yards with 4 TDs. Those aren’t the numbers you have come to expect from Fitz, but he has come a long way from 2006. I am counting on Leinart to do the same when he’s finally given another chance this year.

 

Not only did he lose his QB, but Fitz lost his running mate. While Steve Breaston and Early Doucet are quality WRs, they aren’t Anquan Boldin. I’m not sure how much that will affect Fitz though. Last year Boldin missed Week 9 and Fitz torched Chicago for 123 yards and 2 TDs. In 2008 Boldin missed Weeks 5, 6, 16 & 17 and Fitz caught 20 passes for 362 yards and 6 TDs in his absence. In 2007 Boldin was out Weeks 4, 5, 6 & 14 and Fitz caught 31 passes for 432 yards and 2 TDs in those four games.

 

I also think the Cardinals will lean much heavier on the run with Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower taking some of the pressure off of Leinart. Kurt Warner was an elite talent so it made sense to rely on his arm. Leinart has ability, but there is going to be a philosophy change in the desert.

 

I’m not expecting another 1400 yard season for Fitz, but I do have him ranked high among WRs (click to see rankings) with a projection of 100 catches for 1250 yards and 10 TDs. Those are first round numbers, but I can see the argument that I’m being overly optimistic.

 

Mock Draft Central has Fitz with an ADP of 11. I would put him right around there as well. I would prefer RBs like AP, Chris Johnson, MJD, Michael Turner, Frank Gore, Ray Rice, and Steven Jackson over Fitz. I would also rather have WRs Andre Johnson and Reggie Wayne as well. I do like Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees a lot, but I’d rather grab Fitz and settle for a Manning, Brady, Romo, Schaub, or Rivers later.

 

That puts Fitz at the 10th pick in my book, so yes I do consider him a first round pick still. Remember, I may be a little biased since I am such a big fan, but there aren’t many guys that you can basically pencil in for 1000+ yard and 10 TDs. I believe Fitz remains on of them.

 

What do you expect from Larry Fitzgerald?

 

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A typical fantasy football league consists of 12 teams nine starters (QB, two RBs, three WRs, TE, K, D) and anywhere from five to seven bench players. If you go with the latter bench allotment, you’re looking at 16 roster spots or 192 draft picks. By that definition, any sleeper should have an average draft position about 180 or lower.

 

Arizona Cardinals WR Early Doucet sports an ADP of 263 according to Mock Draft Central. That would make him the eleventh pick of the 21st round and somewhere around the 85th WR taken. That would make him a WR7 in 12-team leagues, or most likely not on a roster.

 

I feel he has the upside to warrant taking a chance on him much earlier in fantasy drafts. For starters, he showed big play potential in last year’s playoffs combining for 14 catches for 145 yards and 2 TDs in the Cardinals’ win over Green Bay and loss to the Saints.

 

Not only that, but Anquan Boldin has moved on to Baltimore, meaning Doucet should have a bigger role in the offense. Obviously Larry Fitzgerald will be the primary target and Breaston will likely continue to be the deep threat. Doucet should see a big bump in targets working the slot.

 

Life would be better for all of the Cardinal WRs if Kurt Warner hadn’t hung up his cleats, but I feel Leinart will be solid. He’s had time to mature and learn the offense under one of the best QBs to ever play.

 

They have some solid match-up against the Rams twice, the Seahawks twice, the Raiders (he won’t have to face Asomugha), Bucs, and Chiefs. Their schedule helps his cause.

 

I’m not saying you should count on him as a WR4 even, but he could put up those kind of numbers. I’m just saying I would take a chance on him over some of the players who on average have gone before him in drafts. I’m talking about guys like Chansi Stuckey, Michael Jenkins, Armanti Edwards, Torry Holt, Troy Williamson, Sam Hurd, Juaquin Iglesias, Damian Williams etc.

 

Prediction:  65 catches, 800 yards, 4 TDs

 

What are your thoughts on Early Doucet?

 

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The Cardinals enter the 2010 with as much uncertainty as any other NFL team. They lost leaders (Kurt Warner, Karlos Dansby) on both sides of the ball. Matt Leinart is in line to take over the QB position. Derek Anderson was brought in to push him.

 

Fantasy Playoff Schedule:  Slightly Unfavorable
The Cards draw Denver, Carolina, and Dallas in the fantasy playoffs. The Denver (and Dallas) game is at home so weather shouldn’t play a factor.

 

Five Star Fantasy Options
Larry Fitzgerald – Talent is talent. It hurts losing Warner, but Leinart has been in the system for a long time. Fitz may not be the top rated WR any more, but he’s close.

 

Four Star Fantasy Options
None

 

Three Star Fantasy Options
Beanie Wells – After a solid rookie season (793 yards, 7 TDs), Beanie should be even better in 2010. He scored six of his TDs from Week 10 on.

 

Two Star Fantasy Options
Matt Leinart – If he wins the starting job like I expect he makes for a solid backup fantasy QB. Despite Anquan Boldin’s departure, he still has plenty of weapons at WR.

 

Tim Hightower – I expect Hightower to take a less prominent role in the offense, but he still should be a viable flex position option. With Beanie Wells’ injury history, he could be counted on even more.

 

Steve Breaston/Early Doucet – Boldin’s departure opens the door for Breaston and Doucet to see increased production. Look for Breaston’s numbers to be more like 2008 than 2009. Doucet averaged 7 catches for 72.5 yards in two playoff games last year. Expect more of that in 2010.

 

Cardinals Defense/Special Teams:  Dansby will be missed, but they will still be a spot start defense when they have favorable match-ups.

 

Click here for additional 2010 NFL Team Previews.

Nobody should have been surprised when Kurt Warner decided to hang it up. Not after the vicious hit he took against the Saints. There was a lot of money left on the table, but Warner isn’t motivated by money.

So what is the fantasy fallout from his retirement? First of all, the QB rankings have to be adjusted. I had Warner ranked 11th because of the retirement speculation. I may be higher on Matt Leinart than most as I have him ranked at 17th. That means the QBs ranked 11th through 16th get bumped a spot (click to see rankings).

Though Leinart has shown little to date, he goes into the offseason with a chance to earn the starting job. I know he’s been in that situation before, but he doesn’t have a former MVP breathing down his neck. I can’t imagine he didn’t learn under Warner’s guidance. Plus, he’s got weapons galore. Would I want his as a fantasy starter, no. However, he could be a solid backup and spot starter.

Even if Leinart holds his own next year, he’s not Kurt Warner. The WRs are going to take a hit. I bumped Larry Fitzgerald down a notch (click to see rankings). I left Boldin where he’s at because of the chance he have a new home in 2010. Steve Breaston is the wildcard. If Boldin leaves, he could have some value. I’m afraid if he stays, Breaston will be no more than a spot starter. Guys like Early Doucet and Jerheme Urban saw their fantasy value sink even lower.

The RBs should be the big winners in this situation. Ken Whisenhunt is from a run-heavy background, and he has two talented backs in Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower. Beanie should be the workhorse back on the ground. Don’t rule out Tim Hightower being a flex option as well. He should get his share of carries and see plenty of Matt Leinart check downs.

While the Cardinals won’t have as potent an offense in 2010, they should still have several key fantasy performers.

By Marc Mancuso

Everyone wants to avoid overspeding these days. Things that may look nice and shiny and sound good are not always the path to happiness. These guys had amazing 2008 seasons, but they are bubbles waiting to burst. In keeping with the economic theme, past results are not predictors of future performance….

All Overvalued Team:
QB: Kurt Warner, ARI — I am seeing Warner go in rounds 3 & 4 of drafts. Really? The guy is 38 years old with a very suspect injury past, having played only two full seasons this decade (2001 and 2008)

RB: Michael Turner, ATL — The consensus #2 overall but I’m not buying it. Matt Ryan has new toys and its expected that the Falcons will open up the playbook in his sophomore season. That plus the dreaded rule of 370 to me sounds better at #6 than at #2.

RB: DeAngelo Williams, CAR — Timeshare with Jonathan Stewart again this year. Barring injury, DeAngelo will not reach his lofty 2008 numbers. Let someone else take the chance on a 1st round pick. T he Panthers didn’t see enough in DeWill or they would not have drafted Stewart as their top draft pick in 2008.

WR: Antonio Bryant, TB Those expecting a repeat of last season’s success will be disappointed. A very suspect QB situation, and three viable RB’s, point to fewer targets and particularly downfield targets. Awesome as a #3 but think twice about drafting him as your #2. Bryant has already gotten nicked in camp with a torn meniscus and will miss 3-4 weeks.

WR: Santonio Holmes, PIT A good Super Bowl does not a good fantasy player make (ala Deon Branch). I like his talent and speed, but he’s far too inconsistent to be a #2 WR. I am seeing him go in round 3 of drafts. Pittsburgh reverted back to a running team last year after putting up big numbers through the air in 2007. This despite injuries to Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall, and Hines Ward never seems to age, are all factors will further diminish Holmes’ overall value.

WR: Brandon Marshall, DEN Elite talent, but too many question marks to consider him in the 3rd or 4th rounds. Kyle Orton does not have the gun that Jay Cutler had, and Marshall’s hip and hamstring issues, combined with a potential suspension, puts him in very high risk territory.

TE: John Carlson, SEA — Seneca Wallace is back on the bench, TJ Housh is on the team, and Nate Burleson is back and healthy and getting rave reviews thus far at camp. All signs point to Carlson going back to a middle of the road TE, who should not be considered a #1 option.

Anquan Boldin catching
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It doesn’t look like Anquan Boldin is going anywhere.  At least not any time soon, which is good news for Cardinals fans, and most likely Boldin owners since you don’t know where he’d end up.  He’s in a pretty good setup with Kurt Warner at QB running the high-powered offense with Larry Fitzgerald drawing the opposition’s attention.  Though he has to share with Fitz, they have shown there are plenty of fantasy goodies for both of them.  Though he didn’t finish strong, Boldin had 100+ yards and/or a TD in in eight of his first nine games, including a six-game TD streak. Now Boldin just needs to show he can stay healthy.  He has missed multiple games in four of his six years in the league, including four in each of the past two years. 

I would roll with him as my #1 WR, but I would prefer him as my #2 if possible considering his injury history.  Of course that would mean taking two WRs with my first three picks since Boldin is going early in the third round in fantasy drafts.  It may be a good idea to try and land Steve Breaston as insurance if you draft Boldin.  Not only does Breaston put up solid numbers in his own right, but he would see a dramatic increase if Boldin went down.  My prediction for Boldin is 80 receptions for 1200 yards and 10 TDs.

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If Kurt Warner can hold off Father Time for one more season, it should be a good one.  He has the best WR in the game in Larry Fitzgerald, and the best WR tandem in Fitz and Anquan Boldin.  He also has Steve Breaston and Jerheme Urban at his disposal.  Beanie Wells should be an upgrade over Edgerrin James, which should help balance the offense a bit.  Despite that and Todd Haley’s departure, the Cardinals should still be a pass-first offense.  Warner has been nothing short of brilliant in Arizona throwing for 57 TDs the past two seasons.  He has such a quick release that he should be able to stay on the field.

Warner faces some tough Defenses this year (Indianapolis, Houston, Giants, Chicago, Tennessee, and Minnesota), but has a very favorable fantasy football playoffs schedule.  In Weeks 14-16 he faces  San Francisco, Detroit, and St. Louis. Weather shouldn’t be much of a factor as he has just two cold game opportunites when they play the Giants in Giants Stadium on October 25th and the Bears in Soldier Field on November 8th.

Because of his soft playoff schedule I have Warner ranked 4th on my QB board.  I expect a small dip in his production, but expect him to put up 4200 yards and 25 TDs.  You should get decent value on Warner as he’ll likely be drafted in the late third/fourth round.

drew-brees
1. Drew Brees 
Brees is still top dog.  Although Tom Brady has answered some early questions, he still is more of a risk than Brees as the top gunslinger.
Previous Ranking:  #1

2. Tom Brady
Brady has answered some questions like I stated.  I moved him up a slot because now Manning has questions.  Brady and Bill will want to prove they are the reason for the explosive offense.
Previous Ranking:  #3

3. Peyton Manning
You have been able to pencil Manning for a solid 4000 yard, 25-28 TD season for forever, but without Dungy and Harrison, Manning doesn’t seem to be the lock he once was.
Previous Ranking:  #2

4.  Kurt Warner 
Boldin is still in town.  Warner’s fantasy football playoff schedule of  San Francisco, Detroit, and St. Louis in Weeks 14-16 solidify his high ranking.
Previous Ranking:  #4

5.  Aaron Rodgers
It’s been a quiet offseason for Rodgers and the Packers.  After last year’s fiasco, it must be very welcoming.  Rodgers can concentrate on playing football, something he did quite well last year despite the distractions.  I expect him to be even better in 2009.
Previous Ranking:  #5

 
philip-rivers-handoff
6.  Philip Rivers
They won’t throw as much, but Rivers has so many weapons (Gates, LT, Chambers, Vincent Jackson, Floyd, Sproles, etc.) that he’ll be just fine.
Previous Ranking:  #6

7.  Tony Romo
Romo is another one who has to be enjoying the relative quiet the departure of T.O. has created.  If Roy Williams can step up, Romo could be better by subtraction.
Previous Ranking:  #7

8.  Donovan McNabb
The addition of Jeremy Maclin, even if he’s similar to DeSean Jackson, is enough for me to move him up a couple of slots. 
Previous Ranking:  #10

9.  Matt Ryan
Ryan wasn’t in the first top ten group, but Atlanta has added Tony Gonzalez, the best pass-catching Tight End in NFL history.  With Gonzo, Roddy White, and Michael Jenkins, Ryan will have plenty of options.
Previous Ranking:  Unranked

10.  Carson Palmer
Palmer is still in my top ten, but he’s fading fast.  It appears that Ocho Cinco is going to be a problem again in 2009. 
Previous Ranking:  #9

*Jay Cutler was previous #8, but his move to Chicago and the lack of weapons moved him out of my top ten.

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Top Ten QB Rankings #1

This is my preseason top ten.Click here for my Midseason revised rankings.

Click here for my Second Half rankings.

drew-brees
1. Drew Brees
All he did was pass for 5069 yards and 34 TDs last year despite having his top wideout, Marques Colston, miss five games.  In his three years with New Orleans Drew is averaging 4637 yards and 29 TDs.  To put it into perspective, Peyton Manning has never thrown for 4600 yards in a season.
2. Peyton Manning
Old reliable.  He has never thrown less that 26 TD passes in a season.  Only twice has his passing yardage dipped below the 4000 yard mark.  You can pretty much pencil him in for 4200 yards and 28 TDs.  Others may finish ahead of him, but the come at a higher risk.  For example, in 2006 the top five QBs were Manning, Brees, Bulger, Palmer, and Kitna.  In 2007 it was Brady, Romo, Manning, Big Ben, and Brees.  Last year it was Brees, Rodgers, Rivers, Culter, and Warner (Manning was sixth).  The two constants are Brees and Manning, who happen to be my top two fantasy QBs for 2009,

3. Tom Brady
I know he’s coming off a major injury, but he’s had far more time than Carson Palmer had to rehab when he tore his knee.  Brady had 4806 yards and 50 TDs in 2007.  50 TDs.  Randy Moss and Wes Welker are still there.  Plus, don’t you get the feeling Bill Belichick wants Brady to put up huge numbers to discredit Josh McDaniels’ influence?  Matt Cassel was seventh in QB scoring last year, and with all due respect to Mr. Cassel, he is no Tom Brady.

4.  Kurt Warner
QB is the one position where players can maintain their excellence well into their thirties.  As long as Anquan Boldin is with the Cardinals, Warner remains one of the top QBs.  Even if he holds out or forces a trade, Warner has great weapons in Fitz, Steve Breaston, and Jerheme Urban.

5.  Aaron Rodgers
Rogers impressed me last year.  He was the second highest scoring QB despite having to deal with the Brett Favre circus and expectations.  With a year under his belt and a training camp in which he can just focus on football, I expect Rodgers to be the top young QB next year.  He has plenty of weapons and his ability to add points with his feet are a huge help.
philip-rivers-handoff
6.  Philip Rivers
I would rank Rivers higher, but I think he’ll have a couple of factors working against him next year.  First and foremost, I believe the Chargers Defense will be better in 2009.  They won’t be in as many shootouts next year.  Second, as their D improves, their reliance on the ground game will increase.  LT should be healthy and Sproles will get more carries.  Rivers’ yardage will remain around 4000, but the TD number (34) will take a hit.
7.  Tony Romo
Romo will miss T.O. on the field.  It’s had to replace a double-digit TD guy.  Roy Williams is solid, but he’s not T.O.  Defenses will be able to key in on Jason Witten more, meaning is go-to-guy could have more difficulty getting open.  Plus, with a trio of backs in MB3, Felix Jones, and Choice, the Cowboys could get back to more smashmouth football.
8.  Jay Cutler
In a perfect world Jay Cutler would probably be the third guy on my list.  Unfortunately there are several strikes against him.  Namely the ongoing drama with his new Coach and the potential four-game suspension of his top target Brandon Marshall.  He has the ability to climb this list, but as of now I’m a little leery of his situation.
9.  Carson Palmer
A healthy Palmer should easily be able to crack the Top 10.  Laveranues Coles is no T.J. Houshmandzadeh, but he’s a solid wideout.  As long as Chad Ocho Cinco doesn’t force his way out of Cincinnati, Palmer should be able to throw for 4000 and 25 TDs.
10.  Donovan McNabb
Even if his team won’t give him the tools he needs to do his job, McNabb will find a way to make it work.  He always does.  Kevin Curtis should be healthy and DeSean Jackson has a year of experience.

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Manny signing with the Dodgers wasn’t the only big Free Agent re-signing.  You have to jump leagues to the NFL though for the other big signing of the day.  Kurt Warner and the Arizona Cardinals agreed to a two-year, $23 million deal, $19 million of which is guaranteed.  Unlike Manny, the likeable Kurt actually was willing to negotiate with the Cardinals.

Kurt has been unbelievable in Arizona throwing for exactly 8000 yards and 57 TDs the past two years.  The signing is great news for Larry Fitzgerald owners, and the fact that Warner was willing to take less money, could allow the Card to make his other wideout, Anquan Boldin, happy with an extension of his own.  After losing their Offensive Coordinator, it was key to have a veteran run the system.  It would have probably been too much for Matt Leinart to handle.


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