Arizona Cardinals; 2012 Offseason Breakdown

Fantasy Football Fanatics

Arizona Cardinals; 2012 Offseason Breakdown

By, Eric Hartvigson

 

Stadium: University of Phoenix Stadium

Schedule Strength: 22nd

Postseason Weather issues: @ Sea Week 15

Offensive Line Ranking: 30th

 

Head Coach – Ken Whisenhunt; (Disciple of Bill Cowher)   A tight end for 9 seasons, Whisenhunt began his coaching as a Tight End and Special Teams Coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers.  He was then promoted to Steelers Offensive Coordinator in 2004 after the release of current Jags Head Coach Mike Mularkey.  Whisenhunt altered the identity of the Steelers offensive system from a “flashy trick play system” with Kordell Stewert, to more of a “Steelers brand of football” predicated upon running the football with well timed aggression (made famous for his Randle El to Hines Ward call during Super Bowl XL).   Now entering his 4th season in Arizona coach Whisenhunt has proven he continues to prefer a balanced run / pass Offensive System (ironically his best season in Arizona was in a vertical offense with Kurt Warner, Larry Fitz and Anquan Boldin).

Offensive Coordinator – Mike Miller;    Miller is one of the few NFL coaches having never played college or professional football. He began his NFL career in public relations as an intern for the Pittsburgh Steelers and later the Indianapolis Colts.  Earning a spot an Offensive Assistant for the Steelers under then Head Coach Bill Cowher, Miller worked closely with Offensive Coordinator Mike Mularkey, eventually following Mularkey to Buffalo.  Hired by Wisenhunt 2007 as the Wide Receivers coach, Miller would be moved up to the Cardinals Offensive Coordinator upon the hiring of Todd Haley by the Kansas City Chiefs.  Considering Wisenhunt’s background we know the Arizona offense will remain in the mold of the Head Coach as a run / pass balanced system.

QB – John Skelton, Kevin Kolb;    Traded to the Cardinals in 2011 for a second round pick along with Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Kolb looked to be the Quarterback of the future for the Arizona Cardinals.  Kolb started the first 8 games of 2011 season managing a meager 15 fantasy points per game ranking him 21st in fantasy scoring during that time period.  Kolb would suffer a turf toe injury in week 8 against the Baltimore Ravens, returning to play week 13, only to suffer a concussion in opening of week 14 causing him to miss the remainder of the season.  In Kolb’s absence stepped second year QB John Skelton. Showing great poise and maturity for a young gun slinger Skelton led the Cardinals to a 5-2 record.  At 6’ 6” and 250 lbs Skelton is more the prototypical body type for an NFL QB with a cannon arm.  In 5 of the 7 games Skelton started he averaged 21.2 points per game, although the other two he averaged 2.5 points per game.  Showing obvious growing pains, it was more than evident watching these two quarterbacks that Skelton is the superior player (you read that right).  To supply further evidence; Larry Fitzgerald managed 13.2 points per game with Skelton under center.  With Kolb as the starter Fitzergarld’s produced 9.2 fantasy points per game, a full 4 point difference.  There has been a heated quarterback competition in Arizona this offseason in a “best man for the job” mentality.  Just a few years back Whisenhunt sat 1st round pick Matt Leinart to start veteran Kurt Warner proving the most talented QB will start.  Although I’m a proponent of Skelton, this race seems to be deadlocked as of this writing (I’m sure management is pushing for Kolb).  It would be impossible to assess a Player Rating until a starter is declared, hopefully that man is Skelton.

RB1 – Chris “Beanie” Wells;    Coming out of Ohio State University in 2009, many speculated if Wells had the skill set to play in the NFL, while being touted as injury prone.  Surprisingly agile for a bigger running back Wells has proven the ability to play at the pro level running through and around defenders with a knack for tough goal line running (we’ve even witnessed a couple of Adrian Peterson-esque stiff arms).  However, the injury tag that followed Wells into the NFL has proven to be correct suffering multiple knee issues including microfracture surgery along with a recent surgery to repair a torn meniscus.  Wells Injury Prone status is a major Red Flag to fantasy owners.  We must also factor the Cardinals are shaping up to become an RBBC with the continued development of second year player Ryan Willams. Considering an extensive injury history, along with the progression of the Williams, Wells has a player rating of 7.3 entering the 2012 preseason.

RB2 – Ryan Williams;    A second round draft choice of the Arizona Cardinals in 2011, Williams ruptured his patella tendon during a preseason game causing him to miss the entire season. Suffering the injury early in the year has afforded Williams the required 10 months of healing time. A full participant during the Cardinals off-season activities also indicates Williams is well on the way to a full recovery (although the preseason will give the full insight). His status as a high draft choice means the Arizona Cardinals believe Williams has the skill set to play in the NFL and will give Williams plenty of opportunity to prove himself.  There has even been speculation of Williams taking over as the lead back, and should Well injury linger into the season, this could be open up the door for Williams to emerge as a 3-down-runningback.  On the downside, turmoil at the quarterback position along with a subpar offense of line will limit the Cardinals running attack. Given the high value of the fantasy runningback, and Wisenhunt’s priority to run the football, Williams has potential to become a valuable fantasy commodity warranting a pre-draft player rating of 7.6, with upside.

WR1 – Larry Fitzgerald;    Amongst the NFL’s most God gifted wide receivers in the game today Fitzgerald is a freakish athlete with amazing hands, excellent vertical leap, down field speed and red-zone threat making him the total package. The only concern we have is who will start at quarterback for the Cardinals in the new season. As stated above, with Kevin Kolb under center Fitzgerald’s production declined significantly. Should John Skelton earn this job it would certainly cause an upgrade in Fitzgerald’s preseason value. As of right now Fitzgerald carries a player rating of 9.4 as he will surely be a high draft choice in every fantasy league.

WR2 – Michael Floyd;     Coming out of Notre Dame Floyd was the 13th overall choice in the 2011 NFL Draft.  A 6’3”, 220 pound wide receiver he presents a size and skill sets to be a productive player in the NFL. Early reports indicate that Floyd is going the extra mile attending Larry Fitzgerald’s offseason training session.  On the downside, the first knock we find is playing opposite one of the most prolific wide receivers in the NFL, leading to a lack of targets. We should further speculate if the Cardinals balanced offensive system will generate enough passing yards to sustain multiple wide receivers. Also, Floyd will need to pass incumbent number two wide receiver Early Doucet.  Finally, should Kevin Kolb start under center, expect a lack of production for all Cardinals wide receiver greatly influencing the forecasted value of Michael Floyd.  Entering 2012 we should anticipate a player rating of 7.3

TE – Todd Heap;    Once amongst the fantasy football’s better tight ends at age 32 Heap is on the downhill side of his career. Considering that coach Wisenhunt played the position in college, we would expect more involvement from the Cardinals tight ends.  However, that has not materialized since the hiring or Wisenhunt.  We are also hearing reports that fellow tight end Rob Housler has been impressive during off-season workouts. As of this moment no Cardinals tight end is recommended as Heap carries a player rating of 6.0.

Def – Arizona Cardinals;    The Arizona Cardinals showed improvement last season as second-year cornerback Patrick Peterson looks to be one of the leagues emerging “shutdown Cornerbacks”. Arizona does have above-average talent at a number of other positions including Darnell Docket, Calais Campbell and safety Adrian Wilson. If your league awards heavily for special teams play, Patrick Peterson is also an electric kick returner proving last year that he is a threat to score on every kickoff.  Arizona does a number of favorable matchups on their schedule, but also faces New England, Philly, Green Bay, Atlanta and Detroit.  We should view the Cardinals defense as a spot start unit at best warranting a player rating of 7.3.

K – Jay Feeley;    Feeley’s major advantage is having a home stadium in the warm / dry climate of the Arizona desert. However, playing alongside a very average offense typically does not lead to quality fantasy kicker production. Feeley has a mediocre player rating of 7.4, meaning better options should be available

About Eric Hartvigson