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Don't Sleep on the Cardinals Offense
A lot of people may not be familiar with the Arizona Cardinals offense outside of Larry Fitzgerald. You must realize however that Bruce Arians is now the head coach, the man who revitalized Reggie Wayne's career and helped create an offense that gave Andrew Luck and his receivers success even with a minimal running game. People will think of the past few seasons where the Cardinals offense tanked but they have patched the holes that were left after their Super Bowl run. They finally have a legit QB throwing the ball to Fitzgerald in Carson Palmer. Fitz is also not the only weapon on offense anymore. Last year's first round choice Michael Floyd is being groomed in OTAs to take on a "larger load" and Tight End Rob Housler has also been generating a lot of hype from Cardinals camp. Their backfield has also gotten an upgrade in Rashard Mendenhall, who prior to injury seemed like the back of the future for the Steelers. The point I'm trying to make is do not undervalue Cardinals members due to the failures of the past few seasons. Larry Fitzgerald is in line for a monster year as he will be playing a similar role to Reggie Wayne from last season. Fitz is still in his prime. Imagine the possibilities that Arians will create for him. He may have the best season of his career and I would not be surprised. Draft him with confidence in all leagues in the beginning of round 2. I believe every other member of the offense will also have fantasy value, but it is hard to say how much exactly. Floyd and slot receiver Andre Roberts could both have big years, but I would say Housler is more in line to have a breakout year. I would also draft Mendenhall as my RB2 in rounds 4 to 5. He has proven he is a goal-line back and could end up as a steal that late.
NFL Running Backs in Contract Year 2013
People familiar to fantasy sports know that contract years can play a major role in predicting a big year from a player. This years notable "contract year" running backs include: Darren McFadden: When he stays healthy, he's a monster. The question is if he can actually play out an entire year. The Raiders are ditching the zone-blocking scheme of last year and are going back to a scheme that will allow McFadden to be the key to the offense. He will have to be amazing, especially with unproven Matt Flynn at the helm, for the Raiders to win games. Expect a big year from McFadden while crossing your fingers that he avoids the injury bug. Maurice Jones-Drew: Last year was certainly a disaster for MJD. First his attempt to hold out ended up as a failure, then he got a LIsfranc foot injury knocking him out for the majority of the season, and just recently he gets in a fight at a bar. I doubt that management is going to extend him a new offer and he is likely playing for a new contract with another team. While he is still not practicing, expect a motivated year from him to try and make the Jaguars look stupid for not extending him. Rashard Mendenhall: He couldn't get the multi-year contract that he wanted so is playing on a one year deal with the Cardinals. This is his chance to prove he can handle the RB1 load again. His main competition is Ryan Williams, who cannot seem to avoid injury. Now with Carson Palmer at the helm, the Cardinals offense may be in for a revival this season. Expect a healthy dose of run to keep pressure off Palmer and to utilize their new first round draft choice left guard Jonathan Cooper, who is known for his run blocking. Ben Tate: The famous Arian Foster handcuff has not been able to showcase his skills as a RB1 as Foster has proven to be a pretty dependable back. Fumble issues have also lowered Tates opportunities to handle the rock in crucial situations. However with an extra year of experience, and another year of pounding for Foster, Kubiak would be wise to give Tate some extra carries this year to keep Foster fresh for the playoffs. Marcel Reece: Marcel had a big year last year filling in for McFadden while he was injured. It would be wise for anyone drafting McFadden to handcuff him with Reece in the later rounds. Reece has proven he can be productive if given the carries and targets. If McFadden goes down early and Reece is able to start for a majority of the year, he could be in line for a big payday next year. Joe McKnight: McKnight likely won't be able to get many carries with Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, and Mike Goodson all ahead of him on the depth chart. I would not draft him in any leagues. He will likely be used for special teams. Scroll through the pictures and highlight videos with the arrows. Photos by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images, Jim Rassol, Sun Sentinel, Al Bello/Getty Images.
Rankings for 2013 of Currently Active Quarterbacks Drafted #1 Overall
There are 10 quarterbacks who are still active in the NFL today that were taken as the overall # 1 pick in their respective drafts. These are my projected rankings for this year (based on last year + 2013 projection). Please comment with your own lists or whether you agree/disagree with mine. 1. Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos) - The oldest member of this group, he proved many doubters wrong last year by putting up another excellent season. I expect this to carry on into this year unless his body fails him. I expect a 4500+ yards, 35 TD, 10 INT season. Now this is where things get tricky. I had a lot of difficulty choosing from 2 to 7. But here is my opinion. 2. Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts) - Sometimes the NFL seems unfair. The Colts first had Peyton Manning and now they have Andrew Luck who showed last year that he was deserving of the #1 overall pick. Last year's offensive coordinator Bruce Arians has left for Arizona and we'll see this year if that has a major impact on Luck's production. However I think Luck's intelligence of the game and physical skill set will allow him to continue last seasons successful campaign. I think he'll improve on last years 54.1% completion percentage, especially with the addition of Ahmad Bradshaw who instantly upgrades the Colts backfield and pass protection. I expect a 4500 yard, 25 TD, 15INT, 5 Rushing TD season this year. 3. Eli Manning (New York Giants) - Probably the most steady QB, he has consistently put up at least 26 TDs and ~4000 yards for the past 4 seasons. I think the loss of Bradshaw may cause the Giants to pass more, but I'm worried about sophomore running back David Wilson's pass protection. The loss of Martellus Bennett doesn't help either, but they signed Brandon Myers who is no slouch himself. With Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks both in contract years (at least for now), I think Manning may be in line for another 4000 yards 30 TD 15 INT campaign this season. 4. Matthew Stafford (Detroit Lions) - Last year was a disaster for Stafford. You can't post a 20/17 TD/INT ratio when you have the game's best wide receiver in Calvin Johnson. To be fair, every team in the NFL was double teaming him almost every play because the Lions didn't have another threat. I expect new acquisition Reggie Bush to play a major role in the Lions aerial attack either from the backfield or maybe even in the slot to put the pressure on the defense. Nate Burleson and Brandon Pettigrew must also step up this year and I expect a more balanced offensive attack with Mikel Leshoure and Bush sharing carries from the backfield. I say Stafford is in line for a 4500 yard, 28 TD, 16 INT season. 5. Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals) - Sleeper Pick! People might think I'm crazy, but Palmer quietly had a nice season last year in Oakland and put up a 4000 yards, 22 TD, 14 INT line with a passer rating of 85 with the Raiders receiving core. Now he has Larry Fitzgerald, Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts, a much improved Cardinals O-line with the return of blindside protector Levi Brown, and Rashard Mendenhall in the backfield. Bruce Arians will find a way to make this offense work and I expect Palmer to have a turn back the clock year with a 4300 yards, 28 TD, 15 INT year. 6. Sam Bradford (St. Louis Rams) - The loss of Steven Jackson hurts but the additions of Tavon Austin and Jared Cook gives Bradford weapons he's never had before. Reports out of camp indicate they are going to use Austin A LOT. The lack of an experienced backfield gives me the feeling the Rams attack will turn aerial this year, and outside receivers Chris Givens and Brian Quick will show this year why they were drafted by the Rams. I expect a breakout year from Bradford with a line of 4000 yards, 25 TD, 12 INT this season. 7. Cam Newton (Carolina Panthers) - It personally pains me to put Newton down this far in the list. I'm a fan of his freakish physical gifts but the guy has no second wide receiver and word out of camp is that the Panthers will run the read-option less frequently this year which will probably put a dent in Cam's rushing numbers. This may help to decrease the high number of fumbles Newton has been suspect to but he needs to prove to me that he can help the Panthers win. His low number of INTs from last year was nice but his pass percentage also decreased. The Panthers still seem to treat his throws with kid gloves showing Cam may not have the football IQ to handle a full NFL throwing playbook. We'll have to see this year. I expect a 3800 yard, 25 TD, 18 INT year with 5 rushing TDs. 8. Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs) - I expect Smith to have a sneaky quiet year with the Chiefs. I don't think he'll be asked to do much (just don't lose the game!) but he is familiar with the West Coast offense that Head Coach Andy Reid uses. I expect a lot of screens and swing passes to Jamaal Charles which may help pad Smith's numbers. If Jon Baldwin finally breaks out this year watch out. I predict a 3300 yard, 18 TD, 7 INT year for Smith who will be asked to not turn over the ball at all costs. 9. Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles) - I have no faith in Vick to last a full season. Last year was terrible for Vick who finished with 12 TDs and 10 INTs. While Chip Kelly's new offensive system may revive Vick's career, I will remain skeptical and expect him to get hurt sooner or later opening the door for Nick Foles to take over. I expect a 3000 yard, 14 TD, 10 INT year before he goes down to injury. 10. Jamarcus Russell (N/A) - He is making a comeback! Before all the fat jokes come, he has supposedly shed a lot of weight and who doesn't like a come back story? We'll see if he ever gets another chance in the NFL but I am rooting for him. Disagree with my list? Leave a comment! Click the arrows on the side for pictures.