Now that we have a blog, I thought I'd take some time to write about how I project players every year. And, as part of my job, I project everyone offensively. someone with an extensive track record is easier to project than someone with no track record, and Larry Fitzgerald has been in the league for years. He's an easy guy to evaluate.
The first question: How many games will he play. I think Fitzgerald can safely be penciled in for 16. Even though he'll be 31 when the season starts I think he'll hold up like he has in each of his last six seasons.
Now let's consider his role: Full-time player. Fitzgerald will play the overwhelming majority of downs and is considered the No. 1 receiver on the Cardinals. Last year he caught just over 60 percent of the 136 targets he got, roughly 8.5 per game. I'm hesitant to say he'll receive more work this year than last year because the Cardinals still have Michael Floyd and added two new pieces in Ted Ginn and John Carlson. I doubt Carlson makes a dent but Ginn might -- he had only eight fewer targets than Andre Roberts had last year. So I'd ball park Fitzgerald with the same amount of targets this year as he had last year. However, I expect his catch rate to improve a little bit because the Cardinals O-line will give Carson Palmer a bit more time to throw accurately. At about 62 percent, he's catching 85 passes.
His receiving average didn't rebound last year, finishing at 11.6 yards per catch after getting 11.2 during his hellish year when the Cardinals quarterback carousel broke down in a Skelton-Hoyer-Lindley-esque mess. Again, if Carson Palmer can get a little more time behind his line, his receivers can develop further downfield in their routes. Then again, I don't know how many go routes Fitzgerald is going to run these days, especially with Floyd and Ginn better suited for those roles. I'll give Fitzgerald a nominal increase in receiving average but not a lot more. I'll put him at 11.9 yards per catch.
That puts Fitzgerald at 1,011 yards -- it would be his first 1,000-yard season in three years.
Now then ... touchdowns. This is the least scientific projection of them all. Fitz had 10 last year with Palmer, six in the red zone. Again, assuming the offense improves, Fitzgerald should get close to that number. I prefer to be conservative with older receivers but I feel good about Fitzgerald throwing down nine scores.
The guy has four fumbles in 156 games. I'm not projecting one for him this year.
So there's your projected line for Larry Fitzgerald: 85 catches for 1,011 yards and nine touchdowns. Agree/disagree? Find me on Twitter @daverichard or drop me a note here.