Offseason Primers: Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals made two important moves this offseason, and Larry Fitzgerald couldn't be any happier. They added an offensive-minded coach who likes downfield passing in Bruce Arians, and they traded for a capable quarterback in Carson Palmer.

Has Fitzgerald stopped smiling yet?

The Kevin Kolb experiment is over after he was cut this offseason, and the Cardinals are now going with Palmer after he was added in a trade from Oakland. Arians will do a great job of helping Palmer improve. After all, he turned Ben Roethlisberger into a star and helped Andrew Luck develop into a future standout in his past two stops as offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh and Indianapolis, respectively.

2012 Touches Leaders
689 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
LaRod Stephens-Howling 127 (110 car., 17 rec.) 18.4%
Beanie Wells 89 (88 car., 1 rec.) 12.9%
William Powell 79 (60 car., 19 rec.) 11.4%
Larry Fitzgerald 71 rec. 10.3%
Andre Roberts 68 (4 car., 64 rec.) 9.8%
All Others 255 37.0%

The Cardinals still have to fix an abysmal offensive line that allowed 58 sacks, which were the most in the NFL, and that should be a tough task for Arians. But there are plenty of positives in the desert, and Fantasy owners should pay attention on Draft Day.

They also added Rashard Mendenhall, and he should return as a starting Fantasy running back. And Fitzgerald should rebound from a down year in 2012 thanks to Arians and Palmer. Arizona also has other quality receiving options in Michael Floyd, Andre Roberts and Rob Housler, and we hope Palmer can maximize their talents, which would create more options for us to choose from.

Larry Fitzgerald -- Bounce-back candidate

2012 Target Leaders
608 pass attempts
Larry Fitzgerald 156 25.6%
Andre Roberts 114 18.7%
Michael Floyd 86 14.1%
Rob Housler 68 11.1%
Early Doucet 53 8.7%
All Others 131 21.5%

No one was happier with the addition of Arians and Palmer than Fitzgerald. He needs a change because 2012 was the worst season of his career, and it was predominately because of poor quarterback play. Fitzgerald was limited to 71 catches for 798 yards and four touchdowns, and he finished as the No. 41 receiver despite being the seventh-most targeted receiver (156) in the NFL. So it was clear the Cardinals were trying to get Fitzgerald the ball, but they weren't having much success. Now, the Cardinals have a coach who likes to get the ball down field and a capable quarterback, and that will only help Fitzgerald improve. He should be considered a low-end No. 1/high-end No. 2 Fantasy receiver on Draft Day, and we recommend drafting him with a pick in Round 4. If he bounces back as expected then he should be a steal. And something to keep in mind: Arians took Reggie Wayne in Indianapolis coming off a down year in 2011 and returned him to prominence in 2012. Of course, he had Luck on his side. We can only hope Fitzgerald has a similar outcome with Palmer in his future.

Rashard Mendenhall -- Bounce-back candidate, take II

I spoke with Arians at the NFL owners meeting in Phoenix, and he hinted that Mendenhall would be the starter this season. "I prefer one guy," Arians said, and he gushed about Mendenhall since the two have a history going back to Pittsburgh. "Adding a player the caliber of Rashard, a proven back who can carry you to the Super Bowl, not only helps the football team but it helps your locker room. Obviously we have a good history together. I know how to use him. He's a heck of a player in all phases. He never has to come out of the game." Mendenhall struggled in 2012, his last with the Steelers, after coming back from a torn ACL in 2011. But he averaged over 1,000 rushing yards a season from 2009-11 before getting hurt. He will likely share carries with Ryan Williams, but Mendenhall has the potential to be a No. 2 Fantasy running back. He's worth drafting as early as Round 5 in the majority of leagues.

Michael Floyd -- Late-round flier

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Carson Palmer 155-163 overall
Brian Hoyer Undrafted
Rashard Mendenhall 39-44 overall
Ryan Williams 92-100 overall
Larry Fitzgerald 42-49 overall
Michael Floyd Undrafted
Andre Roberts Undrafted
Rob Housler Undrafted

Floyd, like most of the Cardinals offensive players, had a down year in 2012. He's hoping his second year in the NFL will go a little better. As a rookie last season, Floyd had 45 catches for 562 yards and two touchdowns. He was the No. 3 receiver behind Fitzgerald and Roberts, but his role is expected to expand this season. He closed 2012 on a high note with eight catches for 166 yards and a touchdown in Week 17 on 14 targets, and we hope he can build off that performance. Floyd is worth a late-round flier in all leagues this year, especially with the addition of Palmer, and he should be taken with a mid-round selection in dynasty leagues. We expect Floyd to eventually become a playmaker, but the passing attack in Arizona will have to improve for that to happen.

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Senior Fantasy Writer

Jamey Eisenberg has been a Senior Fantasy Writer for CBS Sports since 2006 with a focus on Fantasy Football. A University of Florida grad (class of '98), Jamey got his start in the newspaper business and... Full Bio

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