Arizona Cardinals Team Profile 2016 by Utter-Fantasy Writer & Illustrator Doug Bowles
HC Bruce Arians became an NFL head coach for the first time when hired by Arizona on January 17, 2013. Named the Associated Press Coach of the Year after leading the Cardinals to an 11-5 record and a berth in the postseason in 2014. In 2015, Arians (with a healthy Carson Palmer), lead the team to yet another post-season appearance, and top of the NFC West division with a 13-3 regular season record. The NFC West title earned the Arizona Cardinals a “bye’ in the Wild Card Weekend, and the following week they beat Green Bay in the Divisional game. Losing to Carolina in the Conference game cost Arizona a shot at the Super Bowl.
2016 Team Outlook- The NFC West consists of Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis and San Francisco. Even with RB Marshawn Lynch retiring, the Seahawks will still be contenders in that division. St. Louis and San San Francisco have major concerns at the quarterback position, for starters, so it should be another Arizona/ Seattle slugfest for the division.
2016 Fantasy Football Outlook-
QB- Carson Palmer had a career year in 2015, throwing for 4671 yard, 35 touch down passes- only 11 INTS. Palmer’s worst game unfortunately came in the Cardinals’ blowout loss to the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game. Carson Palmer completed 23-of-40 passes for 235 yards, one touchdown, and four interceptions and lost two fumbles. Palmer is 36 years old ( he’ll be 37 on December 27th, 2016) but Palmer was a legitimate MVP candidate and plays in an offense with playmakers all around him. He also has one of the best head coaches in the NFL. He should once again be a solid QB1 in 2016 and a top 10 fantasy football quarterback for fantasy owners.
RBs- Atlanta Falcon RB Devonta Freeman was the running back star of the 1st half of the 2015 NFL season, and Arizona RB David Johnson made a case for being the running back star of the 2nd half of the 2015 NFL season. ( David Johnson was selected by the Cardinals in the 3rd round of the 2015 NFL Draft-) Prior to Week 12 of the 2015 regular season, RB Johnson totaled 109 rushing yards, backing up RB Chris Johnson. In Johnson’s last 5 regular season games as the starter, he rushed for 442 and added 5 touchdowns. ( he also had 216 receiving yards in those 5 games) A duo threat rushing and receiving, Johnson has all the makings of a three-down back in one of the NFL’s best offenses, and should be one of the top 5 running backs drafted next September ( see Utter-Fantasy article “Mock Football Drafts from 2015 to 2016″ )
WRs- The 2015 NFL season was a “Renaissance” for both QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald. In 2014, Fitzgerald was the #55 ranked wide receiver at the end of the season, with only 63 receptions, 784 receiving yards and 2 TDs. ( of course, injuries to Arizona quarterbacks had a lot to do with these poor stats). With a healthy QB Carson Palmer, Fitzgerald’s ranking as wide receiver at the end of the 2015 season jumped all the way up to #9, with 1215 receiving yards and 9 TDs. (“Fitz” also dominated the Divisional post season game win against the Green Bay Packers.) With WR John Brown ( #22 WR for 2015) and Michael Floyd ( #34 WR for 2015), the Cardinals are poised for another prolific season for Arizona fans and fantasy football owners.
TEs- The Cardinals are so stacked in their receiving corps, that it might be impossible for any tight end ( unless Gronk suddenly got trade west) to make a huge offensive mark in Arizona. The Cardinals had 2 tight ends marginally involved in their offense in 2015, Darren Fells (311 receiving yards and 3 TDs) and Jermaine Gresham (223 receiving yards and 1 TDs). These 2015 stats are likely the ceiling for any tight end in Arizona in 2016. Gresham is a free agent this year.
K- Good NFL offenses usually leads to good fantasy years for “kickers’. Injuries to Arizona quarterbacks in 2014, made it difficult for the Cardinals to be a good offensive team, which is why K Chandler Catanzaro was only the #19 ranked kicker that season. With QB Palmer healthy, The Cardinals offense was very good and so was K Chandler Catanzaro, knocking in 28 of 31 field goals and the 2nd most extra points in the NFL ( 58). Catanzaro ranked as the 3rd best kicker in the NFL for 2015.
DEF- In 2014, Arizona was ranked #7 in defense. With a smash-mouth mentality, Arizona was even better in 2015, ranking #2. Pencil the Cardinals in for a top 5 defense again for 2016.
2015 Arizona Fantasy Surprises- Going into the 2015 NFL season, RB Andre Ellington was to be the workhorse for the Arizona Cardinals, with Chris Johnson as his back up. Few people thought that CJ2K had much left in the tank, after sputtering about the league the past couple of years. Ellington’s sprained PCL at the beginning of the 2015 season, gave CJ2K the starting job and he was the fantasy surprise. From Week 2 through Week 8, Johnson racked up 645 rushing and receiving yards with 3 rushing touchdowns. A fractured tibia in Week 12 ended his season, but for a stretch there, ol’ CJ2K was back in the NFL. Chris Johnson is a free agent in 2016.
2015 Free Agents that Arizona need to address- RB Chris Johnson, C Lyle Sendlein, OG Ted Larsen, OLB Dwight Freeney, WR Jaron Brown (RFA), TE Jermaine Gresham, ILB Sean Weatherspoon, SS D.J. Swearinger (RFA), OLB LaMarr Woodley, DE Red Bryant, FS Chris Clemons, QB Drew Stanton, FS Rashad Johnson, FS Tony Jefferson (RFA), RT Bobby Massie, CB Jerraud Powers
2016 NFL Draft- The early needs of the Arizona Cardinals are, like almost every NFL team, is shoring up their O-Line due to free agency. Their #2 defense needs some young players mixed in, and Arizona might have the worst supporting cast backing up QB Palmer in the NFL. ( Prior Arizona Cardinal Drafts )
Did you know- The Cardinals have not drafted a quarterback in the first 3 rounds of any draft since 2006 ( Matt Leinart, Round One- 10th overall)