Show Navigation
Show Menu

FF Tips

2013 Draft Sharks Comeback Pick

By Jared Smola 6:02am EDT 6/25/13

Football is the ultimate team sport.  It's not like the NBA, where LeBron can tell his homies to "get out da way," while he makes some helpless defender look silly 1-on-1.

It takes 11 guys (not to mention good coaches) to move the football down the field and put points on the board.  And it takes 11 guys to produce a fantasy stud.  We've seen elite players produce in spite of a poor supporting cast, but it's not common.  The graveyard of fantasy busts is littered with guys who simply didn't have the pieces around them to meet expectations.

That was the case for Larry Fitzgerald in 2012.  The Cardinals trotted out the worst group of QBs in the league.  The offensive line wasn't much better.  And there wasn't much of a threat from the ground game.  Ultimately, it was too much for Fitz to overcome.  He finished outside the top 30 WRs across fantasy formats - a massive disappointment for owners who spent a 2nd- or 3rd-round pick on him last summer.

But Fitzgerald remains a top-notch talent in the prime of his career.  And with a couple of key additions to the supporting cast this offseason, he's the 2013 Draft Sharks Comeback Pick.

An Ugly 2012 Season

Before we get to our lofty expectations for Fitz this season, let's revisit that ugly 2012 campaign.  It started with Kevin Kolb under center for the Cards.  It ended with Brian Hoyer mopping up a pathetic season of QB play.  John Skelton and Ryan Lindley tried their hands in between.

The quartet produced a trio of 300-yard games.  But there were another 8 games in which Arizona's leading passer finished with fewer than 150 yards.  Five of those came in the final 7 games of the year.  That's when it got especially ugly.  From Week 11 on, Cards QBs tossed 1 TD vs. 13 INTs, combining for just 1,162 passing yards in 7 games.  By comparison, Drew Brees racked up 2,323 yards in that 7-game stretch.  Tony Romo had 2,298.  Adrian Peterson ran for 969 yards over that span.

When the dust settled, the Cardinals sat 28th in passing yards.  Their 11 TDs ranked 31st.  The 21 INTs led the league.  The most pathetic number might have been the 5.6 yards per attempt.  65 players averaged more yards per carry.

You get the point.  Arizona's QBs were bad last year.  Real bad.  Fitz-crushingly bad.

Fitzgerald's 798 receiving yards were his fewest since his 2004 rookie campaign.  40 guys finished with more last year.  His 11.2 yards-per-catch average was the lowest of his 9-year career.  He entered 2012 with a career mark of 13.9.  Fitz also set a new personal low with just 4 TDs.  56 players had more, including Brandon Gibson, Brandon Stokley and Anthony Fasano.

Fitzgerald did manage to haul in 71 balls - 26th-most league wide - but it took him 156 targets to get there.  That 45.5% catch rate was easily the worst mark of his career.  Fitz's previous low was 50.4%.  His career catch rate heading into last year was 58.2%.

Fitzgerald's final 71-798-4 line netted him 104 standard-scoring fantasy points.  That placed him 42nd among WRs.  He finished an only slightly more palatable 33rd in PPR leagues.

Fitzgerald Still Elite

Such a disappointing season can make it easy to forget what a talented player Fitz is.  He's blessed with a prototypical 6'3, 218-pound frame and jump-out-the-gym hops.  Few players are better at high-pointing jump balls. 

Fitzgerald also has some of the best hands in the game.  Pro Football Focus charged him with just 5 drops on 76 catchable balls last year.  That 6.6% drop rate was 5th-best among WRs.  And it was actually on the high side for Fitz, who posted sub-4% drop rates in each of the previous 4 seasons.  He's ranked among the top 6 WRs in drop rate in all 5 years PFF has tracked the stat.

Poor QB play aside, Fitzgerald has shown no signs of slowing down.  He posted a career-best 17.6 yards per catch just 2 seasons ago.  He'll turn 30 in August, but that's still prime time for one of the hardest workers in the game.  And Fitzgerald has missed just 4 of 144 possible games.  He's played in all 16 in each of the past 5 seasons.

Supporting cast is the only issue here.  And Fitzgerald got a big lift with the additions of 2 men this offseason: HC Bruce Arians and QB Carson Palmer.

The Arians Boost

Let's start with Arians.  He's the biggest reason we like Fitz to enjoy a major bounce-back campaign this year.

There's some belief out there that Arians is a pass-heavy play caller.  That's not the case.  He's spent 9 years calling plays for the Browns (2001-2003), Steelers (2007-2011) and Colts (2012).  Only 1 of those seasons has seen Arians call more than 58% pass plays.  He has settled in between 52% and 56% in 5 of 9 years.  For his career, he's called pass plays 53.9% of the time.

Arians' squads have actually finished in the bottom half of the league in pass attempts in 7 of 9 seasons.  His average rank: 20th.

So Arians' offense isn't pass-heavy.  But he does oversee efficient and explosive passing attacks.

Despite the relatively low number of pass attempts, Arians' offenses have never finished lower than 21st in passing TDs.  His offenses have ranked among the top 7 in that category 3 times.

Arians likes to chuck it deep, too.   His offenses have finished in the top half of the league in yards per attempt in 8 of 9 seasons.  That includes 4 top-5 finishes over the past 6 years.  Arians' squads have also finished in the top half of the league in pass plays of 40+ yards for 6 straight seasons.

So Arians deploys a balanced offense, but one that produces plenty of TDs and big plays in the passing game.  That's good news for Fitzgerald.

#1 WRs in Arians' Offense

But it's Arians' history with getting big numbers out of his #1 WR - especially aging #1 WRs - that has us most excited about Fitz's 2013 fantasy outlook.

Arians has produced a 1,000-yard WR in 6 of his 9 seasons.  Two of those other 3 years saw his top dogs go for 964 and 942 yards.  His #1 WRs have averaged 76 catches and 6.8 TDs.

In recent years, Arians has coaxed big seasons from WRs who were generally regarded as over the hill.  A 32-year-old Hines Ward racked up 1,043 yards and 7 scores on 81 grabs in Arians' offense in 2008.  A year older in 2009, Ward went for a 95-1,167-6 line.  He finished both of those years as a top-17 fantasy WR.

But we don't have to look back any further than 2012 to see what Arians can do for an older WR.  He headed to Indianapolis last year to take over a passing game that ranked 27th the previous year.  Upgrading at QB from Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky to Andrew Luck was a huge reason for the Colts' turnaround.  But Arians deserves credit, too.

He revived Reggie Wayne's career.  Back in 2011, Wayne managed just 75 catches, 960 yards and 4 TDs.  Those marks were all 8-year lows, placing him 29th among WRs in fantasy points.

At 33 years old, Wayne seemed ready to fade off into retirement.  But Arians made him the offensive focal point - and the results were huge.

Wayne saw 195 targets.  That ranked 2nd among all WRs last year and a set career-high for Wayne.  His 106 catches were the 2nd-most of his career.  Only 4 guys had more in 2012.  Wayne's 1,355 receiving yards ranked 7th league-wide.  He scored just 5 times but still finished 8th among WRs in fantasy points.

And, again, this was a 33-year-old who was barely even worthy of a starting spot on fantasy teams the season prior.

If Arians did that for Wayne, just imagine what he can do with Fitzgerald.  Props to Wayne for an ultra-productive career, but he's at least a notch below Fitz in the talent department.  In fact, Fitz will be the most talented WR Arians has ever worked with.

A New Role for Fitzgerald

Arians helped Wayne last year by moving him into the slot.  That often gets the receiver away from the defense's most talented CBs.  It also gives the receiver more route options since he has field to work with to the left and right.

Wayne ran 421 of 688 total routes from the slot last year.  That's 61.2% -- way up from his 12.6% mark in 2011.  Wayne hadn't run more than 16% of his routes from the slot since 2008.

He flourished in the new role, hauling in 48 balls for 679 yards and 2 scores from the slot.  The catch and yardage marks ranked among the top 6 in the league.

Arians has a similar move in mind for Fitzgerald this season.  "If you want 100 balls, move around," Arians said. "If they know where you are at it's easier to take you out of your game."

Fitz practiced at all 3 WR spots this spring - both outside positions and the slot.  He's spent the majority of his career in just 1 spot on the outside of the formation.  He's run just 20.7% of his routes from the slot over the last 5 years.

Fitzgerald has had success on the inside, though.  He caught 64.3% of his targets from the slot over the past 5 seasons.  That's well above his 52.9% catch rate on the outside.  Fitz's 13.3 yards per catch from the slot sits just a smidge below his 13.6-yard average when lined up outside.

With a top-notch work ethic and sky-high football IQ, Fitz should make a smooth transition to his new role.  And we're expecting a big boost to his bottom line.

QB Help Has Arrived

QB play undoubtedly proved Fitzgerald's biggest problem in 2012.  Carson Palmer presents a major upgrade in that department. 

The Cardinals shipped a couple of late-round picks to the Raiders in exchange for Palmer, and then signed him to a 3-year, $26 million deal.  The organization clearly believes that he's the answer at the position.

GM Steve Keim watched all 1,479 of Palmer's passes over the past 3 seasons before making the trade.  "I came away very, very pleasantly surprised... I saw that Carson still has the zing and can still make all the throws," Keim said afterward.  "He can still drive the football down the field.  That's huge, especially with what Bruce (Arians) wants out of his QB."

Arians is on board.  He was "thrilled" with the Palmer acquisition, according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King.  Arians later called Palmer "as pretty a deep-ball thrower as I've ever seen, and he has a way of making a rapport with his receivers."  And that praise came from a coach who has worked with Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck.

The 33-year-old Palmer is no longer an elite QB.  He hasn't been the same since ligament and tendon damage in his throwing elbow ended his 2008 campaign after 4 games.  In the 4 years since, he's completed 61% of his passes, averaged 7.1 yards per attempt and tossed 82 TDs vs. 63 INTs.  Not bad numbers but down from his pre-injury outputs (64% completion rate, 7.2-yard average, 107 TDs vs. 67 INTs).

Palmer can still get the job done, however.  He turned in an impressive 2012 season, considering the circumstances.  He was working behind a Raiders offensive line that finished 23rd in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking rankings.  Palmer's WR corps didn't have a single guy finish higher than 56th in PFF's overall WR rankings.  There wasn't a Raiders WR higher than 60th in the pass-play rankings.  Palmer's pass-catchers dropped 39 balls.  Only 6 QBs were let down more often.

Palmer was surrounded by a load of crap last year.  But he still finished 10th in the league with 4,018 passing yards.  His 22 TDs ranked 15th.  He was also among the top 15 in completion rate (61.1%) and yards per attempt (7.1).  The veteran finished 14th among QBs in PFF's pass rankings.  There's no doubt that Palmer is a massive upgrade over last year's Cardinals QBs.  None of those guys finished higher than 21st in PFF's grades.

Palmer has also shown the ability to support a fantasy stud.  He helped Chad Johnson to 5 straight 1,000-yard campaigns from 2004 to 2009 (omitting Palmer's lost 2008 season).  Johnson finished each year as a top 14 fantasy WR, with a trio of top 6 finishes. 

Johnson started to decline in 2010, but Palmer hooked up with Terrell Owens for 983 yards and 9 TDs.  T.O. finished 15th at his position in fantasy points. 

In Oakland, Palmer's arrival in 2011 coincided with Darrius Heyward-Bey's career-best 64-975-4 line.  With the WR corps struggling this past year, Palmer found TE Brandon Myers 79 times for 806 yards and 4 scores.

Palmer has consistently shown the ability to prop up his #1 target.  In Arizona, there's no doubt that will be Larry Fitzgerald.

Finally, Palmer proved capable last year of producing behind a porous O-line.  The Raiders finished 23rd in PFF's pass-blocking rankings, yet Palmer took only 26 sacks.  That tied for 3rd fewest among QBs who started at least 15 times.  Palmer also posted the league's 4th-best completion rate when under pressure, according to PFF.

The ability to evade the pass rush and throw under pressure figures to come in handy for Palmer this year.  The Cardinals finished dead-last in PFF's 2012 pass-blocking rankings.  The 58 sacks they allowed were 7 more than any other team. 

The only significant addition to the unit this offseason was 1st-round G Jonathan Cooper.  He'll step right into the starting lineup and upgrade the interior protection.  Arizona also gets back LT Levi Brown, who missed all of 2012 with a torn triceps.  He allowed a whopping 11 sacks back in 2011, though, so he might not be much help.

The O-line is the biggest concern in Arizona this year.  The rest of the offense looks capable of taking a big step forward.

An Offense on the Rise

Besides the additions of Arians and Palmer, Fitzgerald should find help in a burgeoning supporting cast. 

WR Michael Floyd seems primed for a big leap after a mostly quiet rookie season.  He exploded for 166 yards and a score in last year's finale - a possible foreshadowing of 2013.  Floyd was described by Arians as a "bright young star" and was a standout in spring practices. 

TE Rob Housler also looks like a potential breakout guy in 2013.  He quietly hauled in 45 balls last year and figures to take on a bigger role this season.  Arians recently called Housler "a wideout playing TE."

Arizona's running game should also get a boost with the addition of RB Rashard Mendenhall.  He's familiar with Arians' offense from their time together in Pittsburgh.  Mendy ripped off back-to-back 1,100-yard campaigns in 2009 and 2010 under Arians.

The Cardinals ranked dead-last in total offense and 31st in points last year.  We like their odds to jump at least to the middle of the pack in 2013.  That can only help Fitzgerald's comeback efforts. 

Fitzgerald in ‘Prove-It' Mode

Fantasy owners weren't the only ones pissed off about Fitzgerald's ugly 2012 season.   Fitz considers it the "most disappointing season" of his career and says he's in "prove-it mode" this year.  

"This last year would be enough to drive anybody over the edge," he added. "I just don't ever want a repeat of what happened last year.  It's about getting back to the level of play I am accustomed to, and the level of play everybody is accustomed to."  

A guy this talented with that much motivation is a scary prospect for opposing defenses.

Arians sees the fire in Fitz's eyes, too: "It was a down year, and it's nice to see him on a mission right now to get back to where he was, and rightfully so. He's a premier player."

2013 Fantasy Outlook

Fitzgerald's 2012 stat line (71-798-4) looks tantalizingly similar to Reggie Wayne's 2011 (75-960-4).  Wayne bounced back with 106-1,355-5 under Arians last year.  Fitz is plenty capable of matching or even exceeding all those marks in 2013.

Arians has big expectations for his #1 WR.  "We need to have him back up over 100 catches and 10-15 TDs," the coach said earlier this offseason.

We have Fitz projected for 93 catches, 1,243 yards and 9 TDs.  That puts him 5th among WRs in non-PPR scoring systems and 3rd in PPR.

The rest of Fantasy Nation isn't sleeping on Fitzgerald.  He's been the 9th WR off the board in early fantasy drafts.  His ADP is sitting in the middle of the 3rd round.  We'll see if that rises throughout the summer.

As it stands now, though, Fitzgerald is a prime value pick.  Locking up a couple of stud RBs and then grabbing him in the 3rd round would be an ideal start to your draft.


Related Fantasy Football

Podcast: Week 18 DraftKings 1-7-22

Podcast: Week 18 DraftKings 1-7-22

2:00pm EST 1/7/22

Jonathan Taylor or Cooper Kupp? Your lineup planning on DraftKings this week might start there, but it'll need to go a lot further ... (and we're here to help).

Read More »
Premium Content Premium ContentDFS Showdown Tips: Rams-Cardinals

DFS Showdown Tips: Rams-Cardinals

11:50am EST 12/13/21

With some key players back healthy -- but others still missing -- is this matchup ready to give us as much offense as we got last time?

Read More »
Podcast: Week 13 DraftKings 12-3-21

Podcast: Week 13 DraftKings 12-3-21

1:05pm EST 12/3/21

Is Vikings RB Alexander Mattison a must on the main slate this week ... or can a loaded stable of backs increase our options?

Read More »
Podcast: Week 7 DraftKings 10-22-21

Podcast: Week 7 DraftKings 10-22-21

7:50am EDT 10/23/21

Where can we find the value to let us pay up for the top-shelf QBs on the Week 7 fantasy football slate?

Read More »
Podcast: Week 1 Preview 9-9-21

Podcast: Week 1 Preview 9-9-21

3:09pm EDT 9/9/21

From Cowboys-Bucs to Ravens-Raiders, we're hitting every game to talk sleeper plays, guys to avoid and how to sort those rookie wideouts ...

Read More »
Podcast: NFC West Preview 6-17-21

Podcast: NFC West Preview 6-17-21

12:06pm EDT 6/17/21

Kyler Murray's fantasy output exploded in 2020. Could Cam Akers be next? We'll hit on both of those players plus many more in a loaded division to kick off this 8-part series.

Read More »
Podcast: Week 17 Preview 12-31-20

Podcast: Week 17 Preview 12-31-20

11:12am EST 12/31/20

Are you still playing fantasy football? Whether it's season-long or just DFS, we're laying the groundwork for building your Week 17 lineups.

Read More »
Winning Your League Starts Here Trophy

Why Wouldn’t You Invest
$36 to Win Your League?

Check out thisleague-winning info

2021 Draft Package Now - Sept 15th

$39

Get Instant Access
2021 In-Season Package Sept 5th - Mar 7th

$39

Get Access Sept. 5th
2021 DFS Package Sept 5th - Mar 7th

$49

Get Access Sept. 5th
Best Value – All Access Pass
DS Insider Membership All 3 Packages

$127 $36

Semi-annual auto-renew
Get Instant Access
Draft War Room Included Draft War Room Draft War Room Draft War Room Included Draft War Room
Award-Winning Player Rankings Included Award-Winning Player Rankings Award-Winning Player Rankings Award-Winning Player Rankings Included Award-Winning Player Rankings
3D Projections Included 3D Projections 3D Projections 3D Projections Included 3D Projections
Live-Draft Sync Included Live-Draft Sync Live-Draft Sync Live-Draft Sync Included Live-Draft Sync
In-Depth Player Profiles Included In-Depth Player Profiles In-Depth Player Profiles In-Depth Player Profiles Included In-Depth Player Profiles
Mock Draft Tool Included Mock Draft Tool Mock Draft Tool Mock Draft Tool Included Mock Draft Tool
Round-by-Round Draft Strategies Included Round-by-Round Draft Strategies Round-by-Round Draft Strategies Round-by-Round Draft Strategies Included Round-by-Round Draft Strategies
Insider Sleepers & Busts Included Insider Sleepers & Busts Insider Sleepers & Busts Insider Sleepers & Busts Included Insider Sleepers & Busts
Average Draft Position by Scoring Included Average Draft Position by Scoring Average Draft Position by Scoring Average Draft Position by Scoring Included Average Draft Position by Scoring
Scientific Injury Predictor Included Scientific Injury Predictor Scientific Injury Predictor Scientific Injury Predictor Included Scientific Injury Predictor
In-Season Weekly Rankings In-Season Weekly Rankings Included In-Season Weekly Rankings In-Season Weekly Rankings Included In-Season Weekly Rankings
“Who Should I Start?” Tool “Who Should I Start?” Tool Included “Who Should I Start?” Tool “Who Should I Start?” Tool Included “Who Should I Start?” Tool
“My Team” Tool w/ Analysis & Notifications “My Team” Tool w/ Analysis & Notifications Included “My Team” Tool w/ Analysis & Notifications “My Team” Tool w/ Analysis & Notifications Included “My Team” Tool w/ Analysis & Notifications
Live-Sync Free Agent Finder Live-Sync Free Agent Finder Included Live-Sync Free Agent Finder Live-Sync Free Agent Finder Included Live-Sync Free Agent Finder
Trade Navigator Trade Navigator Included Trade Navigator Trade Navigator Included Trade Navigator
Player Shares Player Shares Included Player Shares Player Shares Included Player Shares
In-Depth Free Agent Gems In-Depth Free Agent Gems Included In-Depth Free Agent Gems In-Depth Free Agent Gems Included In-Depth Free Agent Gems
Buy/Sell/Hold Trade Advice Buy/Sell/Hold Trade Advice Included Buy/Sell/Hold Trade Advice Buy/Sell/Hold Trade Advice Included Buy/Sell/Hold Trade Advice
Strength-of-Schedule Data Strength-of-Schedule Data Included Strength-of-Schedule Data Strength-of-Schedule Data Included Strength-of-Schedule Data
DFS Lineup Builder DFS Lineup Builder DFS Lineup Builder Included DFS Lineup Builder Included DFS Lineup Builder
DFS Ownership Projections DFS Ownership Projections DFS Ownership Projections Included DFS Ownership Projections Included DFS Ownership Projections
Weekly GPP Picks
(DraftKings & FanDuel)
Weekly GPP Picks
(DraftKings & FanDuel)
Weekly GPP Picks
(DraftKings & FanDuel)
Included Weekly GPP Picks
(DraftKings & FanDuel)
Included Weekly GPP Picks
(DraftKings & FanDuel)
Weekly Cash Game Picks
(DraftKings & FanDuel)
Weekly Cash Game Picks
(DraftKings & FanDuel)
Weekly Cash Game Picks
(DraftKings & FanDuel)
Included Weekly Cash Game Picks
(DraftKings & FanDuel)
Included Weekly Cash Game Picks
(DraftKings & FanDuel)
Weekly Top Stacks Weekly Top Stacks Weekly Top Stacks Included Weekly Top Stacks Included Weekly Top Stacks
High-Stakes DFS Line-up Reviews High-Stakes DFS Line-up Reviews High-Stakes DFS Line-up Reviews Included High-Stakes DFS Line-up Reviews Included High-Stakes DFS Line-up Reviews
DFS Independent DFS Independent DFS Independent Included DFS Independent Included DFS Independent
Daily Fantasy Advice Daily Fantasy Advice Daily Fantasy Advice Included Daily Fantasy Advice Included Daily Fantasy Advice
Personalized Email Advice Personalized Email Advice Personalized Email Advice Included Personalized Email Advice Included Personalized Email Advice
Premium Insider Articles Included Premium Insider Articles Included Premium Insider Articles Included Premium Insider Articles Included Premium Insider Articles
Daily FF Email Updates Included Daily FF Email Updates Included Daily FF Email Updates Included Daily FF Email Updates Included Daily FF Email Updates
Breaking News Updates Included Breaking News Updates Included Breaking News Updates Included Breaking News Updates Included Breaking News Updates
To-the-Minute Game Day Inactives Included To-the-Minute Game Day Inactives Included To-the-Minute Game Day Inactives Included To-the-Minute Game Day Inactives Included To-the-Minute Game Day Inactives
All-Access
Draft Sharks App
All–Access Draft Sharks App
Included All-Access
Draft Sharks App
Included All-Access
Draft Sharks App
Included All-Access
Draft Sharks App
Included All-Access
Draft Sharks App
Get Instant Access Get Access Sept. 5th Get Access Sept. 5th Get Instant Access

Turn your phone into a draft weapon with our FREE APP

Download on the App Store Get It on Google Play