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One More Year Before a Cardinals Rebuild?

Brandon Murchison Staff Writer April 14, 2017 2:01PM EST

The NFL Draft Fantasy Preview Series : VikingsCleveland – Chicago – San Francisco – Jacksonville – LA Rams – Tennessee – Jets – Chargers – Panthers – Bengals – Bills

Team Needs: ILB, QB, DB

Projected Top Three Picks:

First Round: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida

Second Round: Davis Webb, QB, Cal

Third Round: Ethan Pocic, C, LSU

The Cardinals are on the verge of a rebuild as aging stars QB Carson Palmer and WR Larry Fitzgerald are likely in their final season with the team. They will use this draft to look toward the future and would like to find a successor to both players.

In the first round, they could go after a wideout like Clemson’s Mike Williams or Washington speedster John Ross, but I see them filling another area of need as they select Wilson. Arizona has been looking for a compliment to Patrick Peterson for years, and they just might have it with Wilson. Patching up the at times spotty pass defense could present increased opportunities to put more pressure on the QB and garner points for Fantasy owners.

With their second selection, the Cardinals will take a shot on Palmer’s replacement in Webb, who saw his stock increase during the both Senior Bowl and Combine. While Cardinals coaches have liked Webb’s potential, I see some flaws in his game. He will have to improve on his accuracy, his arm strength leaves a lot to be desired, and must get better in reading defenses. He will be a project that they must groom sooner than later, as Palmer remains non-committal beyond this season. Webb will hold some value in Dynasty formats, but is waiver fodder in one-year formats in the case that Palmer goes down.

Will David Johnson repeat as the top overall Fantasy player in 2017? (Photo by Keith Birmingham/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

Will David Johnson repeat as the top overall Fantasy player in 2017? (Photo by Keith Birmingham/Zuma Press/Icon Sportswire)

The centerpiece of this offense is Fantasy superstar David Johnson. I was one of the biggest proponents of drafting Johnson last year and rewarded owners who followed my advice. Finishing with 2,118 yards and 20 touchdowns from scrimmage, he was the best player in all Fantasy formats.

You know the floor you get with his value, and with the coaching staff coming out and saying they have no problem feeding him the ball 30-plus times a game, it’s hard not to get excited about his 2017 potential. He was overworked down the stretch and suffered an MCL sprain in the season finale, but is expected to be at full strength come Week One. He will be either the first or second player off the board in any format, so if you don’t draw that number, you’ll be missing out on him. In auction formats, be prepared to overpay his market value.

As the running game takes off, the passing game will regress. Palmer still threw for 4,233 yards in 2016, but the TD production slipped from 35 in 2015 to 26 last season as Johnson scored at will. I expect for that to be a similar case this year, which the days of Palmer slinging it around the field at will are over and projects as a late-round QB2 in most formats.

Fitzgerald’s next step could be Canton after this season. He recorded 107 receptions for 1,023 yards last season, but those numbers were tempered by a career-low 9.6 yards per catch and just six touchdowns. Chances are strong that this might be his ceiling this year, as I can’t foresee him finding the fountain of youth in an offense that is becoming more balanced. He stands as a WR3 in PPR formats, but has become a matchup play in standard leagues. He tends to get drafted on name alone, and in the last two years he has gotten off to quick starts and faded late, so be weary.

Outside of Fitz, there is plenty of potential in John Brown and J.J. Nelson. Brown can never seem to stay healthy enough to live up to the hype, and Nelson has the tendency to show up in weeks you aren’t expecting it while breaking your heart in matchups you avoid. Both are too inconsistent for consideration in drafts, so I will pass them on to other owners this year. They will come off the board as WR4/WR5 types that could offer moderate value.

Team Ranks:

Passing Offense- 258.5 YPG (9th)

Rushing Offense- 108.3 YPG (18th)

Points Per Game- 26.1 PPG (6th)

Top Fantasy Performers:

QB- Carson Palmer, 234 points

RB- David Johnson, 313 points

WR- Larry Fitzgerald, 131 points

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