Unlike 2010, the Cardinals have really started putting some pieces in place on their offense to at least try and contend for the NFC West. Kevin Kolb will try to prove the naysayers wrong and lead an offense that ranked second to last in passing yards with 182.6 per game in 2010.
Aside from the passing game, the Cardinals made a bit of noise in the rushing department when they shipped Tim Hightower to the Redskins for a conditional future pick and defensive lineman Vonnie Holiday. In the On the Rebound? article Ray Tannock and I wrote, I mentioned Beanie Wells as being a bounce-back candidate. Now I would like to talk about another player in Arizona's backfield whose fantasy value also got a bit of a boost in the last few days.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you rookie running back Ryan Williams.
As a red-shirt freshman in 2009, Williams started off beyond strong after taking over the starting job for an injured Darren Evans (ACL), eventually breaking Virginia Tech and ACC rushing records after putting up 1655 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. He came back down to Earth in 2010, injuring his right hamstring in a game against East Carolina and missing four games. Williams eventually gave up his final 2 years of NCAA eligibility, declaring himself eligible for the draft.
Considered an all-around talent, Williams got a lot of interest from the NFL, including the Patriots and the Dolphins, but the Cardinals wound up drafting him early in the second round.
His fantasy value really wasn't all that great outside of dynasty leagues, but that all changed once Hightower was shipped to Washington. As Beanie's backup, he could carve out a nice role as soon as Week One. A much better pass catcher than Wells, Williams is expected to take over on passing downs. But considering Wells' injury situation last year, Williams could also see his role expand as the season wears on and he gets comfortable with the playbook.
Williams is a must-have option in both dynasty and deep keeper leagues. As far as redraft leagues go, there is always a chance Wells gets hit with an injury and Williams is thrust into the starting lineup. Right now, Williams is either waiver-wire fodder, or could be taken as a flier near the end of the draft, especially in PPR leagues. He managed to crack the Top 40 running back rankings at No. 38 because of his upside. The Cardinals didn't draft him so high to stand on the sidelines.