For years, Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald has been the pinnacle of fantasy football relevance. Since coming into the league in 2004, his resume of countless WR1-type stats speaks for itself. He's amassed 5 years of 90 or more catches, 6 years of 1000 receiving yards or more and 4 years of double-digit touchdowns. You only have to go back to 2011 to see "Fitz" still has it as a top-flight fantasy receiver.
But like the saying goes: What comes up must eventually come down.
And boy did it ever last season.
2012 wasn't a good year for Fitzgerald. Hell it wasn't a good year for the Cardinals offense period. Inconsistent quarterback play, a terrible offensive line and other ups-and-downs, mostly downs, in the offense forced Fitzgerald's overall numbers down to the point that they can only be compared closely to his rookie year.
After a dismal 2012, Fitzgerald and his owners will see the clouds break and the fantasy sun shine again in 2013. After doing some fantasy football research, I can guarantee Fitz will be the Fitz of old.
Here are 3 big reasons why:
1. New Coaching Scheme
Once Kurt Warner announced his retirement after the 2009 season, Ken Whisenhunt failed to get the Cardinals back to the playoffs from 2010-2012. With a record of 18-30, many questioned whether Warner was the main reason Whiz had success early. All that was brought to an end when he was fired on New Year's Eve last year. With Whiz out, the team hired former Colts OC Bruce Arians to take over. Arians brings with him a vertical passing attack that will play into Fitzgerald's strengths. Many thought Reggie Wayne was going to be an afterthought when he stuck around in Indy last year, but 106 receptions squashed that notion. Playing in a division that features 3 up-and-coming offenses will mean a lot of looks Fitz's way. Garbage time guys and gals. Garbage time.
2. Carson Palmer Will Be A Factor
Many experts and owners alike are bashing Palmer, saying he really isn't much of an addition to the Cardinals offense. I have to disagree. Yeah the Raiders sucked bad last year, but all of that can't be put on Palmer's shoulders. If you break down the stats, he averaged a pretty healthy 268 passing yards a game. While his 14 interceptions were a black eye, they were the fewest he threw since the 2009 season when he was with the Bengals. Arians considers Palmer's deep ball as "pretty" as any he has ever seen, so expect Palmer to let loose with the long throws. Fitzgerald will benefit from having a veteran presence throwing to him. Something he hasn't had since Warner.
3. The Emergence Of Michael Floyd
I had written several weeks ago that Floyd will emerge as one of this year's top sleepers. I still stand by my words. In fact, it appears that Floyd has been the favorite of Palmer so far in OTAs. Per the team's website:
Floyd has been targeted more than anyone during workouts – including Fitzgerald.
Andre Roberts still brings a veteran presence, but he doesn't have the first-round pedigree or the upside Floyd has. Floyd got off to somewhat of a hot start last year, so I know it's hard to get excited for many owners. But if he can continue to flourish in Arians' offense through training camp, Fitzgerald might finally have someone who can take off double coverage. Something he sorely missed since the departure of Anquan Boldin.
Even though I list 3 big reasons why Fitzgerald will make a comeback this year, there are still questions that need to be answered. How will the team gel in a new offense? Will the offensive line improve enough to keep Palmer upright? Will defenses double and triple team Fitzgerald regardless of Floyd being on the field? It's still the Cardinals we're talking about. But given the positives I listed above, I think the Fitz of old will make his presence felt in 2013. WR1 all the way baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!