Larry Fitzgerald: Fantasy Draft Value, Red Flags and More for Cardinals WR

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2012

GLENDALE, AZ - AUGUST 17:  Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals during the NFL preseason game against the Oakland Raiders at the University of Phoenix Stadium on August 17, 2012 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The subject of this article may be Larry Fitzgerald, but the protagonists (or antagonists, really) in this fantasy football tale are the potential quarterbacks for the Arizona Cardinals, John Skelton and Kevin Kolb.

As in, can the talented and consistent Fitzgerald justify a second-round pick in your fantasy draft given the fact that Skelton and/or Kolb will be throwing him passes? Should Fitzgerald owners prefer one quarterback to the other? Will rookie Michael Floyd have a positive or negative impact on his value?

When it comes to Fitzgerald, the questions don't pertain to him—outside of Calvin Johnson, there isn't a better receiver in the NFL—so much as they pertain to his team. Let's take a closer look and determine whether Fitzgerald will suffer given his teammates or simply perform in spite of them.

Fantasy Strengths

Larry Fitzgerald hasn't missed a game in four seasons and has played all but four games in his eight-year career. I think it's safe to say he isn't an injury concern.

He's pretty darn consistent, too. He's eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards six times (and five seasons in a row), 1,400 receiving yards four times, eight receiving touchdowns six times and has finished with double-digit touchdowns in four seasons.

And guess what? His quarterbacks last season were Skelton and Kolb, and he still finished with 1,411 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. So he even has the power to rise above poor quarterback play.

As for Michael Floyd, he'll either help Fitzgerald by punishing teams for double-teaming Fitz or he'll be irrelevant this season. But when you have Mr. Fitzgerald on your team, you target him early and often, regardless of who lines up opposite of him.

Remember, in 2011 he was targeted 153 times, fourth-most in the NFL. He'll be involved. He'll produce. He's still a safe (if no longer sexy) fantasy commodity.

Fantasy Red Flags

In his career, Fitzgerald caught 39 touchdown passes from Kurt Warner. He's caught 34 touchdown passes from every other quarterback he ever played with combined (Josh McCown, Skelton, Matt Leinart, Kolb, Brian St. Pierre, Max Hall, Richard Bartel, John Navarre and Shaun King).

I think it's fairly safe to predict fewer than 10 touchdowns for Fitzgerald. After reaching double digits in scores four times from 2005 to 2009, he has just 14 total touchdowns in the past two seasons.

And you should probably be praying that Kolb doesn't win the starting job. Fitzgerald caught just two touchdown passes from Kolb last season, particularly troubling since Kolb started eight games in 2011. Meanwhile, in his career he's caught six touchdown passes from Skelton. 

In the eight games that Kolb started last year, Fitzgerald caught 38 passes for 658 yards and two touchdowns. In the eight games that Skelton started, Fitzgerald caught 40 passes for 703 yards and five touchdowns 

Fitzgerald also caught 27 passes for 468 yards and one touchdown in the four starts Skelton logged in 2010. So yeah, if I'm a fantasy owner I'm rooting for Skelton to win the job.

And that's always a scary place to be.

Film Study

Even when he's hanging upside down he's better than you at catching passes. Unreal.

Draft Day Value

In ESPN snake drafts, Fitzgerald has an average draft position of 14.0, so you're going to need to use a second-round pick to land him. Whether he is worth that or not depends on how you generally approach the draft.

If you like to play it safe early and sacrifice a little upside for some security, Fitzgerald is your guy. He's going to finish with 1,100 yards and six touchdowns at the very least, and he finished with nine or more fantasy points 10 times last year. He's steady.

But if you want more upside with your second-round pick, I'd avoid him. As good as he is, you simply can't ignore how much his touchdown production has dropped since Warner retired, and if Kolb wins the job, Fitzgerald could see his numbers regress.

I probably won't start considering him until the third round, but I understand if you nab him in the second.

Tweet That Says It All

Trey Wingo pretty much nails it right on the head:

31 teams know who their starting quarterback is. the only one that doesn't, has Larry Fitzgerald to throw to.

— trey wingo (@wingoz) August 27, 2012

Skelton and Kolb throwing passes to Fitzgerald is like an old lady driving a Corvette 35 miles per hour on the freeway. It's not right.


Games Catches Yards Touchdowns
16 85 1250 8

Fitzgerald should still be a top-10 fantasy wideout in 2012, but expecting him to be a top-five performer like he was in 2011 or drafting him as the second receiver off the board after Calvin Johnson is probably idealistic.

Fitzgerald is the rare player that can overcome any matchup or poor quarterback throwing him passes, but that doesn't mean his value won't be capped by Skelton or Kolb. History tells us Fitz was simply a much better fantasy option with Kurt Warner than he has been since. And I don't like to ignore history.

So as I said above, I would target Fitzgerald with a third-round pick. If he's there, great—I'll snatch him up. If not, oh well—I'm pretty sure I can get better value. 

There are few players in the NFL I respect more than Fitzgerald. And there are few quarterbacks I trust less than Kolb and Skelton.

Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets have an ADP of one.

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