Fantasy Football Profile and Projection: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald
More so than athletes in other team sports, a football player's performance depends on the play of his teammates.
In other words, wide receivers rely on quarterbacks to go through their progressions quickly and then accurately deliver a pass with the necessary zip. In turn, quarterbacks rely on the offensive linemen to pass protect well enough to allow them time to make throws to receivers.
For the Arizona Cardinals, the ineffectiveness of the team's quarterbacks and offensive linemen last year adversely impacted the production of wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the team's most talented offensive player.
Although he was targeted 153 times, which was seventh most in the NFL, Fitzgerald finished the season with only 71 receptions for 798 yards and a career-low four touchdowns.
Like the Cardinals as a team (4-0 start, then 1-11 record), Fitzgerald started the season better than he finished.
Fitzgerald had at least 60 receiving yards in five games of the first six games. During that span, he had 36 receptions for 430 yards and three touchdowns. He was on pace for 96 catches, 1,147 yards and eight touchdowns. In the final seven games of the regular season, however, Fitzgerald only had 20 receptions for 213 yards and no touchdowns.
Not only did Fitzgerald see his streak of five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons end, he had his lowest total since his rookie season and ranked 35th in receiving yards among wide receivers last season.
The offensive line allowed a league-worst 58 sacks in 2012, and the team's quarterbacks threw a league-high 21 interceptions. Only the Kansas City Chiefs threw fewer touchdowns than the Cardinals (11).
While he may not be as talented as he once was, Carson Palmer is an upgrade over last year's group of Arizona quarterbacks. In addition, the Cardinals signed Drew Stanton as Palmer's backup.
In addition to making upgrades at quarterback, the team used its first-round pick on North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper.
In his career, Fitzgerald has four seasons with at least 1,400 yards. The only player in NFL history with more 1,400-yard seasons is Jerry Rice (six). Both Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss are tied with Fitzgerald at four.
Fitzgerald is only two seasons removed from his last 1,400-yard season. That year, all of the Cardinals' pass attempts were thrown by John Skelton (275), Kevin Kolb (253) and Richard Bartel (22).
Even with last year's dud performance factored in, Fitzgerald has averaged 80 receptions, 1,156 yards and six touchdowns over the past three seasons since Kurt Warner retired.
Unlikely to reach 1,400 yards for a fifth time in his career, Fitzgerald is likely to have a bounce-back season with upgrades at quarterback and on the offensive line.
Fantasy Strength of Schedule
Based on the cumulative fantasy points allowed by their opponents from Weeks 1 to 16, Fitzgerald and the Cardinals' receivers have the 22nd-most favorable schedule among wide receivers.
2013 Stat Projection: 82 Receptions, 1,205 Yards, Seven TDs
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