Larry Fitzgerald is back to prominence after suffering from "mediocre quarterback syndrome" for the past few seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. Now that he has an established signal-caller under center in Carson Palmer, look for Fitzgerald to rise back up the ranks of the top wide receivers in the NFL.
From 2004-2009, there were very few defensive backs in the NFL that could slow down Fitzgerald. From Josh McCown in 2004 to Kurt Warner from 2005-2009, Fitzgerald had a fantastic rapport with his quarterbacks and totaled 59 touchdown grabs as a result.
He eclipsed 95 receptions in four of those six seasons and was routinely a threat to score from anywhere on the field. His rare combination of speed, size and hands were unmatched by nearly every receiver in the league.
Then, the post-Warner era came. He had to suffer through years of Derek Anderson, John Skelton and Kevin Kolb and saw his production drop as a result. He's grabbed just 18 touchdowns since 2009 and has only reached the 90-reception mark once.
With Palmer under center, though, the 30-year-old has a legitimate shot at finishing his career the same way he started it. Palmer is drastically better than the aforementioned quarterbacks, especially after throwing for over 4,000 yards with the lowly Oakland Raiders in 2012. Putting him on a team with a bonafide receiver like Fitzgerald will only help to boost the effectiveness of both veterans.
The Week 1 connection between the two proves just that.
Fitzgerald was a machine against the St. Louis Rams, catching eight passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. His play was a main reason why the Cardinals were able to start their season off on a strong note, even if they lost the game 27-24 on a field goal inside the two-minute warning by Greg Zuerlein.
It's pretty much impossible for him to keep up that type of touchdown pace all season long, but there's a great chance that he can average around 80 yards receiving and five to six receptions per game. This pace would give him 1,280 yards and 96 receptions. Assuming he and Palmer hook up a few more times in the red zone, a 10-touchdown season wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility.
This would put him back into the discussion of top-10 wide receivers in football, inherently making him a top fantasy wideout as well. Owners that drafted Fitzgerald with that expectation should be happy that it will come to fruition. Owners that drafted him later on, though, should be ecstatic that they grabbed a top-tier receiver after the presumed top ones went off the board.
Palmer's ability to throw the ball down field over the top of defenses will be what keeps Fitzgerald consistent all season. Fitzgerald can run routes all over the field, but his height and fantastic hands make him an extremely valuable weapon down field.
His career completion percentage of 62.5 will also ensure that many of Fitzgerald's targets are catchable, as Anderson (52.8), Skelton (53.2) and Kolb (59.5) haven't had the same consistency passing the ball as Palmer. Compare all four to Warner (65.5), and it's clear that Palmer is the second-best quarterback to ever throw the ball to Fitzgerald.
It's a long season ahead, but Fitzgerald could be in line to resurrect his career with a new quarterback in the fold with the Cardinals. Look for him to make a huge impact in both the NFL and fantasy leagues.
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