Fantasy Football: Forecasting the Value of Early Doucet

Chris DiLeoCorrespondent IApril 4, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10:  Wide receiver Early Doucet #80 of the Arizona Cardinals scores a touchdown against the Green Bay Packers during the first quarter of the 2010 NFC wild-card playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.   (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

Early Doucet was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the third round of the 2008 NFL Draft, because he fit the mold head coach Ken Whisenhunt likes in his wide receivers.  At 6’0” and 212 pounds, Doucet is a physical receiver with good hands.  He is willing to catch the ball in traffic, has good after-the-catch skills, and is an aggressive blocker in the run game.

Due to a number of injuries, however, he has seen little playing time during his first two years in the NFL.  He has yet to make it out of a training camp healthy.  In 2008, it was a hamstring injury which caused him to be inactive for nine games in his rookie year.  Last season, he suffered both a shoulder injury and fractured ribs on separate occasions.

In total, Doucet has been active for just 16 regular season games, and has accumulated 31 receptions for 304 yards and one touchdown. 
Once Doucet became healthy at about the mid-season point of 2009, it did not take him long to pass Jerheme Urban on the depth chart to become the fourth receiver.  He was finally able to get some action in the passing game, although in a limited fashion. His first significant action with the Cardinals came in the two playoff games last year.
After Anquan Boldin suffered an injury in the final week of the season, it moved Steve Breaston into the starting role opposite Larry Fitzgerald, which meant the slot duties fell to Doucet for the postseason.  Doucet showed glimpses of being an effective slot receiver as he led the team in receptions (14), and scored two touchdowns in the playoffs.   
Heading into the 2010 season, Doucet will have a firm grip on the slot position now that Boldin has been traded to the Baltimore Ravens.  He may even have a chance to compete for the starting flanker position, but it is more than likely that Breaston will keep that role in the offense. 
While Doucet is a talented player, and the third wide receiver role has played a big part in the Arizona offense the past several years, there are too many risks involved to count on him as a viable fantasy option in 2010. 
First, he needs to prove his durability by playing an entire season healthy.  In addition, the retirement of Kurt Warner has now changed the complexity of the offensive scheme of the Cardinals.  No longer can we expect a pass-happy mentality to drive the offense.  The emphasis will begin shifting towards a more balanced attack, featuring a power running game using second-year running back Beanie Wells.  This philosophy will diminish the importance of Doucet’s third receiver role.
Most importantly, however, is that the new quarterback situation in Arizona appears to be very shaky.  Former USC star Matt Leinart will be given the opportunity to take hold of the starting position, but he has struggled mightily since entering the NFL.  In his four-year career, he has displayed a poor work ethic, and has thrown only 14 touchdowns, while being intercepted 20 times in 594 passing attempts.  He is a major downgrade from Warner.
The Cardinals also signed Derek Anderson in the offseason to compete with Leinart.  Anderson had a breakout year with the Cleveland Browns in 2007, but has been ineffective since.  The past two seasons, he completed less than 50% of his passes, and threw just 12 touchdowns compared to 18 interceptions in 18 games played. 
Neither quarterback offers much in terms of confidence.  The winner of the competition will likely be expected to just manage the games, limiting the upside of all wide receivers, including Larry Fitzgerald to a degree.
For the 2010 season, Doucet should only be considered a late round flier in deep leagues, as a No. 4 fantasy wide receiver.  His upside is closely tied to whether Leinart or Anderson can revitalize their career, and even then it may take an injury to either Fitzgerald or Breaston for him to produce truly substantial fantasy numbers.
He isn’t a terrible option in dynasty leagues since he has talent and is entering just his third season, but any significant production is likely a couple of years away.
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