2013 Fantasy Football Profile and Projection: Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald
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More so than athletes in other team sports, a football player's performance is dependent upon 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 the time to make those throws to a receiver.
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 it.
In the team's first six games, Fitzgerald had at least 60 receiving yards in five games. During that span, he had 36 receptions for 430 yards and three touchdowns. At that point, he was on pace for a stat line of 96/1147/8. In the final seven games of the regular season, however, Fitzgerald had only 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 among wide receivers in the category 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 Chiefs threw fewer touchdowns than the Cardinals (11).
While he may not be as talented as he once was, Carson Palmer is certainly an upgrade over the group they had last year. In addition, the Cardinals signed Drew Stanton as Palmer's backup. In addition to making upgrades at quarterback, the team used their 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 with four.
Even with last year's dud performance factored in, Fitzgerald has averaged 80 receptions for 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.
For folks in leagues that end with Week 17 games, Fitzgerald has difficult matchups against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, respectively, in the final two games of the season.
2013 Stat Projection: 82 Receptions, 1,205 Yards, Seven TDs