2014 Team Outlook: Arizona Cardinals

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2014 Team Outlook: Arizona Cardinals

A fantasy football preview of the Arizona Cardinals this season. Profiled players include Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton, Logan Thomas, Andre Ellington, and Stepfan Taylor.

Carson Palmer stabilized the quarterback position for Arizona after his arrival in 2013. He started all 16 games and produced a 36-percent bump in fantasy points for the Arizona quarterbacks. It sounds impressive, but he only scored 18 fantasy PPG. That level of production resulted in a QB15 finish. With Michael Floyd continuing his evolution, the addition of a more stable list of tight ends to work with and a year of Andre Ellington as his lead running back, Palmer can improve yet again and approach the 20 PPG totals you look for in a QB1. Palmer should not be expected to have tremendous upside despite having a nice array of weapons (Floyd, Larry Fitzgerald and Ellington). The NFC West is a tough place to play and Palmer will struggle to consistently put up difference-making points. Luckily, he doesn't carry anything close to a QB1 value, so he'll be one of the many solid floor, low ceiling options at QB2.

Editor's note: Palmer will sometimes go undrafted in redraft and does not even move the needle on our ADP list. In our high-stakes ADP rankings, the former USC QB is the 21st QB selected at pick No. 151.

Arizona is Stanton's fourth team over his eight-year career. When head coach Bruce Arians left the Colts to sign on with the Cardinals, he brought Stanton along with him. For a time, the former Michigan State QB was thought to be Arizona's starter before Palmer's arrival. Stanton has some potential; if he were to get his chance, he might surprise. In limited action with Detroit in 2010, he completed 69 of 119 passes (58-percent) for four TDs and three INTs. The 30-year-old has no fantasy value until he somehow works his way into a starting lineup.

DYNASTY PATIENCE: Thomas will need a year or two on the sideline to learn. While at Virginia Tech, he was more miss than hit. He battled with accuracy, footwork and decision-making. All the physical tools are very apparent and they endow him with a ton of upside. All that talent and potential needs time to marinate. Learning under Carson Palmer (an 11-year vet) and Drew Stanton (in his eighth yearh) will definitely help Thomas in the long-term.

BREAKOUT STUD: Ellington had a strong rookie season, averaging 5.5 yards per carry on 118 carries. He was an excellent option in the passing game as well, catching 39 passes for an average of 9.5 yards per catch. He had a total of four touchdowns. Ellington served as the RB2 behind Rashard Mendenhall, who had close to double of Ellington's rush attempts. Mendenhall is no longer in Arizona thanks to an early retirement, leaving the door open for Ellington's role expanding. It's unclear if Ellington will be the true feature back, the front end of a committee or how often he'll be used in passing situations as a receiver out of the backfield. Arizona may want to have one of their other backs involved to keep Ellington fresh and dynamic. His range of usage could vary from 50- to 65-percent of the carries. This is a big range and of course opens the possibility of Ellington becoming a legit RB1. His upside is really high if the situation falls heavily in his favor. Head coach Bruce Arians has already declared Ellington the RB1, with the rest of the backs battling to see who the RB2 will be.

Editor's note: Like his fellow Clemson alum, Ellington should earn a lot of comparisons to C.J. Spiller. Both have speed and have a knack for big plays. Both backs have valid injury concerns and drawbacks. They both can even contribute as a receiver on third downs. Fantasy owners would love Ellington if he can do what Spiller has never been able to do: stay healthy, stay productive and not have to share the backfield. His 35.84 ADP is reasonable since he still has something to prove.

Stepfan Taylor was a rookie last year and he averaged a pedestrian 3.2 yards per carry. After the retirement of Rashard Mendenhall, Taylor finds himself in contention for a RB2 role, possibly earning him significant playing time. He's going to be tough to trust unless his role becomes better defined. Looking over the last four years in offenses Tom Moore and Bruce Arians were involved with, they have typically operated shared backfields. The RB who had the most carries out of the backfield did not have the most receptions. This leads you to believe there will be an active third-down back. Ellington is an ideal fit for that role. This suggests the RB2 might play a lot of first and second downs to keep Ellington healthy. As Arizona's backup running back, Taylor will likely see eight to ten carries per week. Even with the early edge to fulfill that role, Taylor does not justify a draft pick at this time in redraft. He should only be considered in dynasties or leagues with really deep rosters.

Dwyer came from Pittsburgh where head coach Bruce Arians had some exposure to him. Dwyer has been serviceable in short stints or when playing a smaller role over the years. If Taylor doesn't deliver for this team, Dwyer could step in. Neither player has Ellington's upside, but in today's NFL you need two or three running backs to be successful. Dwyer has no fantasy value until he solidifies a larger role in the offense.