Once again I am back in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine. This is the biggest event in the pre-draft process, and there’s plenty of information to be learned during this week.
Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is one of my favorite coaches in the game today. Not only does he look like David Dodds, but he pulls no punches when talking to the media. In an event with so much coach speak that it will turn your head, it’s refreshing to talk to a guy like Arians.
Here is a breakdown of what Arians had to say with my thoughts on the fantasy implications from his statements.
Did Andre Ellington’s added weight hurt his durability?
“I don’t think the eight pounds had anything to do with it, it was all upper body weight. It was one of those freaky foot things. He was fairly fortunate, it’s usual a Lis Franc injury that occurred for him but instead cracking the bone he spilt the tendon. He really gutted it up for us for about 10 weeks for us. His role hopefully will expand. We didn’t do everything we practiced because he couldn’t practice Wednesday and Thursday and he’d limp around on Friday. Other than that, we think he’s a great player and he’s still the focal point of our offense.”
Fantasy take: Ellington’s yards per carry dropped from 5.5 as a rookie in 2013 to 3.3 in 2014. He failed to rush for over 100 yards in a single game, but he did have a 100-yard receiving game in Week 5 against the Denver Broncos. Ellington also had several games with over 100 all-purpose yards. The potential is evident. As a part-time player, Ellington has flashed upside and playmaking ability. He was put on season-ending Injured Reserve after 12 games in 2014, battling both a hernia (which later required surgery) and a lingering foot injury. If healthy, Ellington can easily be a top-20 fantasy running back.
How does Kerwynn Williams and the other running backs fit in?
“They have done extremely well. Kerwynn especially was a pleasant surprise. Ran between the tackles well for a smaller back. Stepfan (Taylor) is as steady of a guy as you can have. He’s a powerful kid, he’s got quick feet, and he’s also a heck of a special teams player. We missed Jonathan Dwyer, the bigger back we had earlier in the season. We will see if we can find someone in that role.”
Fantasy Take: Williams had some success as a runner in 2014. A seventh-round pick for the Indianapolis Colts in 2013, Williams came on for Arizona towards the end of last year. In Week 14 against the Kansas City Chiefs he rushed for 100 yards, then had 75 rushing yards against the St. Louis Rams and 67 rushing yards against the San Francisco 49ers to round out the year.
He’s not the big back that Arians is clearly searching for. Keep this in mind when considering Williams’ dynasty value. So long as Ellington is healthy, Williams is mostly a reserve runner and special teams player. Even though Williams is a smaller back (5’8” 195 pounds), he’s not much of a receiving threat as he was targeted six times last year but only had two receptions for 11 yards.
Is Carson Palmer progressing well?
“Don’t jinx me, baby. He’s doing extremely well and he’s working his tail off. He’s at least three or four weeks ahead of schedule. He keeps talking about coming back for minicamp. We’ll see how he progresses whether or now we allow him to do anything but I’m really pleased with where he is at.”
Fantasy Take: The Cardinals need Palmer in a bad way. They fell apart last year after he was injured, and their offense just wasn’t as effective.
All signs point to Palmer being ready to go by the start of the regular season. Even if he’s ready to participate in minicamp, I doubt the Cardinals would give him much of a workload. The veteran has plenty of experience, and the Cardinals need to be widely cautious as he returns from another ACL injury.
If healthy, fantasy owners can consider Palmer a rock-solid QB2 with QB1 upside.
Progress of John Brown and should his role grow?
“It should grow a bunch. He uses his speed, he’s got great quickness coming off the line of scrimmage. He has to get a little stronger. Guys that got their hands on him when they did get their hands on him pushed him around and he’ll have to learn how to play that way. He has all the tools to be an outstanding player.”
Fantasy Take: I’m excited about the upside this second-year receiver has. Brown was a third-round pick out of Pittsburgh State in 2014, and his speed makes him a threat to score on any target. He can get down the field in the blink of an eye, and Brown does a good job of tracking passes over his shoulder.
Arians is correct to point out Brown’s need for better strength. If he can learn to get into his routes cleaner, then he’ll be even more dangerous as a downfield threat.
Provided Carson Palmer stays healthy, Brown makes for a nice pick in the later rounds of your draft. He has the upside, speed and big-play ability to be at least a ‘what the heck’ flex each week.
How do you make Michael Floyd more consistent?
“Keep Carson healthy. Mike just has to be a little more consistent. He does a good job of getting open, he just needs to make every catch. He left some yards out there this year, sometimes because he tries too damn hard.”
Fantasy Take: Arians is right, Floyd has the potential to be a much more consistent target for the Cardinals. Floyd’s numbers were down in 2014, part of that due to the upheaval at quarterback, but a lot of that was his inconsistency. In 16 games, there were eight times that Floyd had two catches or less. In two games, Floyd had zero catches despite being targeted six times.
At the end of the season, Floyd started losing out on snaps. However, he did finish the season strongly with eight catches for 153 yards and two touchdowns against the San Francisco 49ers.
If he finds a way to be more consistent, Floyd could easily be a top-20 fantasy receiver.