The 2008 Arizona Cardinals were one of the best stories in recent NFL lore. The once laughable losers from the desert, you know the ones that once had a punter (Tom Tupa) lead them in passing yards (in 1991) and a kicker (Bill Gramatica) blow out his knee celebrating a field goal, conquered the NFC and almost won a Super Bowl.
The team was also loaded with fantasy superstars.
Larry Fitzgerald, who led all wide receivers in fantasy points on NFL.com, developed into the top option at his position. Anquan Boldin, despite missing four games due to injuries, posted 89 receptions, 1,038 yards and a career-best 11 touchdowns. Oh, and don't forget about Steve Breaston. A solid sleeper in 2008, he finished with 77 receptions and 1,006 yards. Fitzgerald, Boldin and Breaston became one of the few trios of wide receivers to all record 1,000 yards in the same season.
Much of the success of those wideouts can be attributed to the experience and right arm of Kurt Warner.
The veteran quarterback posted an incredible 4,583 yards and 30 touchdown passes even at the ripe old age of 37. Those numbers helped him finish in the top five in fantasy points for the season. Based on that high level of success, Warner's ADP (average draft position) on NFL.com is an amazing 37.60 in 2009 drafts. He's been drafted as high as 14th overall and no lower than 56th. Obviously, fantasy leaguers have no worries about Warner heading into the new season.
But maybe there is some cause for concern.
Warner admits that he is still only about 85 percent right now as he continues to recover from offseason hip surgery. He's been feeling pain in the hip for several months but remains excited for the upcoming season. Warner is also optimistic based on the fact that the offense is relatively unchanged from the 2008 campaign.
"When I was here the first couple of years, it seemed like every week we had a different lineup," Warner told 620 KTAR in Arizona. "You just can't build any continuity that way. It's hard to work with guys when you don't know exactly how they are going to react. We've been fortunate in that regard that we've had the same group working together and coach has been able to use that to our advantage."
While that continuity is certainly a positive for Warner and his receivers, fantasy leaguers also have to look at other factors that will make Warner at least somewhat of a risk in drafts (especially if he's coming off the board as soon as Round 3).
First, Warner is no spring chicken anymore. At 38, he'll be the oldest starting quarterback in the league to open the season. You also have to consider that 2008 was the first season he's started all 16 games since 2001. In fact, he's started all 16 games just three times in his entire NFL career.
Not to further frighten the superstitious people out there, but Warner's top option in the pass attack, Fitzgerald, is one of two players (Steelers SS Troy Polamalu) on the cover of the new Madden video game. Unless you've been living under a rock for the past 10 years, you know that the Madden cover curse has become arguably the most famous jinx in all of sports. It's affected the likes of Daunte Culpepper, Marshall Faulk, Eddie George, Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and even the great Brett Favre last season.
There have also been reports that Brian St. Pierre, a career backup at the pro level, has a legitimate chance to unseat Matt Leinart as the Cardinals' No. 2 quarterback. So if Warner is forced to miss time, which has been the case in most of his NFL seasons, fantasy leaguers could be stuck with St. Pierre throwing the ball to Fitzgerald, Boldin and the rest of the Cardinals wideouts. The way Leinart has looked in his short career, I wouldn't feel 100 percent comfortable with him under center, either.
Now I'm not telling you to avoid Warner altogether on the basis of some curse. But because of his age and past proneness to injuries, the veteran has a better chance to be a bust than to surpass his 2008 totals. In my mind, that makes him a risk at his current 37.60 ADP. If he's going that soon in drafts, I'd rather sit back and take someone like Jay Cutler (67.68 ADP), who I also don't think has a chance to duplicate his numbers from last season, in the sixth or seventh round.
News and notes
- » Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson is opening eyes at training camp with his immense speed and playmaking ability. He was also a standout in OTAs and seems poised to improve on his rookie totals. While it's hard to see him posting truly enormous numbers on a team with a serious wealth of talent at wide receiver, there's no reason to think Jackson can't produce 1,000 yards and six to eight touchdowns in 2009.
- » The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Mark Clayton will miss two-to-three preseason games due to an injured hamstring. Since the start of training camp, he's gone from a potential sleeper (in light of Derrick Mason's retirement) to no more than a late-round pick (once Mason returned) in fantasy drafts. Demetrius Williams will now have a chance to show his stuff in Clayton's absence, but his value is minimal.
- » According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Marques Colston (knee surgery) is "feeling great" and has been consistently finishing practices at training camp. While he has dealt with injuries during his time at the NFL level, it's still hard not to like Colston as a No. 1 fantasy wideout based on the presence of Drew Brees and an offense that should remain one of the more premier units in the league.
- » Tony Romo and Roy E. Williams are gaining a tremendous rapport in Cowboys training camp. While the offense will use more two tight-end sets and be based on the run, there will still be plenty of opportunities for Romo and Williams to hook up this season. Williams, who has the talent to be a solid fantasy starter, should be seen as a high-end No. 2 wideout who you might be able to get as a No. 3 in some formats.
- » The Gaston Gazette is reporting that DeAngelo Williams has looked "like a superstar" in Panthers training camp. The highest-scoring fantasy running back in the league last season, Williams currently has a 7.43 ADP on NFL.com. It's hard to see him duplicating last season's immense totals, but there's no reason he can't rush for around 1,300 yards with 12-15 touchdowns in what remains a run-based offense.