The Triplets Are Not Identical
The Arizona Cardinals have thrived under head coach Bruce Arians, and appear set to compete for the Super Bowl yet again in 2016. Last year, thanks to a healthy Carson Palmer, the Cardinals finished 13-3 and scored 489 points (30.6 per game) on route to the 2nd best offense in the league. Palmer was dynamic (4,671 yards, 35 touchdowns and 11 interceptions) and made the most of his trio of talented receivers (aka "The Triplets"):
Based on last year's totals, fantasy owners have decided Michael Floyd is the weakest link...
- Fewest targets
- Fewest receptions
- Lowest catch rate
- Fewest yards
- Fewest touchdowns
- Fewest fantasy points
Looks Can Be Deceving, Floyd Wasn't Himself Until Halfway Through the Season
In training camp, Michael Floyd badly dislocated three fingers so badly that the bones broke the skin. The injury required surgery and there was no timetable for his return. The good news is Floyd -- proving his toughness -- returned to the active roster quickly and appeared in 15 regular season games. Yet, his coaches and teammates would tell you that Floyd was playing hurt (and somewhat ineffectively) in the early part of the season.
Receivers Through the First SEVEN Weeks (PER GAME)
|L. Fitz (Gms1-7)||8.4||6.6||88.9||13.5||0.9||78%|
|J. Brown (Gms1-7)||7.3||5.3||80.3||15.2||0.4||73%|
|M. Floyd (Gms1-7)||4.1||2.3||30.4||13.3||0.3||55%|
PRO-RATED 16-Game Season (USING PER GAME AVERAGES FROM WEEKS 1-7)
|L. Fitz (Gms1-7)||135||105||1,422||13.5||14||78%|
|J. Brown (Gms1-7)||117||85||1,285||15.2||7||73%|
|M. Floyd (Gms1-7)||66||37||487||13.3||5||55%|
As you can see, Floyd was a shadow of his usual self through seven weeks. Meanwhile, Larry Fitzgerald was producing at an All-Pro level, while John Brown was enjoying the breakout many hoped for when drafting him over the summer. But then Floyd rounded back into shape and the landscape changed dramatically:
Receivers Over the Final Nine Weeks (Per Game)
|L. Fitz (Gms8-16)||9.6||7.0||65.9||9.4||0.3||73%|
|J. Brown (Gms8-16)||6.3||3.5||55.1||15.8||0.5||56%|
|M. Floyd (Gms8-16)||7.5||4.5||79.5||17.7||0.5||60%|
PRO-RATED 16-Game Season (USING PER GAME AVERAGES FROM WEEKS 8-17)
|L. Fitz (Gms8-16)||153||112||1,054||9.4||5||73%|
|J. Brown (Gms8-16)||100||56||882||15.8||8||56%|
|M. Floyd (Gms8-16)||120||72||1,272||17.7||8||60%|
Dissecting the Findings
Over the final nine games of the year, Michael Floyd looked a lot more like the guy we expected. He was more targeted than John Brown, saw his yards-per-catch jump back into elite territory, his catch rate round back into normal ranges, and started producing touchdowns. As you can see, it's not as though Fitzgerald and Brown became afterthoughts, they saw 253 targets between them -- but it IS noteworthy that Floyd became the more productive player at Brown's expense, and took away Fitzgerald's otherworldly usage rate.
The Key Cardinals Influencers See It The Same Way I Do...
Head Coach Bruce Arians on Floyd's resurgence:
"If he wouldn't have broken his hand, I think he would have had a 1,500-yard year," coach Bruce Arians said after Wednesday's practice. "He was having a great camp, and he's having a hell of a season, especially the second half of the season."
General Manager Steve Keim:
"Mike has made tremendous strides, particularly this past year, not only from a skill-set standpoint but from a maturity standpoint," Keim told the media in Indianapolis at the NFL Combine on Wednesday. "His work ethic, his passion for the game, I think he took it to another level. I think you saw that in his play this year."
- Floyd is a physically gifted, aggressive receiver that can win contested battles; and has built that trust with Carson Palmer
- Carson Palmer is playing at an elite, MVP-caliber level
- Bruce Arians is one of the game's best offensive play-callers
- Floyd returned to dominant fashion after recovering from his hand injury
- Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown are talented in their own rights, meaning all three will have down weeks depending on game script
- Floyd has battled a litany of injuries in his early career
- The Cardinals face the Seahawks in Week 16 (the fantasy championship week)
"Pre-season target projections for Floyd, Fitzgerald, and Brown should be similar this season. Now entering his contract year, Floyd offers the highest ceiling in Arizona's wideout group, particularly in the touchdown and yardage departments. In Dynasty and re-draft, 26-year-old Floyd is my favorite Cardinals wideout to own."
We can see that it was Floyd, not Brown, who took most of the damage of Fitzgerald’s resurgent 2015. With two years under his belt and both spent as the preferred option over Floyd, Brown looks dialed in as Carson Palmer’s second option. Should that trend continue and Fitzgerald’s role decrease a bit at 33, we can expect Brown to claim a solid 1/3 of the wideouts’ targets in 2016.