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Spotlight: Carson Palmer

posted by Steve Holloway on Jul 9th

Steve Holloway's thoughts

Setting the Stage
Carson Palmer, blessed with outstanding physical attributes was highly recruited out of high school. He had scholarship offers from Notre Dame, Miami and many others, but ultimately stayed in-state and attended the University of Southern California. He became the starter for the Trojans late in his freshman season and eventually passed for over 10,000 yards and 65 TDs.

Palmer had an amazing senior season in 2002, passing for 3,942 yards and 33 TDs and also running for another four TDs. After the season, he became the fifth Trojan player and first quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy. He followed up that honor in the spring by being drafted #1 overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. At 6-foot 5 and 235 pounds, his combination of prototypical size and outstanding arm strength could not be overlooked. He unexpectedly sat out his entire rookie season though, being mentored by starting quarterback Jon Kitna (who won Comeback Player of the year) and learning under the tutelage of first year Head Coach Marvin Lewis and Quarterback Coach Ken Zampese.

Palmer was ready the next year and started every game through week 14 when he suffered a knee sprain. His play steadily improved over the following three seasons, despite suffering a horrific knee injury against the Steelers in the playoffs in January of 2006. After the surgery, his own surgeon declared, "It's not just like it was a torn ACL, it's a magnitude more difficult to recover from and repair. It can and has ended careers, without a doubt." Palmer worked extremely hard and despite being injured in January, amazingly did not miss a game the next season. A year later in 2008, he suffered a broken nose and then played three games with elbow issues, finally being shut down after playing in only four games. The injury was later diagnosed as a partially torn ligament and tendon. Palmer opted not to have Tommy John surgery and instead decided to let the elbow fully rest, allowing it to heal on its own. In March of the next year, he declared himself 100% healthy, but that year his play was frequently criticized and his once outstanding arm strength questioned. His production slipped and his completion percentage and yards per attempt dropped all the way down to his rookie season production level.

The next year Palmer improved his play somewhat and the team won two of their first three games. After that good start, they endured a ten-game losing streak and ended the season with a record of four wins and 12 losses. In January, Palmer demanded to be traded, reportedly saying "I have $80 million in the bank, I don't have to play football for money. I'll play it for the love of the game, but that would have to be elsewhere." A long standoff ensued between Palmer and Bengals President Mike Brown with neither backing down for over nine months. Brown finally relented in October 2011 trading Palmer for the Raiders first round pick in 2012 and a conditional second round pick in 2013. Oakland was highly criticized for giving up so much to acquire a 31 year old quarterback who most thought had already seen his best days.

Despite not playing football in almost a year and without having sufficient time to learn the playbook or practice with the team, Palmer came off the bench the first game immediately after the trade and played poorly. After the game, he stated "I was told I was not going to play. I didn't know the offense and I also hadn't been training and working out." Despite that inauspicious start, the team's bye week followed and gave Palmer two weeks where he worked extremely hard on a crash course of the offense. Although he frequently turned the ball over, his play otherwise improved quickly and the Raiders finished the season with eight wins and eight losses and tied with the Broncos, but lost the tie-breaker and missed the playoffs.

The following table provides Carson Palmer's current career statistics.

Year Team Gms Comps Atts Comp% PassYds YPA TDs Ints Rank
04 Cin 14 263 432 60.9 2,897 6.7 18 18 22
05 Cin 16 345 509 67.8 3,836 7.5 32 12 1
06 Cin 16 324 520 62.3 4,035 7.8 28 13 4
07 Cin 16 373 575 64.9 4,131 7.2 26 20 9
08 Cin 5 75 129 58.1 731 5.7 23 4 41
09 Cin 16 282 466 60.5 3,094 6.6 21 13 18
10 Cin 16 362 586 61.8 3,970 6.8 26 20 12
11 Oak 10 199 328 60.7 2,751 8.4 13 16 26
Total 109 2,223 3,545 62.7 25,445 7.2 167 116

Looking Forward to 2012
Palmer has continually throughout his many years in the league, displayed mental toughness and the commitment to work hard to overcome obstacles and injuries, continuing to be effective. I believe that he is highly motivated to prove to the Raiders that they made a sound decision acquiring him despite the multitude of criticisms about the trade.


  • Palmer established himself as the team leader by his play last season
  • He has had sufficient time to completely learn the offense and be in excellent condition
  • His top receivers are all returning and the team added a talented rookie wide receiver
  • He averaged a career high 8.4 ypa last year in spite of multiple challenges


  • The Raiders have a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator
  • Oakland is expected to have a bottom ten offensive line and Palmer is not known for his ability to escape the rush
  • Darren McFadden returns and will play a prominent role in the offense, but as a good receiver out of the backfield that may not be a huge negative

Final thoughts

Palmer averaged 293 yards passing per game last season with the Raiders, despite not having benefit of time to learn the offense or get familiar with his teammates. That per game production equates to 4,688 yards. He is an established team leader who will likely be driven to have success with his new team. As seen last year, he is fully capable of passing for over 4,000 yards on the season and he has a current ADP of QB18 and 128 overall. He is an ideal selection late as your second quarterback and it is conceivable that he could finish inside the top twelve fantasy quarterbacks in 2012.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

az_prof said:

I don't know where the Kool aid came from, but people appear to be drunk on the Palmer Kool aid. He has not had a studly year since 2007-2008, before his serious injury. The guy has never been the same. Last season he threw for a high ypg number but it was not a full season and most of those games were without McFadden. Doesn't it seem likely that the team will emphasize the run more with McFadden in the backfield, at least as long as DMAC is healthy? He also had MORE INTS than TDs last year--a clear sign that he was forcing the ball and that those passing yards are going to have to come down.

FF Ninja said:

Palmer is an interesting case for 2012. He is one of several players that screams value to me and will make it hard to justify taking a QB in the top 12. Roethlisberger (QB15), Palmer (QB20), Fitzpatrick (QB21), and Flynn (QB24) are my favorite value plays at first glance. Last season Palmer was thrown into the fire via midseason trade after not participating in football activities all year, but put up impressive totals after just two weeks of learning the system. His last 9 games extrapolate to a 16 game season of: 546 att, 340 comp (62.2%), 8.6 ypa, 23 TD, 23 INT

8.6 ypa was by far a career high. Given his career average and the new offensive system, I think a solid bump down is prudent. However, with the departure of Michael Bush and DMC's fragile nature, he could easily see 550 attempts this coming season. I really like his WR trio of Moore, DHB, and Ford. DMC is a good receiver, too. Palmer played without Ford and DMC for most of those 9 games. No matter how I look at the situation, I can't fathom him finishing as low as his current ADP.

David Yudkin ( Staff Writer) said:

Palmer was the #10 fantasy QB from Week 9 on in terms of fantasy ppg. I am curious why he would not be much of a candidate to be in the Top 10 this year when he literally came in from the street and did very well last year. I realize last year is last year, but wouldn't he stand a chance to do as well or better with a full training and more of a chance to absorb the entire playbook?

Raiderfan32904 said:

Palmer basically came in "off the couch" and averaged a whopping 293 yards per game in 9 starts and a healthy 8.6 YPA. He didn't have the benefit of a healthy Jacoby Ford or a complementary stud RB in Darren McFadden. He's still only 32 years old, but the perception is he's been around forever, yet QB's like Drew Brees (33) and Peyton Manning (36) get the benefit of the doubt. In his recent interviews, he seems really fired up to get on with the preseason and has been working out with the receiving crew over the winter in offseason workouts.

Out is Hue Jackson who maneuvered the trade for Palmer, and in new offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, who is bringing with him Houston's version of the west coast offense and zone blocking system. It's not a dink and dunk system, but It's fair to expect more short to intermediary routes this year as well to go with some of the deep shots the Raiders are known for. I expect Palmer's yardage totals to go up but the YPA to go down a tad. Also, the new offensive scheme is going to make a beast out of Darren McFadden, who should be the focal point, just as it was for Arian Foster in Houston. Rookie wideout Juron Criner is going to be a new weapon running possession routes in this new system, adding to the mix of a talented crew of DHB, Moore, Ford who will spread the field. Raider TE's are a mixed bag, not worthy of mention for fantasy purposes, but then again Palmer doesn't really throw to them much anyway.

Carson Palmer projections

Steve Holloway32053040812318351
Message board consensus34855640452617450