Just as a reminder or for those who may be new to the Eyes of the Guru series. For reference, when mentioning where players finished in the rankings last season, the model will be the standard Footballguys scoring system:
- Tackles = 1.5
- Assists = .75
- Sacks = 4
- Forced fumbles = 3
- Fumble recoveries = 3
- Interceptions = 4
- Passes defended = 1.5
- Touchdowns = 6
Keep in mind that based on scoring systems, rankings will vary (sometimes greatly) from league to league.
Most team’s struggle for a year or two when moving between 3-4 and 4-3 schemes; the Cardinals may actually be better off immediately. Chandler Jones had the best statistical season of his career last year as an outside linebacker in Arizona’s 3-4. With 52 tackles and 16 sacks, he was the highest scoring fantasy player at that position, coming in around 25th among all linebackers. Going back to end in a 4-3 will probably cost him some tackles but it will make Jones an elite tier fantasy option once again. The last time he put his hand down was 2015 when Jones totaled 31-13-12.5 with 4 forced fumbles and a recovery for the Patriots. He will have no problem making the transition back to that scheme.
The switchover gives us another high potential IDP option that is flying way under the radar in early drafts. Markus Golden was the Cardinals second-round pick in 2015. As a rookie, he had the same struggles experienced by many young outside linebackers new to the Pittsburgh style zone blitz. In year two Golden flourished with 41 tackles, 10 assists, 12.5 sacks and 5 turnovers. A week four knee injury ended his third season and has Golden working his way back to health while converting to end in the new scheme at the same time. In mid-June, he said there was no timetable for a return to the field but he ”wants to be ready for week one for sure”. The knee injury is a reason for concern and will have an effect on Golden’s value in redraft leagues, at least until we see he is all the way back. The change of position is a much lesser concern. He played end as a senior at Missouri posting 36 tackles, 42 assists, 8 sacks, 6 turnovers, and a score. When hearing about the team’s change of scheme he expressed no concerns. There is a good chance Golden will be less than 100% coming out of the gate this year but dynasty owners, in particular, should look to slip him onto the roster as depth with significant long-term upside.
The Cardinals desperately need Golden to be healthy. Veteran journeyman Benson Mayowa projects as the top backup entering camp. He had five and a half sacks for the Cowboys in 2016 with a total of eight in four years as a pro. Beyond Mayowa Arizona has a collection of undrafted rookies and inexperienced second-year players competing for roster spots.
Corey Peters is all but certain to land the starting nose tackle job. He has been a solid on-field contributor for the Cardinals over the past two seasons but has done little statistically since 2013 when he was 29-17-5 for the Falcons. Rodney Gunter, Olsen Pierre, and 2016 first round pick Robert Nkemdiche will all be in the mix for playing time behind Peters and for the starting job as the 3-technique tackle. The organization would love to see Nkemdiche step up but he has shown little thus far in his career largely due to injuries. He looked healthy during mini-camps and head coach Steve Wilks has expressed optimism Nkemdiche will finally make an impact. For owners in tackle-required leagues, he is a player worth keeping an eye on.
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