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Cardinals' new WR trio packs fantasy punch

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Dan Arkush

darkush@pfwmedia.com
Executive editor

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Posted July 16, 2010 @ 2:06 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

This is the 10th in a series of opinionated fantasy football columns that will be posted daily in July and August, providing fantasy owners with some insights to consider as they prepare for their drafts. You can get an in-depth preview of the upcoming fantasy football season with the purchase of the Yahoo! Sports / Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Guide 2010, available now in newsstands and bookstores, or online at PFWstore.com.

Just because the Cardinals are expected to switch gears on offense placing a lot more emphasis on the run with Matt Leinart replacing the retired Kurt Warner under center — it doesn't mean their receivers will automatically become fantasy also-rans.

According to daily team observers this offseason, the early feeling on the trio of Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Early Doucet is that it just might provide more fantasy firepower than last year's Big Three of Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin and Breaston.

That's an observation worth noting, considering that it seems like yesterday — actually, it was two seasons ago — when Fitzgerald, Boldin and Breaston each surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark on the road to a stunning Super Bowl run with Warner masterfully directing traffic.

The same trio wasn't nearly as devastating last season, but it still was considered one of the league's most fearsome threesomes when it came to catching passes and consistently moving the chains in a predominantly pass-oriented offense that was one of the most explosive in the NFL.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. With Warner strolling off into the Arizona sunset and Boldin getting traded to Baltimore, the stage was set for the Cardinals to put on a new fantasy face, featuring more of the talents of RBs Beanie Wells and Tim Hightower in an offense that figures to be increasingly similar to those coordinated by Ken Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh before he became the Cardinals' successful head coach.

But with Wells and Hightower becoming the Cardinals' version of Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis in those Steelers offenses, the need still exists for balance courtesy of a competent aerial attack.

And with Fitzgerald leading the way, having established himself as one of the league's most potent fantasy wideouts, the Cardinals' WR corps is still expected to pack considerable punch. 

A brilliant all-around threat coming off his third consecutive Pro Bowl berth, as well as his third 1,000-yard receiving season in a row, Fitzgerald had to deal with much more concentrated coverage in '09, as opposing teams started playing more two-deep zone coverage to keep him from getting deep. The Cardinals countered that game plan by putting Fitzgerald in motion more and lining him up in different spots on the field to create mismatches.

Granted, Fitzgerald wasn't as electrifying as he was in 2008, as his yards per catch dropped from 14.9 to 11.3, his 100-yard games dropped from seven to three, his 20-yard-plus catches dropped from 20 to 12 and his 40-yard-plus catches dropped from five to zero.

But the fantasy number that matters the most was fantastic, as he ended up tying Randy Moss and Vernon Davis for the league lead with a career-high 13 TD receptions.

Even though Fitzgerald had a career-low six scores in 2006, the last season in which Leinart was the starter, it's hardly a stretch to suggest he will approach his average the last three seasons of nearly 98 catches, 1,311 yards receiving and 12 TDs.

As for Breaston, who moves up to replace Boldin as the No. 2 receiver, sources on the scene reported that he was making two or three eye-popping plays per week during the Cardinals' OTAs after catching at least four passes in 9-of-15 games last season.

Doucet reportedly was nearly as impressive after slowly but surely emerging into a legitimate force last season, culminated by an impressive performance in the Cardinals' wild-and-crazy wild-card win over Green Bay with six catches for 77 yards and a pair of scores.

If you don't at least seriously consider any of the Cardinals' new Big Three as fantasy options in 2010, you will be committing a cardinal sin.

 

For authoritative coverage and analysis of NFL news, free agency and fantasy football, visit ProFootballWeekly.com.

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