In this addition of Fantasy Football Doubletake, NFL Spin Zone editor Joe Soriano and I try to answer the question “What receiver could make the jump to elite status in 2014?”
J.P.: My answer is a bit of a reach, mostly because I feel like the league is already full of stars at the position. That includes the loaded 2014 NFL Draft class, but it usually takes a season or two for receivers to find their way in the league. For that reason, I’m not looking at anyone from the 2014 draft. I am, however, looking at a second-rounder from 2013 to step up and become a force this season.
New England’s Aaron Dobson spent most of 2013 playing with a stress fracture in his left foot. Despite that, he still caught 37 passes for 519 yards and four touchdowns. Those are comparable numbers to what Kenny Stills put up in New Orleans at 100 percent. Dobson also had some miscues and communication issues with Tom Brady early on in the season that cost him at least a couple of touchdowns and eventually even some playing time.
With a full calendar year as a pro under his belt and the fracture in his foot surgically repaired, Dobson should be able to start the 2014 season with a clean slate and regain the form he had in college that inspired the Patriots to use a second round pick on him. He is already running through intense conditioning drills with strength coaches — a good sign that he could be ready by week one.
Whenever he takes the field, I fully expect Dobson to assert himself as the first true No. 1 option in New England since the departure of Randy Moss and reap the statistical rewards of catching passes from Tom Brady at that position. Those stats are what will likely bump him into the upper echelon of the receiver ranks in the league — similar to the jump made by Alshon Jeffery in 2013.
Joe: Larry Fitzgerald is still a great wide receiver in this league, but it’s becoming clear that Michael Floyd is the Arizona Cardinals wide receiver you want. Carson Palmer is pretty much the epitome of a “meh” quarterback and should honestly be used as a veteran stopgap at this stage of his career, but he isn’t going to embarrass himself out there and won’t be an impediment to a wide receiver’s fantasy success.
Floyd is coming off of a breakout season in his own right, as he hauled in 66 passes for 1,054 yards and five touchdowns, and his importance as the team’s true vertical threat in Bruce Arians’s aggressive offense made him incredibly valuable to the Cardinals. He averaged a whopping 16 yards per reception, and he’s the team’s “X” receiver with Fitzgerald lined up as the more possession-oriented “Z”. Thus, Floyd will continue to get big-play opportunities, and while Palmer doesn’t have the strongest arm out there, he can test defenses downfield. More importantly, Palmer, as we saw with Floyd, is willing to test defenses downfield, and he almost has to in this offense.
Heading into his third season in the league, we have every indication that Floyd is headed for bigger and better things. Palmer and beat writers have been loading praise onto the former Notre Dame first-round pick’s shoulders, and it’s incredible to think that he is just 24. That means he still has plenty of room to grow physically, which will only help him explode next year. He’s going to get more targets next season, so 66 receptions would be his floor, assuming he stays healthy. Speaking of health, Floyd wowed the Cardinals coaching staff last season by playing through a painful AC sprain during his three-week explosion.
Even though Floyd had over 1,000 receiving yards last season, I think 2013 was a flash in the pan of what he is capable of. Remember, a lot of Floyd’s yardage came in spurts, as he didn’t crack 50 receiving yards in half of his games. He’s going to close the gap on Fitzgerald in the target department, too, as he was thrown at 113 times last year, compared to 135 targets for Fitzgerald last season.