Spotlight - WR Anquan Boldin, Arizona Cardinals
Posted 7/11 by Jason Wood and Chase Stuart,
Exclusive to Footballguys.com
Jason Wood's Thoughts
Dennis Green has been a wildly productive offensive play caller during his tenure as an offensive coordinator (in San Francisco) and as a head coach. Entering last season, Green-led offenses had AVERAGED 3,999 yards passing and 28 TD passes; those are Earth-shattering numbers. And when you consider that Green accomplished that with a revolving door at QB (some good, some not-so-good), it's all the more impressive.
Can K. Warner get the job done? -- That's the $64,000 question. Warner, a two-time league MVP, has been a shadow of his former self over the last three years. From 2002-2004, Warner threw a grand TOTAL of 10 touchdown passes. He used to do that in the first month of a season. Over that same span he's thrown 16 INTs and fumbled more times than Tiki Barber with grease on his hands. But most importantly, he's looked like a deer in the headlights. Whether it's lingering issues with his hand, the shell shock from taking a pounding for a few seasons, or a combination of both, Warner hasn't looked equipped to last 16 games much less flourish. Yet, that's not enough for me to write off Boldin and Fitzgerald as fantasy prospects. One, the team still has Josh McCown waiting in the wings. Last year, Boldin and Fitzgerald acquitted themselves well within the confines of a less-than-stellar Cardinals offense. Two, something about Dennis Green and his history of getting excellent production out of just about any QB is something you can't ignore.
Assuming the Cardinals manage to put up some passing yards, which WR is likely to have the better season? -- Obviously both Boldin and Fitzgerald are talents. Boldin, a converted college QB, wasn't considered a sure thing coming into the league but then proceeded to enjoy one of the finest rookie seasons in league history. Although his full year numbers weren't stellar in 2004 due to injury, upon his return he was right back to being one of the most targeted receivers in the league. Unlike Boldin, Fitzgerald came into the league with expectations of greatness. His 58 receptions for 780 yards and 8 touchdowns were good enough for 30th among fantasy receivers; and a promising start considering he was a rookie playing without many supporting weapons for half the season. If I had to give one of these receivers the edge, it goes to Boldin. You simply don't have 101 receptions for 1,377 yards as a ROOKIE and not have Pro Bowl caliber ability. But I believe both receivers could potentially end up with 1,000+ yards. A lot would have to go right for them, but it's not out of the question.
- Both Boldin and Fitzgerald are sure handed (five combined drops in 219 targets) with the ability to make plays all over the field, gain separation with precise route running, and outmuscle physical defensive backs with their size
- Boldin is among the most targeted receivers in the league, and had as many targets in 10 games last season as Fitzgerald had in 16 games
- Boldin flourished at split end as a rookie but was moved to flanker last season; this year Denny Green has promised that Boldin and Fitzgerald will share both positions
- Boldin missed six games last season with a knee injury
- His outlandish rookie success came as a result of the team being devoid of other receiving options, with Fitzgerald on board (and Bryant Johnson playing reasonably well), that's no longer the case
- The team's defense looks improved and the addition of J.J. Arrington means the team should be able to run the ball, this could translate into fewer targets in the passing game particularly in the red zone
Anquan Boldin is being drafted 17th among fantasy WRs according to Antsports, and that seems appropriate given the circumstances. On talent alone, Boldin is equipped to put up numbers that rival the league's best. But, he has to share the spotlight with another highly regarded receiver with a world of talent, and faces the prospect of relying on the enigmatic and battered Kurt Warner to get him the ball. If the Cardinals offensive line can keep Warner off his back, and Arrington gives the team a semblance of a running attack, the sky is the limit for Boldin and Fitzgerald. Every season, there are a number of teams that produce multiple WRs with 1,000+ yards and Dennis Green has made a career of it (granted he had Cris Carter and Randy Moss in Minnesota). If you have to choose one of the two, it's Boldin. But either offers decent upside at their projected ADP.
Chase Stuart's Thoughts
Which team in the NFL has the best WRs? The most productive of course, are in Indianapolis – the Colts had three 1,000 yard WRs last season alone. The most talented might be Raiders, after adding Randy Moss to the duo of Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry. The highest drafted are in Detroit – with consecutive Top 10 draft picks three years running.
But the Arizona Cardinals have quietly assembled perhaps the best young WR duo in the league. Anquan Boldin, drafted in the second round of 2003, excelled as a rookie catching 101 passes, and from that year only Nate Burleson and Andre Johnson have contributed like Boldin. Last year’s rookie class saw great performances by Michael Clayton and Roy Williams, but the former Pitt Panther Larry Fitzgerald was the top WR taken. Will Boldin and Fitzgerald become the next Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress, if not the new Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt?
Let’s start with Boldin, whose 11.8 targets/game last year led the NFL. He ranked third in targets in 2003 (177 – 11.1/game), making it clear that he’s one of the most targeted receivers in football. Despite missing six games last year, he broke Wayne Chrebet’s record (150) of most receptions in NFL history by a player in his first two seasons. Boldin’s amazingly averaged over 6 receptions per game in his short NFL career, thanks to his excellent athleticism. He’s much faster than the 40-time he ran at the Combine while injured, has great body control and can make every catch. Boldin’s one of the most physically gifted WRs in the NFL, and he has become a reception machine.
Larry Fitzgerald was one of the most highly touted receivers in recent history. He’s got good size, great hands and excellent knowledge of the game. He’s a very good route runner that should only improve, and his leaping ability makes him a good deep threat. Fitzgerald can do it all on the football field, and he had a fine rookie year with 780 yards and 8 scores.
- Both WRs will benefit from the additions of QB Kurt Warner and RB J.J. Arrington, which should help give them one of the better offenses in the league
- Talent, talent, talent. There’s little denying that these two players are two of the most talented young WRs in the league, and both should be top tier receivers in the NFL soon
- Dennis Green directed great offenses for years in Minnesota, based on the strength of his talented WR corps. He seems poised for similar success in Arizona
- Boldin’s rookie season was one of the best of all time; as for Fitzgerald, only one rookie WR (Lee Evans with 9 last year) in the previous six seasons had more touchdowns than Fitzgerald. His 58 receptions rank 12th among rookie wide outs over the past fifteen years
- Having a skilled complementary WR should help limit the number of double teams both WRs face
- Kurt Warner is a shell of his former self, and it remains to be seen whether or not he can have a rebirth in Arizona
- Will Boldin and Fitzgerald cut into each other’s stats? While some teams (Rams, Colts) can support two star WRs, very few have shown the ability to consistently do this
- Both players are still very young, and have combined for just 42 NFL games. While their futures look bright, it’s always wise to be cautious with players that have not proven the ability to have sustained success
While both Boldin and Fitzgerald should get lots of receptions and yards, who will be the one scoring the touchdowns? Conventional wisdom says Fitzgerald, who caught 8 TDs to Boldin’s one last in 2004. But Boldin scored eight times as a rookie, and proved to be a pretty good red zone target. The table below shows the length of all career touchdowns for both players:
Less than 10 yards -- Boldin (3) vs. Fitzgerald (3)
Between 10 and 20 yards -- Boldin (2) vs. Fitzgerald (0)
Between 20 and 50 yards -- Boldin (2) vs. Fitzgerald (5)
Over 50 yards -- Boldin (3) vs. Fitzgerald (0)
Boldin had five red zone TDs, compared to Fitzgerald’s three. Boldin also proved to be the much better deep threat, with three TDs of 50+ yards. Fitzgerald’s the bigger body, but Boldin has excellent hands and body control. At this point, it looks like a dead heat. But consider that despite missing six games, Boldin had eight red zone targets last year – the same as Fitzgerald.
Quotations from the Message Board Thread
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there),
Numbers were slightly off track rookie year pace, but that was to be expected coming off the injury. I think Boldin is out to prove he is the best WR on the team without question in 2005 and could put up top 10 numbers.
I think both these receivers are under-rated this season, but it does all depend on Warner, doesn't it? Fitzgerald will catch the home run ball (and therefore have more TDs, Boldin will move the chains. This is an under-rated offense, IMO.
A healthy Boldin is an absolutely lock for 90 catches and 1200 yards. The TDs are tougher to predict, and they will probably not be on the high end. Fitzgerald will have far fewer receptions, catch a few more deep balls, and possibly a few more touchdowns. Boldin = tons of value this year, IMO.
Anquan Boldin Projections
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