Fantasy Football: What Went Wrong with Larry Fitzgerald in 2018

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We’ve all been there. It’s Week 6 of the NFL season and you’re cursing your second round wide receiver for putting up another sub-par performance. Fantasy football is a game of probabilities, and we’ve all had to deal with a disappointing draft pick. While every fantasy player approaches this differently (keep, trade, cut, curse the fantasy gods), we can often learn from these situations.

As always, there were a handful of disappointing NFL players this past season. The article series “What Went Wrong?” will focus on lessons learned from disappointing fantasy football players. Let’s start with Arizona Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald. Larry Legend finished as WR28 in 0.5-point leagues despite being drafted as the consensus WR16 in 2018 fantasy drafts. If you watched any Cardinals games last year, you already know why.

What Went Wrong?

The Cardinals finished the 2018 season with a 3-13 record and threw for a league-low 2,523 passing yards. For reference, the 32 NFL teams combined for an average of 3,804 passing yards in 2018. No team in the NFL has thrown for fewer than Arizona’s 2,523 passing yards since 2011! Larry Fitzgerald posted the lowest receptions per game of his career, excluding his rookie season. In fact, his total targets dropped over 25% from his prior 3 seasons. Needless to say, the reason why Larry Fitzgerald underperformed is because of rookie Josh Rosen’s putrid quarterback play (66.7 QBR)…and no NFL expert could have possibly projected the Cardinals to be the worst passing offense in the past 7 years.

Entering the 2018 NFL season, Larry Fitzgerald was as safe as they come, despite changes in quarterback and head coach. Fitzgerald is a future Hall of Famer who had averaged over 10 fantasy points per game in 11 of his 13 seasons following his rookie year. He was also coming off a top-10 WR finish in 2017. The table below shows Fitzgerald’s career fantasy finishes in 0.5-point scoring.

[lptw_table id=”159325″ style=”default”]
Key Lessons Learned
  1. Offensive changes introduce risk to fantasy football players, regardless of how safe a player appears.
  2. We should be especially cautious with teams that change both head coach and quarterback during the offseason… Watch out Broncos and Dolphins fans.
  3. The fantasy community tends to overreact to a player’s value after a disappointing season. As I’ll discuss below, I think Larry Fitzgerald will have a productive 2019 season just like teammate David Johnson, who was recently highlighted as a top-5 RB discount.
2019 Outlook – Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald recently signed a one year deal with the Cardinals and will be playing what is presumably his final season in the NFL. Despite a disappointing 2018 performance as an older wide receiver, he has plenty of gas left in the tank. Here are 10 reasons why I’m all in on Larry Fitzgerald for this upcoming season:

  1. Fitzgerald would have finished the 2018 season as the WR16 if he was fueled by the NFL’s average 2018 passing offense and maintained his 23% market share.
  2. Fitzgerald still posted a 62% catch percentage in 2018, just above his career average.
  3. As of this writing, his average draft position (ADP) is WR40. While that should rise over the next few months, I guarantee he will remain a value.
  4. His floor is a top-30 WR, as shown this past season. The Arizona offense has nowhere to go but up whether that’s through quarterback play from Kyler Murray or a more experienced Josh Rosen. His upside is a top-18 WR.
  5. Fitzgerald has scored six TDs in each of the past three seasons. I bet he repeats with at least six TDs in 2019.
  6. In his first half of 2019, he had two games over 40 yards receiving. In his the second half of the season with Rosen, he posted five games over 40 yards.
  7. His yards per reception stayed even (10.6) from 2017 to 2018.
  8. In his last 10 games, Fitzgerald managed to maintain a 30% bust rate. That’s better than Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley. For more information about bust rate, read The TRUTH about WR in 2018 Part 1 and Part 2.
  9. Kliff Kingsbury is the new head coach for the Cardinals and is expected to revamp the team with an Air-Raid offense.
  10. 2nd year Christian Kirk and 3rd year Ricky Seals-Jones should take steps forward in 2019 and take some attention away from Fitzgerald.

Larry Fitzgerald will be a solid, consistent flex option for you in 2019 with upside to move into your WR2 slot. His ceiling is limited, but what other late round players provide such a safe floor? His current ADP indicates that you could draft a tight end and a combination of seven running backs and wide receivers before selecting him in the 9th round. It also doesn’t hurt that he can throw an occasional touchdown pass himself.

Draft Larry Legend late in redraft leagues and trade for him if you’re a “win now” dynasty team looking for WR depth, you won’t be disappointed.

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