Draft Carson Palmer

Draft Carson PalmerCarson Palmer should be your top target for the QB2 position in 2013.

Yes, this recommendation could come back to bite me, and it could look terrible by the end of the season, but I’m willing to take that chance. Draft Carson Palmer.

Palmer is going to have great value, and he has great potential for success in his new surroundings in Arizona.

Let me be clear: by saying that Palmer should be your top QB2 target, I mean that you should be taking him around the 11th to 13th Quarterback spot in your draft, or paying an auction value that would put him around the 11th to 13th most expensive quarterback in the auction.

Most fantasy football analysts disagree with me at this point in the year. Several sites actually have Palmer outside the top-20 at his position. So let’s take a look at the arguments against Palmer, and I’ll show why I’m not buying the hate.

Palmer’s Age and Health

Palmer’s age alone can’t keep him out of fantasy consideration. Palmer is three and a half years younger than Peyton Manning. Palmer won’t turn 34 until December. So age isn’t an argument against drafting Palmer as your QB2.

Health may be the bigger concern. Carson Palmer tore his ACL and MCL in 2005, after a vicious shot to his knee in a playoff game against the Steelers. Although at the time some were concerned the injury would end Palmer’s career, he bounced back and started every game in 2006 and 2007.

Palmer proved his resilience and determination by rehabbing fast enough to play in preseason action in 2006, despite his surgeon’s description that the knee injury was “devastating and potentially career-ending.” Palmer is a man who wants to play and wants to win.

After complete seasons in 2006 and 2007, Palmer began 2008 with a clear protective visor to shield his broken nose, but he played through that pain. Unfortunately, Palmer only started four games before learning that he had torn a ligament and tendon in his elbow. Palmer chose not to have Tommy John surgery, and he let the elbow heal naturally. By March 2009, Palmer declared himself “100 percent.”

Finally, at the end of last season, Palmer suffered an injury to his ribs, which took him out of Weeks 16 and 17. That injury doesn’t appear to have lasted into this season.

In short, Palmer, like any NFL Quarterback, has suffered his share of injuries, but he has always recovered quickly and shown a fierce drive to get back into the game. Admittedly, he hasn’t been as accurate since the elbow injury, and he hasn’t thrown for more than 26 TDs in a season since that 2008 injury. But you have to look beyond the stats to understand why to believe in Palmer this year.

Palmer’s Stats

Draft Carson PalmerDetractors will point to Carson Palmer‘s mediocre stats since 2008 when they argue against drafting him this year. They’ll correctly note that Palmer hasn’t finished a season with a completion percentage higher than 62% since his elbow injury, and they’ll show that he hasn’t thrown for more than 4,018 yards. Even more important for fantasy, his highest TD total since the injury is 26, in 2010.

Looking deeper, however, we see that the players and situations around Palmer greatly contributed to those middling stats.

In 2009 and 2010, Palmer was deeply dissatisfied with his situation and with the Bengals’ leadership. As soon as the 2010 season ended, Palmer requested a trade away from the Bengals team that had finished 4-12. When the team’s president refused, Palmer decided he was done, and the team chose to draft Andy Dalton in that draft.

Palmer had been frustrated with the team’s game plans, the lack of skill at the receiving positions, and more generally with the lack of success the team had experienced. During those two years after the elbow injury, Palmer was throwing to the aging Terrell Owens, the mercurial Chad Johnson/Ochocino, and the now-departed Chris Henry. The team was, to say the least, troubled.

Carson Palmer sat and watched the NFL from his couch for the first half of 2011, stuck in a stalemate with a team that refused to trade him. But when the Oakland Raiders lost Jason Campbell for the season, they came calling. The Bengals accepted a windfall of a trade offer, taking a first-round pick in 2012 and a conditional pick in 2013 in exchange for a player who hadn’t suited up for as much as a practice in 2011.

Palmer had moderate success in the rest of 2011, although he admitted when he first saw game action, “I didn’t know the offense. I also hadn’t been training and working out.” Palmer later told reporters that when he first went in against the Kansas City Chiefs, he only knew 15 of the Raiders’ plays.

In 2012, his only full season as a Raiders’ starter, Palmer threw for 22 TDs and 14 INTs, finishing the year with a 61.1% completion rate and 4,018 yards. Despite the Raiders’ inability to run the ball most weeks, combined with injuries to several of their receivers, Palmer ended the season with very decent fantasy stats. He finished 2012 tied for 16th among fantasy quarterbacks.

Why This Year?

Draft Carson PalmerSo if Palmer has performed no better than average among NFL quarterbacks since his elbow injury, why would I pick this year to back him? Quite simply, he has the talent and the coaching staff around him to make him a productive quarterback.

This year Palmer moves from a disappointing Raiders team to a promising Arizona Cardinals team under new leadership. New coach Bruce Arians loves to throw the ball, and he particularly likes taking chances on deep passes. Last year Arians called plays for Andrew Luck, who threw the ball 21+ yards 91 times. In comparison, Palmer only threw 48 passes that went beyond 21 yards.

The Arizona Cardinals also boast one of the league’s most-talented Wide Receivers in Larry Fitzgerald, who has an unmatched ability to catch difficult passes in double- and even triple-coverage. Fitzgerald has for several years made very bad Quarterbacks look competent by his ability to catch passes that were far from precise. Now, with an experienced, veteran Quarterback throwing to him, Fitzgerald has to be excited. Palmer and Fitzgerald are spending much of July in Minnesota, practicing and training together, along with a few other players.

The biggest weakness in the Cardinals’ offense is their offensive line, which gave up 58 sacks last year. Palmer was sacked less than half that often (26 times) in Oakland last year. Arians had the same struggle last year in Indianapolis, and I trust that he’s spending many hours this offseason in an attempt to improve the play of the Cardinals’ offensive line.

Draft Carson Palmer

Draft Carson PalmerI think Palmer has great potential this year, and you should be able to pick him up for good value in your draft or auction. As I mentioned earlier, most analysts and most fantasy sites are barely putting Palmer inside the top-20 at Quarterback, if he even makes the top 20.

Palmer will be best-paired with a stable, reliable Quarterback from the top 10. If you can pick up a solid Quarterback early in your draft — say Peyton Manning or even Matt Ryan — then Palmer is worth a risk later. He has great potential in Bruce Arians’ aggressive offense, and you shouldn’t have to risk too much to get him.

I’m drafting Palmer as a QB2 whenever I can, and I fully expect him (if he stays healthy) to finish as a top-15 Quarterback this year, with the potential to crack the bottom of the top 10. You should draft Carson Palmer.

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Josh is a lawyer in rural Colorado. He has been playing fantasy football since 2002, and he has been commissioner of a two-quarterback league since 2004. 2014 marks his entrance into the dynasty format.