The NFL trade rumor mill has been turning rapidly with speculation about Larry Fitzgerald possibly being traded to the New England Patriots, especially after the Arizona Cardinals’ stud receiver restructured his contract. Although neither side is giving away any secrets as to the legitimacy of a potential deal, it’s easy to see how it would make sense for both parties financially and from a personnel standpoint. So we have to ask: How will this affect everyone from a fantasy football standpoint in 2014?
Well for starters, the Patriots need help at receiver. Julian Edelman was Tom Brady’s top target in 2013 as he caught 105 passes for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns, most of which came during Rob Gronkowski’s absence. Otherwise, Kenbrell Thompkins and Aaron Dobson alternated as Brady’s second-favorite target when Danny Amendola was injured, which was about half the season.
When everyone was healthy, the Patriots had a monster two-game stretch in late November in which Edelman, Amendola and Gronkowksi were all contributing at a high level. But that was it: two games. The reason was the deep threat of Gronkowski down the seam, which opens things up for underneath crossing routes and deeper routes on the outside. Without him, the Patriots didn’t have that balance.
Enter Fitzgerald to pair with Edelman or Amendola, because the Patriots can’t keep them both, and suddenly Brady has a weaponry similar to that of 2007. Fitzgerald and Gronkowski are both players who can’t be covered by a single defender and Edelman (or Amendola) is a dynamite underneath receiver who would always be singled up against a No. 3 cornerback or nickel back with all the defensive attention demanded by the two higher-profile receivers.
In fantasy terms, that would put Fitzgerald into Calvin Johnson territory while making Gronkowski arguably the No. 1 fantasy tight end once again with Jimmy Graham as his only real competition. But that’s just the beginning.
Edelman (or Amendola) then becomes the PPR fiend that Wes Welker was with Brady and, of course, the Patriots’ signal-caller returns to being the stud fantasy quarterback he once was. From a reality football standpoint, the Patriots’ offense would then be unstoppable with the element of a strong running game they developed in 2013.
Speaking of the ground game, Shane Vereen becomes an even more valuable PPR running back at that point, although New England’s backfield would still be likely playing Russian Roulette from a rushing standpoint. In other words, you could take Vereen in the middle rounds in PPR leagues or any Patriots running back as a late-round flyer. As for Fitzgerald and Gronkowski, they both become early second-round picks and possibly even higher in PPR leagues.
For the Cardinals, things become a lot less crystal clear. Carson Palmer, who had a terrific rebound year in his first season with Arizona, would be undraftable at that point without Fitzgerald as his money-maker out wide. Michael Floyd is a decent No. 2 NFL receiver, but he’s not ready to be a No. 1 target, especially without an elite quarterback under center. He becomes a poor man’s Dwayne Bowe at that point, which is pretty awful considering how the Kansas City Chiefs’ receiver performed in 2013.
So basically, a Fitzgerald-to-New England trade would make the Patriots a fantasy goldmine and a reality juggernaut while relegating the Cardinals to a quarterback-needy, .500 team once again. So unless you’re a Cardinals fan or a fan of any other AFC East team besides the Patriots, you’d love to see this happen.