Michael Floyd, Not Larry Fitzgerald, Is Definitely the Man for the Arizona Cardinals

Michael Floyd is the better wide receiver option in Arizona and his statistics and Net Expected Points metrics prove it.

It’s the age-old argument: When is it time to accept that a veteran just isn’t as good as the young, up-and-coming star? It always seems to happen slowly, and then, at a certain point, the younger player eventually “takes over” as the superior player.

This is exactly what you’re seeing take place in Arizona. Michael Floyd is now the superior wideout to the Cardinals all-time great wide receiver, Larry Fitzgerald.

Let me preface this article by saying that this should not serve to disrespect Larry Fitzgerald in any shape or form. By all measures, Fitz has had an absolutely fantastic career and this does not diminish what he's already accomplished. He leads Arizona in every single all-time receiving statistic, has six seasons with more than 1,000 yards, and five seasons with 10 or more touchdowns. However, the time has come: youth has officially surpassed experience.

Age Versus Youth

Fitzgerald hasn't had a season with 1,000 or more receiving yards since 2011. Michael Floyd had 1,041 receiving yards in 2013, just his second season in the NFL. In fact, Fitz is on pace for just 53 receptions and 571 yards in 2014, which would be his worst season of his career across all receiving categories. The same explosiveness, ability to separate from the cornerback and make contested catches in traffic just isn’t there as consistently as it once was for Fitz.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Michael Floyd has pretty much supplanted himself as the Cardinals number-one receiving option. Fitz can still “get it done” and hasn't utterly forgotten how to play football by any stretch of the imagination. But Floyd is the better wide receiver option and his statistics and Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics back it up.

NameTargetsRecYardsTDsReception NEPTarget NEP
Michael Floyd2211252019.5511.76
Larry Fitzgerald211010706.46-2.12

Not only does Michael Floyd have a much better Reception NEP total - the number of points added by a pass-catchers on receptions only - but he’s also been superior to Larry Fitzgerald on a per-target basis. Simply put: every time Floyd is targeted, something good happens for the Cardinals. Because of incomplete passes and interceptions, Larry Fitzgerald can't say the same thing when grouping all his targets together.

More evidence of the tide’s turning in Arizona in Michael Floyd’s favor is his insane average depth of target of 21.2 and yards per reception of 22.9. Those numbers are among league leaders Calvin Johnson and Jeremy Maclin. Frankly, Michael Floyd has been pretty dominant despite his lack of touchdowns (which will come), and he's ascended up the ranks as of one the best receivers in the NFL in a very short period of time. The Cardinals are in very good hands for the post-Larry Fitzgerald world.

Fantasy Implications

Not much needs to be said about Michael Floyd at this point. He has two games of five receptions and 100-plus yards, and is getting 7.3 targets per game which is equates to 16-game pace of around 120 targets. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to find the end zone yet, but there's no reason to believe that touchdowns aren’t coming. And he’s a solid WR2 even with Drew Stanton starting at quarterback for the rest of the season.

Larry Fitzgerald’s fantasy value is a different animal. While he's on a pretty dismal 16-game pace, Fitz is a low-end WR3 until further notice, currently resting 35th in our remaining season projections. I'm not sure you can feel comfortable starting Fitz until you see something out of him, and if he starts to show signs of life this Sunday, he could actually have some trade value to salvage.

If you drafted Fitz, you should hope he has a solid week against the Broncos and, depending on roster needs, immediately start shopping him in your league.