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Thursday, July 28, 2011
Kevin Kolb 'Fitz' the bill in Phoenix

By Christopher Harris
ESPN.com

Larry Fitzgerald can pretend last year was just a bad dream.

Realizing the massive mistake they made in 2010, the Cardinals have shored up their starting quarterback position, trading Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round draft pick to the Eagles in exchange for Kevin Kolb.

There was no way Arizona was going to let John Skelton or Max Hall be its Week 1 starter, and Derek Anderson has long been released. So Kolb steps into the breach, finally gaining the unquestioned starting job we all thought he had last season in Philly, before a Week 1 injury gave Michael Vick the opportunity he needed to win the gig. Suffice to say there's no Vick on the Cardinals' roster. Kolb will be working without a net.

How good is he? Opinions are mixed. Some remember his strong fill-in work a couple seasons ago, when Donovan McNabb was injured. They see an accurate thrower with a quick release, a guy who is a natural for today's West Coast offense-influenced NFL game plans. Others (including myself) are more circumspect. We see Kolb get flustered in the pocket, often failing to make secondary and tertiary reads when he feels pressure. At the moment, with his current skill set, I view Kolb as almost exactly a league-average QB, and he turns only 27 in August, so he can get better. His strengths -- accuracy and intelligence -- are hard to teach. But I think it's a mistake to assume everything is instantly hunky-dory for the Cardinals under center. Kolb will struggle some. He'll have good days and bad, and that makes him a fantasy backup, not a starter, for 2011.

Larry Fitzgerald
Larry Fitzgerald averaged 1,310 yards and 12.5 touchdowns in the three seasons prior to last year's debacle.

This move's biggest favorable impact is most certainly on Fitzgerald. Even with a battalion of awful and/or inexperienced signal-callers pumping him the ball every week last season, Fitz managed his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season, but it was a huge struggle, and his six touchdowns tied a career low. Expect Fitzgerald to leap back into double-digit-TD territory. When I ranked him this spring, I baked in the assumption that Arizona would provide a major upgrade at QB, and this qualifies as that. Accordingly, I'm only bumping Fitz one spot, to No. 6 in my personal receiver ranks, one place ahead of Mike Wallace.

As for what's left behind in Philly, the Eagles almost certainly have a plan for the backup spot behind Vick. All spring and summer we've read stories about how much Andy Reid likes Mike Kafka (On The Shore), but he's taken exactly zero regular-season snaps. Given Vick's proclivity for taking big hits and missing games, the team has to think bigger when it comes to a backup. Of course, that veteran to be named will only be fantasy relevant if and when Vick gets hurt.

Finally, there's DRC coming to the Eagles' secondary. Last year, there was one weakness in the Philly defense so glaring you needed only a paper towel tube to look at it: The team had no good corners to play opposite Asante Samuel. Rodgers-Cromartie has great physical ability but made too many mental mistakes for Arizona last season and became known by Cardinals coaches as a guy who coasted and didn't study or practice hard. Presumably, exposure to Samuel will help, but you can expect that DRC will see a heck of a lot of passes thrown his way in '11, because he's got much more to prove than Samuel does. Still, this is a huge net positive for the Philly D/ST and even gives DRC some interesting IDP-league value. He's a super-talented corner who'll see a bunch of targets. That smells like interceptions potential to me.

Christopher Harris is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner. You can ask him questions at www.facebook.com/writerboy, and follow him on Twitter at @writerboyESPN.