The Dolphins finished the 2013 season 8-8, failing to make the postseason for the fifth consecutive season. They cleaned house a bit within the organization this offseason, parting ways with general manager Jeff Ireland and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman as they look to have their first winning season since 2008.
2014 Dolphins Schedule
|1||New England Patriots|
|3||Kansas City Chiefs|
|6||Green Bay Packers|
|9||San Diego Chargers|
|13||@||New York Jets|
|15||@||New England Patriots|
|17||New York Jets|
By now, you know the drill when it comes to using caution when looking at the schedule in advance. Miami has a middle of the road slate this season on paper, drawing the favorable NFC North and AFC West divisions to go along with their own offensively challenged division.
As mentioned, Miami has moved on from Sherman and brought in Bill Lazor to run the offense this season. Lazor has had stops in the NFL in Washington, Seattle and just last year in Philadelphia as a quarterbacks coach, but this will be his first time calling plays on the NFL level. He won’t have to work too hard to improve on the numbers that Sherman’s offense posted a season ago, here’s what Miami did (or didn’t do) efficiency wise in 2013.
|Points Per Game||19.8||26|
|Average Scoring Margin||-1.1||18|
|Yards Per Point||15.8||22|
|Points Per Play||0.317||23|
|Points Per Drive||1.57||22|
|Pass Play %||65.2%||3|
The Dolphins were below average in nearly every important offensive category in 2013. Despite being somewhat middling in terms of average scoring margin, they still remained pass happy under Sherman, throwing the football 67 percent of the time even while leading games. Lazor is heading south with a history of coaching under run first minds like Joe Gibbs and Chip Kelly, so the offensive philosophy is sure to change even if the Dolphins don’t exactly become the South Beach Eagles.
Getting Tanny over the Hill
In his sophomore season, Ryan Tannehill improved on his rookie campaign in terms of completion and touchdown rate, but still endured a plethora of growing pains. He was sacked 58 times, the 11th most in NFL history and the most since Jon Kitna was sacked 63 times in 2006. Interesting enough, he was actually pressured below league average, so there’s some cause for concern in Tannehill’s awareness and presence as Max Mulitz illuminates.
For fantasy purposes, Tannehill ranked tied for 28th in terms of fantasy points per aimed attempt (FPAT) with Ryan Fitzpatrick and half of his starts were meandering, with no elite scoring weeks all season. Perhaps spoiled by some of the recent quarterback success from that 2012 class of signal callers we are grading him on an unfair curve, but here’s how his first two seasons have stacked up to the other quarterbacks from that class using the Career Graphs App available at RotoViz.
There’s a solid amount of red in his graph, but he’s not too far off of some of the passing efficiency marks that Andrew Luck has totaled so far. While the jury is still out on Tannehill, JJ Zachariason highlights that his first two seasons potentially spell trouble in the end for his future endeavors. With as much buzz that Lazor is bringing to the party this season, he’s also coming in with a pretty wishy washy resume of quarterback play for being a quarterback coach outside of one outlier season from Nick Foles a year ago.
[table id=181 /]
There’s potential for Tannehill to become the new model of Sam Bradford, a quarterback that just keeps the organization spinning its wheels. With all of that negative light already being shined on him, I’m still willing to go to the well with him in fantasy for another season. No one for sure knows how much of what Lazor learned under Kelly will be brought over to Miami, but we do know they will play with a higher tempo and be more balanced.
We also know that Tannehill will very likely post career highs in rushing yardage this season, and it’s not forgotten that he is an above average athlete. He ran for 20 or more yards in five games a season ago and 12.5 percent of his points came from his legs. Foles isn’t near the athlete that Tannehill is and ran for 20 or more yards in six games, so if some of the same play designs are brought over, he could potentially threaten his career total of rushing yards (449) this season.
As a quarterback platoon advocate, no quarterback can ever be left for dead. Especially not one who can generate points with his legs. If Tannehill fails to get going early on, or doesn’t at least show signs of grasping the offense, you can set him free. That’s the beauty of playing the platoon game. If he hits, you may have an arbitrage play on Foles himself for pennies on the dollar.
Miami Air Attack
After inking a $60 million dollar deal last offseason, Mike Wallace’s first season in Miami didn’t return much on that investment. He notched career lows in touchdowns (5) and yards per reception (12.7) and was even more disappointing in comparison to the rest of the Miami pass catchers as a fantasy target. He struggled to have a connection with Tannehill using his strengths, as the duo combined to connect on only six of 36 passes (16.7 percent) on throws 20 or more yards downfield, the lowest mark in the league for a receiver with 20 or more such targets.
Failing to reach 1,000 yards receiving for the second consecutive season, his disappointing 2013 is keeping his 2014 price tag in more than a reasonable area for you to get back on board with the 28 year old receiver. As Fantasy Douche points out, Wallace’s best attribute-his speed- is still intact. He was still blowing by defenders a season ago.
The main thing you’re hoping Lazor brings over to this offense is how Kelly was able to utilize DeSean Jackson a season ago in creating the best season of his career. Unlike Jackson, who never had an efficient season before last year, Wallace has already shown us that he can be used effectively not just as a splash play receiver. He’s already had two seasons back to back, in 2010 and 2011 in which he posted catch rates of over 60 percent. If they move him around this year and generate high success rate targets for him, you’re not strictly relying for the chemistry with Tannehill to improve, or for Tannehill himself to improve.
Having a high variance receiver as your third or potentially fourth option is a hammer to deal out on any given week since Wallace is capable of producing top flight weeks. He even had four top nine PPR weeks just last year in what was considered a failure. For as much as I’ve endorsed Torrey Smith this offseason, Wallace may very well be what I’m expecting out of Smith but at a cheaper cost. Plus, don’t forget, that Wallace is still trending up for his career in terms of overall usage.
Hartline is a very polarizing fantasy commodity, one that is simultaneously over and underrated. He finished as the 23rd highest scorer in PPR overall last season, but only managed four top 24 weeks and only two above WR23. He’s also had a hard time finding the end zone over the past two seasons, scoring only 3.3 percent of his receptions and 1.9 percent of his targets. The potential passing volume loss for this offense as a whole really dings Hartline, because he’s relied on that overall volume stemming from the Miami inefficiency over the past two seasons to inflate his end of the year totals. A fine option as a roster smoother in PPR leagues and in deeper leagues, he just falls into an area of the draft where I prefer to purchase upside that can tilt weeks rather than sustain them.
Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews and rookie Jarvis Landry are in the mix for supplementary targets in the passing game, but all likely hurt each other on returning 2014 value. Gibson scored three times in seven games a year ago while Matthews turned in one the flukiest performances of 2013 on Monday night versus Tampa Bay a year ago. Landry has potential to be this year’s Keenan Allen, but those guys aren’t going to just roll over and create a space for him to take over as a rookie.
One player you should feel really good about this season is tight end Charles Clay. He was a top fantasy target for the Dolphins in 2013 and one of only seven tight ends to receive 100 plus targets. Clay was efficient as well, posting a top five score in fantasy points per route run and led the team in red zone targets (15) and touchdown receptions (5).
His unique college resume and transition to tight end as a pro also bode well for Lazor’s arrival. Philadelphia tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek combined for 107 targets last year, which was 21 percent of the team target total. They also combined for 16 red zone targets (27.5 percent of the red zone target total). If Lazor plans on utilizing the versatile Clay in a similar fashion there’s no reason that he can’t meet the equity that C.D. Carter has tabbed him for in 2014.
In the Backfield
As hinted all throughout this outlook, Lazor is going to bring more balance to this offense and possibly make this a run first team at the end of the day if game script allows. Miami has holdover backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas still in the fold and went out and signed veteran Knowshon Moreno to a one-year deal this offseason.
I’ve always viewed Moreno’s short term signing as a positive for Miller and as a sign of support that the organization still believes he’s capable of at least handling early down rushing duties. Miller was ineffective a season ago, finishing with the ninth worst mark in rushing points per attempt, so it’s not all rosy for his outlook either.
Moreno is now healthy this preseason, coming off of the PUP list and is coming off of a career season, one highly influenced by being attached to a Peyton Manning offense, but he’s still very much capable of making this situation a complete mess for fantasy owners. Moreno finished 2013 with the seventh highest mark in touchdowns per touch, while Miller finished with the fourth lowest and the third member of this backfield, Daniel Thomas finished with the fourth highest mark.
It’s not completely out of the realm of all possibility that all three members of this team drive us all crazy as Miller is unlikely to see short yardage attempts, leaving Moreno and Thomas to battle it out for that role. Thomas likely still has life here because he earned the trust of Philbin in the role last year and Philbin already tipped his hand a year ago that he may not use Miller in this area of the field at all.
Career Touchdown Rate Inside the Five Yard Line
This is really the only area of the field that Thomas can make an impact, so push him off your radar. The other real area for bringing Moreno into the fold is for his superb pass protection and viability in the passing game. Moreno has more than held his own as a pass catcher in his career, something Miller has done very little of, leading to all likelihood that Moreno has an inside track for taking the majority of snaps in passing situations. Bringing up our old friend in fantasy points per route run (FPPRR), here’s the advantage Moreno has.
[table id=182 /]
*Route Data Provided By Pro Football Focus
The good news that this presents is that Miami can and will likely play both players at the same time, so both players can still play plenty of snaps. Miller is the youngest of the group and although the camp news has been nothing but positive thus far, it’s still warranted to question if he’s actually the most talented between the two. Miller has outstanding long speed, but has very marginal elusiveness. Even last year, Miller forced only 23 missed tackles on 207 touches (11.1 percent) per Pro Football Focus while Moreno had 35 on 301 touches (11.6 percent).
The last piece of this puzzle is that Lazor isn’t inheriting nearly as capable of an offensive line in Miami as Kelly did in Philadelphia and they’ve already lost their best lineman Mike Pouncey for half of the season at least. They did sign tackle Branden Albert, but he has been a better asset in pass protection than as a road grader in his career.
All in all, this ground game seems like it could be a quagmire all season long and could possibly ride the hot hand for different stretches or just mix and match pieces weekly for our fantasy frustration. I may just entirely stay away from this situation, but I can still get behind selecting Miller in the seventh round or later in belief that he just wins the job outright, but I’m more likely to just buy in at the cheapest price, which is Moreno, especially in PPR leagues.
2014 Fantasy Relevant Projections
Best Option to Crash through their projection without injury: Miller – if I’m wrong and Moreno is just downright not involved, Miller will finally return on what many were hoping to get from him last season.
Biggest Risk to fall through their projection: Miller – if Moreno’s ceiling of usage is greater than believed, then Miller strictly becomes a player that will be reliant on distance touchdowns and putting away leads.
Best Waiver Wire Option: Tannehill – he may get drafted in your league because of what Foles accomplished last season, but it’s unlikely he will be drafted as anyone’s starting quarterback.
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