Thursday, June 12, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football Augury, Chapter 7: Miami Dolphins

QB:  Before Texas A&M had Johnny Football, it had Ryan Tannehill.  Now Tannehill, the eighth overall pick in the 2012 draft, enters this third season.  This is a big one -- the big one -- for him, the Dolphins and fantasy owners.  The question all are asking: will he take the next big step or will he remain just average?

But hold on a minute; last year was not bad at all for Tannehill.  In fact, he was above average, placing in the top 10 in both passing yards and touchdowns, which was better than (or comparable with) Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson and Cam Newton.

That's pretty good company.

Add to this the fact that Tannehill was sacked a league-high 58 times, his 2013 numbers are outstanding.

Tannehill has got the talent and he's got a smokin' hot missus (two requirements to be a superstar quarterback in the NFL).  The Dolphins have beefed up the O-line (they took offensive tackles in the first and third rounds of this year's draft) and added several offensive weapons to make this year the year for Tannehill.

So what does this mean fantasy-wise?  Tannehill is the perfect back-up fantasy quarterback this season.  He's got everything in place for a potential for breakout season.  He will certainly be available in later rounds and if his season takes off, you could have some very lucrative trade offers floating your way.  If not, you still have a solid back-up quarterback to fall back on.

RB:  Since 2000, the Dolphins have drafted 10 running backs, including Travis Minor, Ronnie Brown, Lorenzo Booker, Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller.  During that time span, they've also signed or traded for  Lamar Smith, Sammy Morris, Lamar Gordon, Ricky Williams, Reggie Bush... and the list goes on.

That's a lot of running backs.

Now add Knowshon Moreno to the laundry list.  Even though Moreno is coming off what was easily his best season as a pro, that doesn't mean you should rank him in the top ten.  Or even top twenty.

Prior to last season, Moreno had one injury after another and played in a total of just 15 games in the 2011 and 2012 seasons combined.

Now he goes to a new system and a quarterback not named Peyton Manning (as much as I like Tannehill, let's keep it real).  In fact, there's no guarantee he has the starting job.  I'm guessing the dreaded running back by committee approach will be adopted in Miami.   Good for the Dolphins, bad for fantasy owners.

Moreno will have some decent numbers, but his production will be erratic.  I don't like him as anymore than a third tier rusher... he's better used as a flex option when match-ups are favorable.

Lamar Miller emerged as the Dolphins' leading rusher last season and he's worth a late round pick as an insurance policy.  If/when Moreno gets injured, Miller will get the ball.  Miller had a respectable 879 yards from scrimmage in 15 starts last season.

Daniel Thomas has been a disappointment after being selected in the second round in 2011.  He will be no more than a situational player this season and doesn't really have any fantasy worth unless you really like Kansas State alumni (in which case feel free to draft Josh Freeman as well).

WR: Even though Mike Wallace was supposed to be the big free agent signing for Miami last year, Brian Hartline ended up leading the team in receiving yards.  Hartline is the definition of a "competent" receiver.  He's not special, he's not dynamic, he just gets the job done.

He's now had two consecutive seasons cracking 1,000 yards receiving, although he's caught just five touchdowns in those two seasons combined.  He's also averaged an impressive 133 targets over the past two seasons.  Hartline is a nice flex option and adds reliable depth to your fantasy roster; he's great value in the mid-to-later rounds of the draft.

Mike Wallace has made a career out of one big catch in a Super Bowl.  He had back-to-back big seasons in 2010 and 2011, but since then has been merely average.  Even though he had more targets than Hartline last year, Wallace had fewer catches and fewer receiving yards.

Wallace once bragged he wanted 2,000 yards receiving in a season.  Right now, 1,000 yards would be pretty swell, Mike (something he hasn't done since 2011).  He's had success in the past, and he's got a pretty good up-and-coming quarterback, but there is no way I would draft him as a primary receiver.  He's middle-of-the-pack second tier.

Rookie Jarvis Landry (second round) is the enigma here.  The rumor mill in Miami says he's playing slot and outside; versatility is his specialty and he may sneak under the fantasy radar.  He is one of the few rookie wide receivers of the 2014 class I would roll the bones on and take as a flex option late in the draft.  Landry could surprise a lot of folks this year.

TE: Every season, several players come out of nowhere to make a fantasy impact.  Every fantasy magazine and web site attempts to predict who these players will be.  

And every year, everyone gets it wrong.

Take Charles Clay, for example.  There was no reason to suspect this unassuming player, who had 18 receptions in 2012 would explode for 102 targets, 759 yards and six touchdowns last season.  There's no reason to think that production will decline this year.

No, he's not going to be mistaken for Jimmy Graham, but he had the sixth-most receiving yards among tight ends last season.  He's good enough to be a lower-end first tier tight end.