2018 Team Previews: Miami Dolphins
Photo by Richard C. Lewis/Icon Sportswire
Since the end of last baseball season, the Miami Marlins have welcomed a new ownership group – and have had their fans see most of their favorite Marlins traded. The new regime has been brutal to the fan base, even to the point where their superfan “Marlins Man” refused to support the team any further. After trading their good-not-great first basemen, their fanbase took to lashing out at the team once again, wishing Justin Bour the best while pointing out how alienated they were by the team on the field. Based on the product being put on the field by the Marlins over the past 4 months, the city of Miami is looking for an escape.
Enter the Miami Dolphins.
The Miami Dolphins are a staggeringly meh team to think about, both in real life and in fantasy. There is enough talent on the field to not be considered an underdog every week, but not much more than that.
With smoking Jay Culter coming out of retirement (and exile from Chicago) leading the team last year, the Dolphins still managed 6 wins. This year, the Dolphins get their starting QB back from the injured reserve, Ryan Tannehill. Prior to training camp in 2017, Tannehill was considered a vogue QB pick, as he was fantasy serviceable in 2016 in the first year of the Adam Gase offense.
A lot has changed in the year since Tannehill last played, especially given that his favorite security blanket, Jarvis Landry, is no longer on the team. The offensive line no longer has the same good Center Mike Pouncey, and the defensive line is missing ne’er do well Ndamukong Suh. All told, the defensive is a little less oppressive (though having the ageless Cameron Wake always helps) and the offensive is a little less cohesive, but this team could still very well be playing for something at the end of the year.
QB (QB3) Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill is not a great fantasy quarterback. Ryan Tannehill is a functional NFL QB that can manage an offense and allow a team to produce viable fantasy options. 2018 will likely be Tannehill’s last chance at keeping a hold of the starting role on the starting QB position in Miami.
Prior to his 2016 ACL / MCL injury (which led to the non-contact tear requiring surgery in training camp 2017), Tannehill’s was on his way to his career year. He had completed more than 67% of his passes to a WR corp that included Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, though he saw a slight downtick in his TD-to-INT ratio (19:12 as compared to his 2014 career best of 27:12). In that 2016 “breakout”, Ryan Tannehill finally exceeded league averages for Yards to Target for WR1 and WR2, which was likely a result of the new Adam Gase offense.
RB (RB2) Kenyan Drake
Don’t draft Kenyan Drake for what he isn’t, which is a thick runner who can operate proficiently within the gaps. When asked to operate within the A gap (between the Center and the Guards), Drake was unable to generate a lot of yardage. Over the course of 2017, Kenyan Drake was only able to grind out 2.65 yards per carry when asked to operate around the Center. However. Kenyan Drake was at his best when he was able to turn the corner, averaging over 2 YPC better (6.78 YPC vs 4.35) than the average NFL back when rushing to the right end in 2017 (one caveat being that he utilized the outside of the left side of the line less than an average back and only put up 1.13 YPC when doing so, some of which should be placed on the adventures of first-time LT Laremy Tunsil).
Drake is a great example of a running back in the middle rounds of 2018, good in a committee, but not good enough to carry the load all by himself. With that in mind, he’s still a good choice for RB2 points, showing up in the top-10 of fantasy running backs for most of December 2017.
RB (Non-Roster) Frank Gore
Frank Gore managed to stave off father time for yet another season, playing a full season for the Indianapolis Colts. The difference between this year and last is that the Dolphins have a talented RB on their roster that has shown something in actual games, which is something the Colts arguably didn’t have.
WR (WR3) DeVante Parker
DeVante Parker is, simply put, a tease. A deep ball threat with reportedly good hands, he was being touted as the breakout wide receiving candidate of 2017. When Tannehill got injured and the Don’t Care Bear (seriously, look up the comic The Draw Play for an amazing take on Cutler) was signed, his ADP soared based on Culter’s cannon for an arm. Instead of a breakout, we saw regression. He saw 8 more targets in 2 fewer games, but with only one more reception and 74 fewer yards. His DVOA dropped to -11.0%, as it looked like he couldn’t get separation from corners, either by speed or by technical route running.
It’s not all bad for Parker. Touchdowns aren’t typically sticky year-to-year (unless you are a freak like Jerry Rice) and Parker severely underperformed with only 1 in 2017. Tannehill showed a good rapport with Parker in 2016 before his own injury, which should hopefully allow DeVante to regain some of the form that led to all of the hype last year.
WR (Bench) Kenny Stills
What fantasy players expected to see from DeVante Parker in 2017 with Jay Cutler at the helm, we ended up seeing from Kenny Stills; a long-ball threat in the Miami offense. Stills saw more attempted passes greater than 14 yards from the line of scrimmage, with higher catch percentages on both sides (41.18% and 47.06%) than the average WR (33.74% and 34.49%). Stills converted that into a 55.24 reception percentage, 847 yards, and 6 TD’s, good for a 0.4% DVOA. Ryan Tannehill does not have the arm or the confidence in the deep ball (whether or not it is warranted) that Jay Cutler has, so it is reasonable to expect a downturn in production.
WR (Non-Roster) Danny Amendola
“In case of emergency – break glass”
Despite playing in 14 games and despite Julian Edelman playing in only 9 games, Danny Amendola still only saw 86 targets in the prolific New England offense. When he was targeted, Amendola was good for a 71% reception percentage and 659 yards, but it felt like when everything broke his way, he still wasn’t considered a cog in the NE machine.
Now Amendola is another year older (33) and moving from Tom Brady to Ryan Tannehill. It is possible that Miami slots Danny into the vacated slot-receiver role vacated by Jarvis Landry, but I wouldn’t gamble on that meaning much, or Amendola’s health.
Miami is a scrappy, middle-tier, team in the AFC East. They could rack up wins against the Bills and Jets in their division, but the rest of their schedule isn’t as inviting. They should be capable of moving the ball, which will be good because they may end up playing from behind (New England twice, Houston, Minnesota, Green Bay, and Jacksonville all show up on their schedule). They have two viable fantasy starters in Kenyan Drake and DeVante Parker, but shouldn’t be looked at for much more.