Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Dolphins Fantasy Preview

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Dolphins Offensive Profile Under Adam Gase

2016 Pass Attempts Rank: 31st
2016 Rush Attempts Rank: 18th
2016 Play Volume Rank: 32nd
2016 Yards Per Play Rank: 7th
Unaccounted for Targets from 2016 (Rank): 67 (25th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2016 (Rank): 30 (25th)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Ryan Tannehill
RB: Jay Ajayi
WR: Jarvis Landry
WR: Kenny Stills
WR: DeVante Parker
TE: Julius Thomas
LT: Laremy Tunsil
LG: Ted Larsen
C: Mike Pouncey
RG: Jermon Bushrod
RT: Ja’Wuan James

Passing Game Outlook

New coach Adam Gase’s first order of business in Miami was to turn Ryan Tannehill into a game manager. A 36-37 attempts-per-game passer in his previous three seasons, Tannehill established a career low in per-game attempts (29.9) as Gase handed the offensive keys to workhorse back Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins morphed into a clock-bleeding, ground-and-pound team, finishing dead last in the NFL in plays per game and second to last in pass attempts per game. Rather than trust Tannehill to rally them back, the Fins remained run focused even in negative game script, as only four teams ran the ball more when trailing on the scoreboard. Just 9.8% of Tannehill’s throws were aimed 20-plus yards downfield, which ranked 30th among 34 qualified quarterbacks at Pro Football Focus and was the second lowest rate of Tannehill’s five-year career. Accompanying Tannehill’s reduced role was enhanced efficiency, however, as he set career bests in completion rate (67.1%), passer rating (93.5), TD rate (4.9%), and yards per attempt (7.7). Unfortunately, Tannehill’s season was cut short in Week 14 by an MCL sprain and slight ACL tear, which Tannehill addressed with rest, rehab, and stem-cell therapy as opposed to surgery. He participated fully in spring workouts. The Dolphins spoke openly this offseason of wanting to play faster and huddle less, while Miami’s Vegas Win Total projects them for 2.5 fewer victories than last season, suggesting they will indeed have to throw more this year. Still nothing more than a low-ceiling fantasy backup, Tannehill appears appropriately priced at his QB22 Average Draft Position.

The Dolphins’ run-focused transition also dealt Jarvis Landry a significant blow. As Ajayi was installed as Miami’s starting tailback in Week 5, Landry’s per-game target average dipped from 10.6 over his prior 20 games to 7.1 during the ensuing nine-game stretch that ended with Tannehill’s season-ending injury. Despite playing 74 more snaps in 2016 than 2015, Landry lost a whopping 35 targets off his previous-year total. Landry did maintain a 10.3-target average in Dolphins losses, which seem likely to become a more regular 2017 occurrence after last year’s Fins overachieved with ten wins. Still, there is legitimate reason to believe Landry’s fantasy outlook remains on a downward trajectory. Rather than sign Landry to a long-term extension before his contract year, the Dolphins committed $8 million annually to Kenny Stills, talked up DeVante Parker relentlessly as a breakout candidate, and traded for Julius Thomas, whose red-zone presence won’t help Landry’s perennially low touchdown count. While I don’t believe Landry’s WR18 (MFL10s) and WR19 (FF Calculator) ADPs are overly egregious, I do think it’s fair to wonder if Landry is being priced at or near his ceiling as an historically volume-dependent slot receiver with a painfully low average depth of target (6.5) in an offense built to feature Ajayi and not a bevy of short passes.

While Landry drew a running back-like 6.5-yard average depth of target, Kenny Stills emerged as Miami’s most consistent deep threat on a whopping 14.3-yard aDOT, sixth-highest in the league among wideouts with at least 80 looks. Always sure handed despite running high-risk routes, Stills dropped just 3-of-81 targets (3.7%) and has dropped only 12-of-277 (4.3%) targets in his career. Stills remains much more valuable to Dolphins than fantasy teams, however, as he has never reached 85 targets in any of his four NFL seasons and finished as the PPR WR47 last year despite a career-high nine touchdowns. Even after Miami re-signed him to a four-year, $32 million deal, Stills’ TD count is a vise-grip lock to regress, and he’s not guaranteed to repeat last year’s overall target volume (81) with DeVante Parker’s role expected to grow and Julius Thomas joining the offense. Stills has almost no re-draft-league appeal. He does offer more attractiveness in best-ball leagues, where MFL10 drafters are selecting Stills as the WR64 in ADP.

The drumbeat of DeVante Parker offseason hype pieces has been so loud and steady that it’s fair to wonder if Parker’s theoretical ascension is being pushed almost directly by the team. OC Clyde Christensen certainly hasn’t shied away, publicly forecasting a “gigantic year” for Parker, who has drawn incessant plaudits for his newfound commitment to improved eating habits, timeliness, dedication, and in-practice effort. Whether you buy the feel-good stories or not, it was clear during Parker’s first two seasons that immaturity was a central factor holding him back. I don’t think we can have any lingering doubts about Parker’s talent. He stands 6-foot-3, 209 with long arms (33 ¼”) and 4.45 speed and turned in well-above-par yards-per-route-run averages as a rookie (1.68) and sophomore (1.72). Parker is good, but he needs to stay healthy, earn more snaps and the trust of Tannehill, and overcome volume disadvantages on a run-first team with four viable pass-catching options to fulfill his third-year breakout potential. Including the playoffs, Parker has drawn at least five targets in exactly 16 career games, and he has produced a combined receiving line of 67/1,107/16.5/6 in them, which would have made Parker last year’s PPR WR19. Although I think Parker is being overdrafted at his WR36 ADP – Jeremy Maclin, DeSean Jackson, John Brown, and Eric Decker are all going behind him – I am buying into Parker as a serious threat to emerge as the Dolphins’ most dangerous receiver this year.

A colossal two-year bust in Jacksonville following a prolific two-year run with Peyton Manning, Julius Thomas was acquired by the Dolphins for a seventh-round pick in February. The move reunited Thomas with Adam Gase, who coached on Denver’s staff for the entirety of Thomas’ four-year tenure there and coordinated the Broncos’ offense when Thomas hit pay dirt 24 times in 27 games in 2013-2014. Thomas’ blocking deficiencies cost him snaps with the Jaguars and will likely limit his role in Miami, where No. 2 tight end Anthony Fasano’s blocking dominance ensures Fasano a big role, and Thomas may be a part-time player between the twenties. As has always been the case – “Orange Julius” has never before reached 800 yards in a season – Thomas’ 2017 fantasy outlook hinges on his frequency finding the paint. Thomas’ situation in Miami is entirely different from his Denver days; the 2016 Dolphins scored 363 points, which pales in comparison to the 2013-2014 Broncos’ 544-point average. Still, Thomas’ TE16 (FF Calculator) and TE17 (MFL10s) price tags are quite affordable. He’s a quality TE2 pick with some upside.

Running Game Outlook

An early-season bit player behind Arian Foster who didn’t even dress for Week 1, Jay Ajayi was abruptly handed the keys to the Dolphins’ offense beginning last Week 5, and went completely berserk with over 200 rushing yards in his second and third NFL starts. Ajayi was the PPR RB7 from Weeks 5-16, averaging 22.2 touches per game. There were red flags, though. Including the playoffs, Ajayi hit 80 rushing yards in 4-of-16 games and was barely involved as a receiver, where third-down back Damien Williams drew just three fewer targets. Reminiscent of Jeremy Hill’s 2014, Ajayi lived on the long run. Among 42 NFL backs with 100-plus rushes, Ajayi finished a startlingly low 32nd in Football Outsiders’ Success Rate. Per Warren Sharp, 23% of Ajayi’s rushing yards came on seven individual runs, and 57% of Ajayi’s runs gained three yards or fewer. While Ajayi’s intermittent struggles correlated with poor line play, the Dolphins now project to start liability journeymen Ted Larsen and Jermon Bushrod at guard, and are crossing their fingers difference-making C Mike Pouncey (hip) returns for Week 1 and stays healthy. All offseason reports have been positive, most notably the Dolphins’ promise to increase Ajayi’s passing-game role. Even when accounting for risk factors – and they should not be taken lightly – Ajayi’s RB7 Average Draft Position is difficult to quibble with, although I do think DeMarco Murray should be going ahead of him.

Ajayi slipped to the fifth round of the 2015 draft due to long-term concerns his knees wouldn’t hold up, then battled rib and shoulder injuries in 2016. Ajayi’s backup is very notable for fantasy purposes, and the favorites entering training camp are Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake. Although Williams has been a brutally inefficient runner (3.40 YPC) through three NFL seasons, he is an excellent receiver and tied for third on the Dolphins in 2016 red-zone targets, scoring six all-purpose touchdowns. A third-round reach in the 2016 draft, Drake earned just 11.5% of Miami’s offensive snaps and 42 touches. The Dolphins did speak publicly this offseason of wanting to get Drake more involved, but they also said they want to play Ajayi in the passing game more. Either way, Drake-versus-Williams is a sneaky camp battle to watch.

2017 Vegas Win Total

The Dolphins’ Win Total is 7.5 games, much more in line with their 2016 Pythagorean Win Expectation (7.4-7.5) after Miami severely overachieved at 10-6. Playing slow-tempo, run-first football allowed the Fins to shorten games and stay on the positive side of variance. An unsustainable eight of the Dolphins’ ten wins occurred in one-score games. This year, Rotoworld SOS analyst Warren Sharp identified Miami as having the NFL’s seventh-toughest schedule. Still unproven as an explosive passing team and unlikely to repeat their long run-driven 2016 rushing success while dealing with a below-average back seven on defense, the Dolphins look like a pretty classic .500 team. I don’t have a strong lean either way on 7.5 wins, however. I do think Miami is likelier to win 8-9 games than 6-7, so I’ll settle on the over by a hair.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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