|By Mark Morales-Smith, Friday, September 12, 2014|
QB Ryan Tannehill - Quality Backup
SNEAKY UPSIDE: This may very well be Ryan Tannehill's make-or-break year. Despite having a disastrous offensive line that allowed him to be sacked 58 times, Tannehill was much-improved in 2013. He doubled his touchdowns from 12 to 24 and threw for over 600 more yards. It wasn't all good news though, because unfortunately the Dolphins once again missed the playoffs and Tannehill really struggled with his deep ball. That problem may have been due to lack of time, but much of free agent signing Mike Wallace's struggles were blamed on Tannehill. With new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, Tannehill will get every opportunity to throw the ball and throw it often. Expect Tannehill's attempts, completions, yards, and touchdowns to increase. His job will be to keep the turnovers down and completion percentage up. It is also expected for him to carry the ball more than 50 times this season.
Miami has taken great strides to improve their offensive line by signing offensive tackle Branden Albert from the Chiefs. They also drafted Tennessee OT Ja'Waun James in the first round and North Dakota State linemen Billy Turner in the third. Tannehill doesn't necessarily have the greatest weapons, but has more than enough to be successful. If the line is in fact improved, the running game should take some pressure off the passing game. Wallace reportedly has a better grasp on the offense this season, so he should be able to take the top off the defense. He has plenty of short to mid-range targets in Hartline, Brandon Gibson, Rishard Matthews, Charles Clay, and rookie Jarvis Landry. Knowshon Moreno has also come over from Denver and is a proven pass catcher out of the back field. After playing only one full season at QB at Texas A&M, there was expected to be a learning curve, but patience is rare in the today's NFL. Everything is set for Tannehill to have a breakout season, now he just has to make it happen. Tannehill is a very good fantasy backup with upside.
QB Matt Moore - Not Draft Worthy
Matt Moore is a veteran backup QB. He even had quite a few suitors as a free agent before the 2013 season. Moore is a crafty player that knows how to grind out tough wins. He has had a solid career in Carolina and Miami with a total QBR of 79.3. Moore is a long shot to have any fantasy relevancy. He is at best a bye-week fill-in if Tannehill is injured.
RB Lamar Miller - Sleeper (undervalued)
TRENDING!: The arrow is pointing up for Lamar Miller after reports out of Dolphins camp indicate the former Miami running back is taking the majority of first-team reps. Miller disappointed last season (only averaging four yards a carry and scoring two touchdowns), but this very well could have been due to a disastrous offensive line. The Dolphins have made a lot of improvements to their big uglies by signing and drafting some new blood. Miller's main competition to start is Knowshon Moreno. The former Georgia back came into camp out of shape, so Miller has an excellent opportunity. The biggest concern may be the Dolphins lack of a run-heavy offense, and Miller isn't a great pass catcher. Hoever, he is a versatile runner that has power to go between the tackles, speed to get around the corner, and the explosiveness to break the big play. Miller was a big-time talent for the Hurricanes, and may for the first time have a real shot to showcase his talent. Miller should be drafted as your RB3, but don't be shocked if he exceeds expectations to become a solid RB2.
Editor's Note: Miller is a buy-low option in dynasty leagues. The hype is shifting as we speak, so get your foot in the door before he more closely approaches his ceiling. Every day that passes with no positive news regarding Moreno due to his injured knee, Miller's value soars. Click here to read more about dynasty over- and under-valued rookies.
WR Jarvis Landry - Dynasty Only
Landry was the Dolphins' second round pick and will be fighting for the slot position. He doesn't have great speed, but does possess excellent hands. Landry slipped in this year's NFL draft due to a poor 40-yard dash time at the combine, while his LSU teammate Odell Beckham Jr. skyrocketed. Critics have mixed feelings about Landry and he is not a lock to win the job or keep his roster spot. Landry is worth a roster spot in dynasty leagues; although, if he can crack one of the top three spots, the rookie would be worth a late-round flier in deeper formats. That is asking a lot though.
WR Mike Wallace - Quality Backup
DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK: There was a lot of pressure on Wallace coming over from Pittsburgh after signing a monster contract. He did not live up to expectations, nor did most of the Dolphins' offense. He had his lowest yards per catch (12.7) and touchdown total (five) of his career. The big play [Wallace's specialty] wasn't there. Wallace looked frustrated and lost far too often. QB Ryan Tannehill did not have time to get the ball down-field, and in the rare occurrence that he did, the chemistry between the duo was non-existent. Fantasy owners are counting on offensive line improvements and improved chemistry. Wallace also recently admitted to being very confused by the play-calling and his offensive role. He has made it clear that he is now much more comfortable with his role thanks to new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor. Being a boom-or-bust guy, Wallace will most likely lack week-to-week consistency. A bounce-back season in this pass-happy offense is a safe bet.
Editor's note: Almost any improvement up front along the offensive line will make the Dolphins' offense much improved. Wallace still has speed and speed kills. With an average draft position of 77.45 or WR32, the former Ole Miss receiver is an excellent WR3 with upside galore.
WR Brian Hartline - Bye Week Fill-in
Hartline has quietly put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, while also averaging 75 catches over that span. He is not flashy, but Hartline is becoming the picture of consistency. With more weapons and more passes to go around, his targets should hold steady. There is no reason to believe that Hartline won't match those statistical benchmarks yet again. He doesn't score many touchdowns, so his standard league value is lacking. Hartline is the perfect guy to fill your last receiver spot; or even better yet, if you have the luxury of bringing him in as your first receiver off the bench. A safe, yet unexciting pick.
Editor's note: Only nine receivers have 128 or more targets in each of last two seasons: Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Brandon Marshall, Dez Bryant, Vincent Jackson, Demaryius Thomas, Larry Fitzgerald, Andre Johnson, and Hartline. Marinade on that.
WR Brandon Gibson - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
DEEP SLEEPER: Gibson was quietly having a solid season when his 2013 campaign ended due to a knee injury. He became Tannehill's go-to guy when he was in trouble and on third down. When healthy, he has a great shot at winning the slot receiver role. He is a much more polished receiver than his competition: rookie Jarvis Landry and third-year man out of Nevada, Rishard Matthews. In just seven games, Gibson caught 30 passes and three TDs. The slot job is still up for grabs, so if Gibson can get healthy and win the position battle, he might be a nice deep sleeper.
Update (08/14): Gibson is reportedly on the Dolphins' roster bubble. He hasn't been bad, however rookie Jarvis Landry has been better. Gibson is the most polished WR3 option; nevertheless, he also makes more money and a high draft pick was invested in Landry. Gibson is a solid WR and if he is cut, his fantasy value is completely dependent on the presumed growth and improvement of QB Ryan Tannehill.
TE Charles Clay - Solid/Safe Pick
THE UPSIDE IS REAL: The emergence of Charles Clay came out of nowhere. He had a very good 2013 season, catching 69 passes for 759 yards and six touchdowns; also adding a rushing touchdown. Clay was voted by the players No. 89 on the NFL's Top 100 Players list. He does everything well, and the Dolphins plan on involving him in the offense even more. The Dolphins reportedly want to use Clay out of the backfield more often, and make him their goal-line runner. Rushing touchdowns would be icing on the cake for Clay. He should have a very strong season, and should be drafted in all leagues. Don't be surprised if he finishes the season as a Top 5 tight end.
PK Caleb Sturgis - Quality Backup
Sturgis started off his rookie season by not missing a kick until his 11th attempt in Week 5. He struggled a bit after that (especially with clutch kicks). He did, however, seem to bounce back later in the season. Sturgis has plenty of leg and hopefully the struggles were just due to his inexperience. He was a great kicker at Florida and showed a lot of promise in his rookie season. He ended the season making 76.5-percent of his field goal attempts with a long of 54 yards.
Miami - Quality Backup
The Dolphins' defense struggled on third down and against pass-catching running backs. They should get a lot of sacks, turnovers, and have a much-improved pass defense in 2014. There will be some concern about shoring up their run defense after losing Paul Soliai in free agency; they don't have anyone at this point that has proven they can fill that void. Miami have a lot of players that can flat-out get at QB. Cameron Wake is a stud. Olivier Vernon, Jared Odrick and Randy Starks are all really good pass-rushers in their own right. Reports out of Dolphins camp are that Dion Jordan has been very impressive as well and they plan to get him much more involved. Miami also quietly added Cortland Finnegan and Louis Delmas to their secondary. With stand-outs Reshad Jones, Brent Grimes and a few other talented young DBs mixed in, they should be much improved. The biggest hole seems to be the fact that their linebackers can't cover. If that doesn't improve, they will have a hard time getting off the field on third down.