Three years ago Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller was supposed to be a sneaky sleeper in fantasy football leagues. Him and David Wilson, both, if you recall. Miller didn’t take over the starting gig and finished his rookie year with just 57 total touches. He flashed ability, though, which made him a super sleeper the following season, when he was over drafted like crazy and turned in a paltry two-touchdown season.
Then came last year, when many had seemingly given up on Miller – largely thanks to the signing of veteran back Knowshon Moreno – and his ADP dipped all the way into the seventh round. Moreno went nuts for one game, went down for the rest of the season, and then Miller finally lived up to his potential.
Fantasy owners that reached for Miller looked like jackasses in 2013, but in 2014 anyone with a pick to waste in the 6-8 range of drafts, they looked like a damn genius. The difference a year makes, huh? To get a little more specific, Miller didn’t just turn in a solid value season based off of that 7th round ADP. He absolutely crushed it. His numbers didn’t (and still don’t) pop off the sheet like crazy, but when you add it all together, Miller had a very productive third year in the league with over 1,300 total yards and nine total touchdowns. In standard and PPR leagues, Miller ranked as fantasy football’s 9th best rusher.
Great, we get it, the sleeper finally came through. Now to the problem.
Since Miller proved his worth in 2014, you now have to spend a second round pick to get him. The question is, with that making him the 12th best running back on the board, are you paying too much to get him?
It’s all relative at first glance, since how your league does scoring and roster settings can have that question asked a hundred different ways. How you feel about the guys going just after him at his position – Frank Gore, Mark Ingram, Latavius Murray and Alfred Morris – naturally plays into it, too. But the biggest thing might be whether or not you buy Lamar Miller being a top-10 producer for the second year in a row.
Let’s look at the logic:
He’s pretty good.
He’s a quick, elusive and explosive runner in space. He can create his own yardage, he hits holes with solid burst and displays vision, averaged over 5 yards per carry behind what really was not that good of an offensive line, and offers versatility as a reliable receiver out of the backfield.
There is some bad stuff, too. The role could be somewhat in question, as Jay Ajayi was drafted to help out and Damien Williams has looked really good this summer, Miller produced last year despite only running the ball 216 times, his slender frame could give way to injury and the short-yardage and goal-line game isn’t necessarily his bag.
There’s no denying he was a solid weekly contributor in 2014, but it’s at least worth pointing out that a huge chunk of his rushing yardage came in the week 17 finale (178 yards). All of that being said, this is a guy that appears to be perfect for Miami’s up-tempo offense, has a fine role with 254 total touches of a year ago (and it could be expanding) and last year has at least 70 total yards in nine games.
There is inconsistency to be had with Miller (eight games without a touchdown, just two 100+ yard rushing games), but there is also something a lot of people tend to ignore in value picks – UPSIDE.
Miller is just 24 years old and it feels like so far he’s really only scratched the surface of what he’s capable of. Miller on his own is just OK, but with this role in this system, he could easily be a top-10 threat again in fantasy football. The beauty is you don’t quite have to pay the price of him being that top-12 back. You can get him in the second round (late) and sometimes even in the third, which could make him a RB2 or Flex, depending how you start your draft.
Do I think Miller is a lock for the top-10 again? No. There is enough shakiness in his game and his career to suggest he could regress in some manner. But he doesn’t really have to be a top-10 running back to make you want to draft him at his current ADP. Just look at what is behind him. Alfred Morris plays in a dysfunctional system and doesn’t have a role in the passing game, Latavius Murray is a huge injury risk, Melvin Gordon is an unproven rookie, Frank Gore is 32 and on a new team, Mark Ingram is about as injury prone as running backs come and everyone else further down is either coming off of a bad year(s) or has proven nothing.
Miller’s 2014 could be a fluke, but I think he’s plenty talented and all signs point to Bill Lazor’s offense being pretty legit again. Ryan Tannehill making strides as a passer plays a huge hand in that, while Miami added a good amount of talent in the passing game over the past two years. All of that helps Miller, who for the most part doesn’t have any real competition and is coming off of a season that promotes confidence.
I’m not giddy if he’s my RB1 and I’m completely banking on him to make it back inside the top-10, but I’m increasingly more confident with him being my RB2. Draft accordingly.