The summary of the 2013 Miami Dolphins goes as follows: Richie Incognito took Jonathon Martin’s lunch money one too many times last year. Martin got fed up and left the team. Surprisingly, despite the circus that took place over the following months due to the constant media attention, the Dolphins finished at a respectable 8-8. After all the controversy of last season and with quarterback Ryan Tannehill taking 58 sacks, the Dolphins will look to turn over a new leaf, specifically with their offensive line.
They went ahead and signed tackle Branden Albert through free agency for five years. In the 2014 NFL Draft, the Dolphins used their 19th overall pick on Ja’Wuan James, the former Tennessee Volunteer. Two rounds later, Billy Turner was selected to help out with the never ending problems on the line. However, their only returning starter and best offensive lineman, Mike Pouncey, isn’t expected to return to the team until around week 8. So, while the o-line will have a new look to it, it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not the performance of it will improve.
To get a better idea, let’s break down the top Dolphins’ options and assess their value for the 2014 fantasy football season:
As previously mentioned, Ryan Tannehill was sacked a league-high 58 times last season. The next closest was Joe Flacco at 48. Despite the constant pressure Tannehill faced, he managed to majorly improve every quarterback statistic (CMP %, yards and td-int ratio) leaving him as fantasy’s 16th best quarterback a season ago.
Tannehill is somewhat inconsistent, especially with the deep ball, but if he and Mike Wallace can improve their rapport on the long toss, Tannehill’s numbers will increase tremendously. He is also an athletically gifted quarterback with the ability to run the ball. Combined with the newly implemented Chip Kelly offense under last season’s Eagles OC, Bill Lazor, Tannehill is likely to increase his numbers on the ground.
Don’t be surprised to see Tannehill wind up finishing as a top 12 fantasy quarterback. He is a solid deep league QB option and is a backup with high upside.
Many people believed that the offseason acquisition of Knoshown Moreno meant a switching of the guard at running back, as if it was Moreno’s job to lose. And that he did. He reportedly showed up to OTA’s out of shape and unimpressive. Soon after, Moreno underwent arthroscopic knee surgery which he will soon return from.
The once all-hype team running back Lamar Miller has taken full advantage of Moreno’s absence. After a poor 2013 showing, Miller is looking to wipe the slate clean and turn things around this year. Positive reports have been circulating from Dolphins training camp and it seems as though Miller will be taking over the responsibility of starting running back.
With a below average offensive line and a committee most likely to take place, neither of these backs can seriously be considered anything more than an RB3/flex in a 10-12 team league.
After signing Mike Wallace to a 5-year, $60 million contract last offseason, the Dolphins came away disappointed after last year’s sub-1,000 yard, 5 touchdown campaign. Tannehill and Wallace lacked a real connection, which should be the focus of the offseason for these two. Wallace is an extremely fast receiver with big play making ability. Combined with the addition of former Eagle OC Bill Lazor, many project him to have a DeSean Jackson like year. While I don’t agree with that point of view, connecting on a few more deep balls could easily catapult Wallace from last year’s WR25 finish up to a WR15-17 this season capping his fantasy potential.
Finishing just one spot behind Wallace last year, Brian Hartline produced his second consecutive 1,000 yard season. He also finished inside the top 19 WR’s in terms of targets for the second consecutive year, finishing with 131 and 134 targets. While Hartline rarely finds the end zone, you know what you are getting from him in terms of his floor. He will get his big share of targets and can be considered a mid-low WR3 in PPR leagues.
The other notable receiver on the Dolphins is rookie Jarvis Landry, the 5’11” LSU product. He is poised to earn the starting slot job but still should not be considered in standard size fantasy leagues, only deeper/PPR leagues.
After emerging as one of the only options remaining at tight end, Charles Clay stepped in and surprised many folks. He finished the year with 69 catches for 759 yards and 6 touchdowns on 102 targets. This placed him as the #7 overall fantasy TE. He is an athletic freak and a matchup nightmare for defenders. Currently being selected as the 14th tight end in fantasy drafts, Clay could be a draft day steal. While he has shown signs of inconsistency, which tight end doesn’t? It is likely Clay will see another 90+ targets and if your draft strategy is to wait on a tight end, you will want to draft a tight end like Clay, whose athletic ability automatically raises his ceiling.
Kicker & Team Defense
As a rookie in 2013, Caleb Sturgis finished as the 22nd overall kicker. He connected on only 76.5% of his field goals, 4th worst in the league. Until Sturgis proves he is anywhere near reliable, he should be going undrafted in all leagues.
The Dolphins defense finished 23rd overall in fantasy last season. They finished near the bottom in almost all fantasy relevant, defensive categories. The major defensive moves came in the signing of two very risky d-backs: Louis Delmas and Cortland Finnegan, both missing time due to injury over the past two seasons. If they can stay healthy, there will be a minor improvement on that side of the ball. Besides that, there were no other major changes so I wouldn’t expect a much better finish from them.
Much, if not all of the success that the Miami Dolphins will experience during the 2014 season will depend on the play of the offensive line. If they can prove efficient, Tannehill will take his game to the next level and be considered as a starter in standard 12 team leagues. The running back situation is still a bit foggy, leaving better options to fill your starting rolls. Mike Wallace and Charles Clay both provide solid receiving options to choose from at their respective positions. Other than that, steer clear of the Dolphins fantasy options.
P.S. At least the Miami Heat fans should experience a successful season in Cleveland.
*Photo Credit – June Rivera via wiki commons.