Comments: Fantasy Outlook - NFL Miami Dolphins - New Look Offense
Several teams have been very active in free agency this offseason, but there is no doubt that the Miami Dolphins have been the busiest. The franchise is doing everything it can to reload and revamp an offense that scored the sixth-fewest points in the NFL last season. Miami focused heavily on adding weapons for second-year quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The team gave former Pittsburgh receiver Mike Wallace a five-year contract worth $60 million and gave former St. Louis wide out Brandon Gibson a three-year contract worth $10 million. The Dolphins also added tight end Dustin Keller and resigned receiver Brian Hartline to a five-year deal worth $31 million. In the backfield, running back Reggie Bush signed with Detroit, handing the reins to recent draft picks Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller.
While all the offseason action definitely grabbed some headlines, the more important question is how all the moves will affect the Dolphins on the field. Overall, the new-look Miami offense should be more productive and more fantasy friendly, but knowing which players stand to benefit the most is crucial. With that in mind, here is a closer look at the key pieces of the Dolphins offense and what to expect out of each for the upcoming season.
Ryan Tannehill, QB, MIA: Despite playing quarterback at the collegiate level for just a couple of years, Tannehill held his own in his rookie year. The eighth-overall pick in the 2012 draft started all 16 games and finished the year with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, threw for 3,294 yards and completed 58.3 percent of his passes. Given his relatively recent transition to the postion, Tannehill was likely going to improve based on experience alone. Now that Miami has bolstered the weapons around him, he could progress at an even faster rate.
After all, Tannehill's biggest assets are his mobility for his size and powerful arm. His ability to extend plays and stretch the field should allow him to find the speedy Wallace down the field for big plays on a somewhat regular basis. Meanwhile, Hartline and Gibson have can be options on the outside or out of the slot because of their previous experience as No. 1 targets for their teams. Not to mention that Keller should make a nice safety valve on third down and in the red zone. Add it all up, and Tannehill's number should improve across the board this year. Interceptions are likely to remain an issue as they often are for any young QB, but a 20-plus touchdown season is also likely. Look for Tannehill to sneak into the top 20 at his position, making him a solid bench option and a decent bye week play depending on the matchup.
Mike Wallace, WR, MIA: In four seasons with the Steelers, Wallace hauled in 32 touchdowns (including eight or more in each of the last three seasons). He is one of the fastest receivers in the NFL, and big plays are his specialty. Wallace will immediately become the go-to deep threat in the Miami offense, and while Tannehill is a downgrade compared to Ben Roethlisberger, his stats shouldn't take a colossal hit. After all, he has never been a high-volume receiver, and his career-high in catches is just 72. Meanwhile, Tannehill possesses the big arm and the big body needed to connect with Wallace on big plays. He should once again approach double-digit scores and 1,000 yards -- allowing him to maintain his status as one of the top No. 2 receivers in fantasy leagues. Wallace is a little less valuable in PPR leagues, but that is really nothing new for the speedster.
Brian Hartline, WR, MIA: He is coming off a career year when he caught 74 passes for 1,083 yards and cracked the top 35 at his position in standard fantasy leagues. With Wallace coming to town, Hartline will become No. 2 in the pecking order, and while the added firepower in the Miami offense will likely hurt his numbers in some ways, it should have some benefits as well. For starters, it is unlikely that he will see 131 targets like he did last season when he was basically Tannehill's only option. On the flip side, he will no longer be matched up against the opponent's best cornerback each week, which should help his production in the red zone. After all, Hartline caught just a single touchdown last year, and he has actually caught just a single touchdown in each of the last three years. Expect that to change this year now that defenses have more to think about in the red zone other than Hartline. Overall, his catches and yards will probably drop, but he should find the end zone more and be a more consistent player in general. Last year, Hartline would often follow a monster game with three or four useless showings. His production should even out this season, making him an option as a No. 3 receiver in deeper leagues and useful bench player in other formats.
Brandon Gibson, WR, MIA: Gibson had a career-high 691 yards and five touchdowns with the Rams last year, but after being one of the main targets for Sam Bradford, he will likely be more of a slot option for Tannehill. Last year, Miami's slot receiver caught 61 passes for 778 yards, but those numbers were compiled without Wallace or Keller in town. More options likely mean fewer targets for Gibson, and it is very possible he will be the fourth option in the passing game. At that point, it is going to be hard for Gibson to make consistent contributions for fantasy owners. Unless you are playing in a very deep league, Gibson is probably the type of player you leave on the waiver wire unless Wallace or Hartline go down with an injury.
Davone Bess, WR, MIA: The odd man out in the rebuilding of the Miami offense is likely Bess. While he is still a Dolphin for now, it wouldn't be a shock to see him cut loose. If he does stay, he will likely fall behind Wallace, Hartline and Gibson in the receiver pecking order, making him more or less irrelevant in fantasy leagues. In previous years, he had been a solid option in deeper PPR leagues working out of the slot, but Bess will be hard pressed to eclipse the 50-catch plateau for the sixth straight season with so many other targets at Tannehill's disposal.
Dustin Keller, TE, MIA: Injuries derailed Keller's 2012-13 season, but he lands in Miami with a one-year contract and a lot to prove. Fortunately for fantasy owners, he has the talent to do just that, and leaving behind Mark Sanchez and the unexciting Jets offense could be just what the doctor ordered. After all, he was a lock for at least 50 grabs and 500 yards as the lone target in an offense that couldn't stretch the field. With Tannehill's big arm and Wallace and company occupying the secondary, Keller should have the middle of the field to himself and be able to use his athleticism to attack opposing linebackers, and he should at least tally the five scores that last year's starting tight end Anthony Fasano did. Keller might not see as many targets, but his numbers should improve pretty much across the board thanks to his new role in a more dynamic offense. He has the potential to be a top-10 player at the position this season.
Lamar Miller, RB, MIA: Bush's departure was directly tied to the organization's believe that Miller can step in and carry the load. He only carried the ball 51 times as a rookie last year, but he did average a solid 4.9 yards per carry. Miller is now the most explosive runner the Dolphins have on their roster, and even though Miami will continue to employ a two-back system to a degree, Miller is basically going to get the 200 or so carries that Bush did the last two years. Bush averaged just over 1,000 yards in his two seasons with the team, and Miller should be in line for similar totals. He should also be involved in the passing game a bit, adding some value in PPR leagues. Miller probably won't be a No. 1 fantasy back any time soon, especially with fellow back Daniel Thomas likely doing a bulk of the goal line work, but he should be a weekly starter. Bush was a top-15 back last year, and Miller should at least be a top-20 option with potential for more.
Daniel Thomas, RB, MIA: When the Dolphins drafted Miller a year after Thomas, it was obvious that the team didn't think Thomas could carry the load by himself. He received 91 carries last year as the primary backup to Bush, averaging an unimpressive 3.6 yards per carry. Still, he did find the end zone four times, and the 233-pounder should continue to see his share of goal line work. Thomas is going to open the year as the backup again (with Miller receiving the lion's share of the touches), but the fact that he could find the end zone on a fairly regular basis makes him worth a bench spot in fantasy leagues. In fact, owners that draft Miller this year will want to add Thomas as a handcuff just in case Miller gets hurt or fails to establish himself as the clear No. 1 option as the season goes on.