Fantasy Football 2020: The Miami Dolphins Have Too Many Mouths To Feed

by Alex Kurpeski

 

Heading into this offseason, the Miami Dolphins roster was the closest thing to a blank slate as one could imagine, with needs at virtually every spot in the starting lineup. One of the most glaring holes appeared at the running back spot, an area where the team was abysmal last season, finishing dead last in team rushing with only 1,156 yards. Perhaps the most embarrassing aspect of this is the fact that the team’s leading rusher was QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, with 243 yards on 54 attempts. It seemed as if there was a new starter on a weekly basis following the exile of longtime starter Kenyan Drake, with guys like Kalen Ballage, Mark Walton, Myles Gaskin, Samaje Perine, and Patrick Laird all getting turns as the lead back. 

Philadelphia Eagles’ Jordan Howard in action during an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

 

It was clear that the team needed an upgrade. GM Chris Grier wasted no time finding that in the form of veteran Jordan Howard, whom the team signed to a two-year pact during the first day of free agency. Not long after acquiring Howard, the team swung a trade for former 49ers lead back Matt Breida, a talented receiving back who had become the odd man out in San Francisco following the emergence of Raheem Mostert in the second half of 2019. With the addition of Howard and Breida, the remaining backs on Miami’s roster will be left to compete for the third and fourth spot on the depth chart. However, given HC Brian Flores’ history with the Patriots (who we discussed earlier as a notorious RBBC offender), it is quite possible that we will see three to four different backs in rotation from the Dolphins this fall. 

 

In 2019, both Breida and Howard were the secondary options in their respective backfields, with Breida seeing 28.8% of the rushing attempts out of San Francisco’s backfield (while missing some time with injuries) and Howard seeing 30.8% of the share in Philly (he also dealt with injuries). We’ve seen both Breida and Howard be effective fantasy backs when given the lion’s share of carries, as evidenced by Howard’s run with the Bears (RB10, RB14, and RB20 in his three seasons as the starter) and Breida’s 2018 campaign (11.6 PPG in 14 games, would have been RB20 ahead of Howard if healthy). Both backs are relatively one-dimensional, as Howard has caught only 82 passes in four seasons as a high-usage back, while Breida has been a far better pass-catcher out of the backfield than he has been a lead back. It would appear as though the Dolphins will be deploying a thunder-and-lightning punch with the two backs, leaning on Howard as a short-yardage masher between the 20’s, then subbing in Breida on passing downs. 

From one committee to another. Breida (left) should have an important role in the Dolphins backfield.

 

Behind these two, there should be room for guys like Ballage, Laird, and Gaskin to carve out a role, especially with the durability concerns that exist with Breida (and potentially Howard as well). If I were to pick one back from this group as a potential contributor, it would be Laird, as the undrafted rookie caught 23/30 targets for 204 yards, while playing almost exclusively in the final quarter of the season. While he was far from the best ball-carrier (2.7 YPA on 62 carries), he was marginally more effective on the ground than Ballage (1.8 YPA on 74 totes), and a far superior receiver than Gaskin (only 7 catches). Considering both Gaskin and Ballage were highly-decorated collegiate players, it may surprise some that we value Laird above them. But given the success of similarly skilled backs like Rex Burkhead and Chase Edmonds, we like Laird’s odds in this position battle. 

 

As for the final spot on the roster (and potentially the final spot in the committee), we think Gaskin will emerge ahead of Ballage, as he has been moderately more successful when given the chance, and will also be a bit cheaper. It’s unclear what to expect from this group, as Miami’s only notable upgrades to an offensive line that ranked 32nd in the league last season (according to PFF), came in the form of some raw rookies (first-round pick Austin Jackson and second-rounder Robert Hunt). Here’s a rough outline of what we expect from this committee in 2020:

 

Jordan Howard

 

  • 625 rushing yards
  • 175 ATT
  • 4 rushing TDs
  • 15 receptions
  • 0 receiving TD
  • 103 receiving yards
  • 105.8 fantasy points (RB40-50)

 

Matt Breida

 

  • 450 rushing yards
  • 130 ATT
  • 2 rushing TDs
  • 38 receptions
  • 2 receiving TDs
  • 282 receiving yards
  • 135.2 fantasy points (RB32-42)

 

Patrick Laird

 

  • 250 rushing yards
  • 87 ATT
  • 1 rushing TD
  • 21 receptions
  • 1 receiving TD
  • 176 receiving yards
  • 75.6 fantasy points (RB52-60)

 

Myles Gaskin

 

  • 114 rushing yards
  • 37 ATT
  • 0 rushing TD
  • 6 receptions
  • 0 receiving TD
  • 36 receiving yards
  • 21 fantasy points (RB95+)

 

While Breida and Howard will be at the head of this committee, I do see Laird getting some fantasy value, especially if Miami is playing during garbage time as frequently as they were last season. These numbers could be worse if their offensive line remains atrocious, but for now I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Agree or Disagree? Let us know!

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