QB Matt Moore
With Chad Henne sidelined for much of last season, Moore started a career-high 12 games and did a serviceable job, throwing for just under 2,500 yards with 16 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. Entering training camp, he sits atop the Dolphins depth chart at quarterback but it appears to be only a matter of time before he is relegated to a backup role behind 2012 1st round pick Ryan Tannehill. Moore’s fantasy fortunes hinge on the Dolphins getting out of the gate early and remaining in the playoff picture as long as possible. However, with a rookie head coach and a rebuilding roster, look for the Dolphins to struggle in 2012 and for Tannehill to take over by midseason. You have better options.
QB Ryan Tannehill
Desperate for help at the quarterback position and unable to acquire a solid veteran free agent to bolster the position, the Dolphins used the 8th pick in the 2012 draft to acquire Tannehill. The Texas A&M product is a converted wide receiver and scouting reports indicate he is a raw prospect who will require extensive seasoning before becoming a solid NFL starting quarterback. Unfortunately for Miami fans, Tannehill may not be afforded the luxury of time given the state of the Dolphins quarterback depth chart. Veteran retreads Matt Moore and David Garrard are Miami’s other options and neither is considered a viable long-term option at the position. That means Tannehill will likely join the starting lineup sooner than he should and the Dolphins passing attack will take its lumps with him under center. Considering the team’s lack of talent at the wide receiver position where the current starters (Brian Hartline and Davone Bess) wouldn’t start for nearly any other team in the league, Tannehill will have little help once he joins the starting lineup. Avoid owning Tannehill in 2012 but consider him a mid-tier prospect in dynasty leagues.
QB David Garrard
After being released by the Jaguars during the 2011 preseason, Garrard spent the rest of the season out of football as he rehabilitated an existing back injury. He joined the Dolphins in the offseason and will be part of a three-player competition for the team’s starting quarterback position along with incumbent starter Matt Moore and rookie 1st round pick Ryan Tannehill. Let’s just say that at this point, Garrard is the clear underdog in that battle. Given his status and the state of the Dolphins receiving corps, you can safely pull his name of your cheatsheets.
RB Reggie Bush
After five mostly injury-plagued and somewhat disappointing seasons in New Orleans, Bush was traded to the Dolphins prior to training camp last season. Most pundits expected that Bush would continue to tease with his potential and fall short of the lofty expectations that accompanied him based on his outstanding college career, culminating in the Saints drafting him with the 2nd overall pick in the 2006 draft. Although Miami’s oft-stated objective was to make Bush a workhorse back, that was met with much skepticism given that the team had traded up in the 2nd round to acquire Kansas State product Daniel Thomas. Bush started the season slowly, gaining just 243 rushing yards, 97 receiving yards and scoring once in the team’s first six games. After that, he came on strong, rushing for 854 yards and six touchdowns while chipping in 199 receiving yards over last nine games. During that stretch, he topped 100 rushing yards five times, including his final four games, and hit double-digit fantasy points eight times. In 15 games (he sat out Week 17 with a knee injury), Bush set career-highs in rushing attempts with 217 (60 more than his previous high set in 2007), rushing yards with 1,097 and rushing touchdowns with six. The Dolphins scaled back his involvement in the passing game and he averaged fewer than three receptions per game for the first time in his career. For 2012, Bush rates as a risky high-end RB2 and it will be a surprise if he matches the 11th place running back ranking he had in 2011 given the new west coast offense being installed by head coach Joe Philbin. Expect Bush to be more of a hybrid back with less running up the middle or more time spent slit out wide as a receiver.
RB Daniel Thomas
Entering 2011, Thomas was in a virtual dead heat with fellow Saints rookie Mark Ingram in the battle to be the top first-year running back taken in fantasy drafts. While Ingram was joining a high powered Saints offense, he was staring at a running back by committee situation with Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles while Thomas appeared destined to be the lead back in a rotation with the injury-prone Reggie Bush. Unfortunately for Thomas, on his way to fantasy stardom, Bush enjoyed the healthiest and most productive year of his career. Meanwhile, Thomas was the more injury-prone of the two players, missing three games and playing several others with an assortment of injuries. After rushing for 107 and 95 yards in his first two games, Thomas highest rushing total over the balance of the season was 73 yards and he had more than 50 yards in just two more games. Even more unimpressive was that he was billed as a power back coming out of college but failed to find the end zone once despite amassing 165 rushes. Throw in a 3.5 average yards per carry and Thomas’ rookie season was a disaster. With new head coach Joe Philbin installing a west coast offense, Thomas’ value in Miami is based on his size and ability as a short yardage runner. He currently rates as a RB4 but the risk is that intriguing rookie 4th round pick Lamar Miller may supplant him as Bush’s handcuff by opening day.
RB Lamar Miller
With Miller surprisingly remaining undrafted in the 4th round of this year’s draft, the Dolphins pounced, moving up to acquire the former University of Miami speedster. At 5’11” and 212 pounds, he has solid size to go along with his 4.4 40-yard speed. Miller was available in the 4th round due to injury concerns but likely would have otherwise been a 2nd round selection. Unfortunately, he will enter training camp 3rd on the depth chart behind Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas. However, given Bush’s injury history and Thomas’ ineffectiveness as a rookie, Miller could surprise in 2012. He is worth drafting in deeper redraft leagues and rates as an upper tier prospect in dynasty formats.
RB Steve Slaton
With the Texans, Slaton burst onto the scene as a rookie 3rd round pick out of West Virginia in 2008, gaining 1,282 rushing yards to go along with 377 receiving yards and ten touchdowns. Since then, his career path has pointed straight down, culminating in his release by Houston last year. The Dolphins plucked him off the waiver wire and kept him in obscurity until Reggie Bush missed their season finale against the Jets. Slaton ran well in that game, gaining 55 yards on 11 carries, and his performance earned him another look with the Dolphins in 2012. However, one of Daniel Thomas or rookie Lamar Miller will earn the role as Bush’s backup and Slaton will likely get sporadic playing time as a third down and change of pace option if Bush goes down. That makes Slaton not worth owning.
WR Davone Bess
Meet the Dolphins top wide receiver entering 2012. If that seems too scary to you, imagine how Ryan Tannehill, Matt Moore and David Garrard feel (hint: maybe they don’t really want the starting job that badly after all). I like Bess – he is a solid slot receiver who can find the open areas against zone defenses but he lacks playmaking ability, as evidenced by his career average of 10.3 yards per reception. With poor quarterback play and Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush gobbling up targets, Bess had career lows in receptions (51) and yards (537) last season. However, he should bounce back in 2012 and a return to his production in the 2009 and 2010 seasons (averages of 77.5 receptions and 789 yards) isn’t out of the question. Bess clearly has more value in PPR leagues and he should be drafted no higher than a WR4. With the expectations for the Dolphins offense extremely low, Bess could be a value on draft day.
WR Brian Hartline
After three years in the league, the knock on Hartline is that he is a one-trick pony. He has a gaudy career yards per reception average of 15.3 but has never topped 615 receiving yards or three touchdowns in a season. Basically, he gets open on deep passes but not as frequently as needed to be a true starting wide receiver. On the minus side of the ledger, Hartline isn’t a great route runner and has decent but not outstanding size so he is a questionable fit in the Dolphins new west coast offense. However, a position in the starting line-up seems almost certain, just don’t bother adding him to your roster. With just four double-digit point performances in 44 career games, Hartline is a waiver wire option and bye week filler if you are desperate.
WR Chad Ochocinco
Desperate times call for desperate measures. And so, with arguably the worst group of wide receivers in the league, the Dolphins signed Ochocinco after his release from the Patriots in June. There’s not a lot to like about this signing. Miami is rebuilding and Ochocinco is 34 years old. Miami will run the West Coast offense, Ochocinco has never played in this type of offense and he isn’t a disciplined route runner. Finally, the pièce de résistance, he is coming off a 15-reception season where he faced plenty of criticism for failing to learn New England’s playbook. He’s worth keeping an eye on in preseason but don’t expect much from Chad Johnson in 2012.
WR B.J. Cunningham
If you’re looking for an ultra deep sleeper, you could do worse than Cunningham. The rookie 6th round pick joins a Dolphins receiving corps that lacks playmakers and features veterans with little upside. It also helps that he is the only player on the team with the requisite size to be a lead wide receiver in the west coast offense. His lack of speed caused him to fall to the 6th round but he was productive at Michigan State and could become a solid possession receiver in Miami. While Cunningham isn’t worth of a spot on your fantasy roster just yet, he could be a decent sleeper by opening day.
WR Legedu Naanee
Naanee had a chance to shine with the Panthers in 2011, with career highs in starts (11) and targets (76). Unfortunately for him, he proved the Chargers correct in letting him walk, catching just 44 passes for 467 yards and a single touchdown, despite playing opposite Steve Smith. While the Dolphins lack playmaking ability at the wide receiver position, it would seem unlikely they would hand significant playing time to a player with little upside who has averaged just over 20 receptions a season during his five-year career.
TE Anthony Fasano
After a career-year in 2010 with highs in receptions (39) and receiving yards (528), Fasano settled back into his normal production last season, catching 32 passes for 451 yards and 5 touchdowns. Entering his seventh season in the league, Fasano isn’t a player who is about to emerge as a solid pass catching tight end nor is he likely to catch a pile of touchdowns given the state of the team’s offense. While rookie 3rd round pick Michael Egnew needs seasoning before earning a starting position, Fasano remains a low-end TE2 with little upside and that’s being generous.
TE Michael Egnew
The 6’5”, 252-pound Missouri product joins the Dolphins after a mildly disappointing senior season. Egnew proved to be a solid receiving option in Missouri’s spread offense and he has the physical ability to develop into a solid pass catching tight end in the Dolphins new west coast offense. Just don’t look for that to happen in 2012. The 3rd round pick spent little time blocking in college and won’t earn significant playing time in Miami until he picks up that part of his game. Consider him a mid-tier prospect in dynasty leagues.