QB Ryan Tannehill
(2013 QB Rank—#11, 20.1 FPts/G)
This year could be a make-or-break season for Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill hasn’t played too poorly over the course of his first two years as a starting quarterback in the league; however, he hasn’t been overly impressive either. Last season he completed 60 percent of his passes, accumulating 3,913 yards and 24 touchdowns through the air while tossing 17 interceptions. Tannehill has also displayed some mobility, gaining 238 yards and a score with his legs last season. The issue that could jeopardize his standing as a franchise quarterback, however, is that he has failed to step up in big games. In Week 17 with a playoff spot on the line, Tannehill completed only 50 percent of his passes while tossing three interceptions against the rival New York Jets. That poor game followed an even worse 10-for-27 performance against the Bills In Week 16 in an ugly 19-0 loss. Tannehill struggled all season throwing the deep ball, which led to a disappointing season from star acquisition Mike Wallace. Tannehill completed only 16 of 64 passes, which traveled over 20 yards in the air. His deep ball accuracy was second to last in the league for all starting quarterbacks. On a positive note, the team fired offensive coordinator Mike Sherman and replaced him with former Eagles’ quarterback coach Bill Lazor. Lazor intends to install a high-tempo offense modeled after Chip Kelly and the Eagles last year. The offense should be more balanced, which should take some pressure off of Tannehill and allow him to improve on a poor 6.66 yards per attempt. The Miami offensive line should see some improvement with its offseason moves, including newly signed running back Knowshon Moreno, one of the better blockers at his position. The needle is pointing up for the third-year starter and if he finds himself more on the same page with Wallace this year, a big leap up is possible.
RB Lamar Miller
(2013 RB Rank—#38, 6.2 FPts/G)
Lamar Miller failed to secure his standing as the future running back for the Dolphins when he was named the team’s starting running back last season. The team was disappointed enough in his performance to sign former Bronco free agent Knowshon Moreno to compete for the job – if Miami doesn’t hand it to him. Luckily for the former Hurricane, Moreno showed up to camp injured and out of shape, and may miss all of training camp following a recent knee surgery. Miller rushed for 709 yards on 177 carries in 2013 and failed to separate himself from the pedestrian Daniel Thomas in the running team’s back rotation. Miller has above-average speed, but runs with little power and shows no tackle-breaking ability despite having good size for a running back at 224 lbs. Reports from OTAs are that he has looked good, but of course no contact drills without pads play to his strengths. Moreno’s injury has put Miller “clearly ahead” of the former Bronco on the depth chart, but if Moreno recovers fully and quickly, it’s unlikely that Miller will do enough to bury him for good. Early fantasy drafters will need to proceed with caution on this situation.
RB Knowshon Moreno
(2013 RB Rank—#5, 14.8 FPts/G)
Knowshon Moreno kicked off the dirt that was used to bury him by fantasy football players to put up a top-five season in 2013. Playing in a Peyton Manning record-breaking offense will go a long way toward hiding any warts possessed by a starting running back. Moreno isn’t devoid of talent, but lacks the explosiveness and power to make a true difference all on his own. Instead, he’s the type of back who exhibits good vision and can take what the defense gives him. Surprisingly, NFL front offices were smart enough not to be fooled by last season’s success and the market was cold for Moreno during the free agency period. According to him, Miami was the only team that expressed any real interest at all. Moreno should be ready for Week 1 after his arthroscopic surgery, but conditioning could be an issue. Upon his return to health, Moreno has a chance to make up some ground on presumed starter Lamar Miller, who was far from impressive in 2013. Moreno should, at the very least, take on the role of third down back, as he is one of the better blockers at his position and has more than adequate hands and route running abilities. He could be a nice late pick in PPR leagues if his injury concerns drive him down other owners’ draft boards.
WR Mike Wallace
(2013 WR Rank—#25, 7.9 FPts/G)
Ryan Tannehill had his share of trouble connecting on deep passes, most noticeably with those intended for wide receiver Mike Wallace. As a result, Wallace managed a career low 12.7 yards per reception on his 73 receptions and totaled only five touchdown receptions, another career low. In the offseason, Wallace said, “I should have had 15 to 20 more touchdowns. And that’s being modest.” Setting aside whether or not it was wise of Wallace to throw his quarterback under the bus and/or if we should question his grasp on the definition of the word “modest,” his statement does tell a big part of the story as to Wallace’s disappointing 2013 fantasy season. There is reason to have hope for Wallace in 2014, however. Reports from offseason activities have been positive. Further, new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will frequently move Wallace around in formations so that opposing defenses cannot key on him, much like Desean Jackson was used by the Eagles last season. Wallace was even seen taking snaps out of the backfield during some practices. Wallace has always had the game-breaking speed that can turn any snap into a big play, but most of it was wasted last season. With some offensive creativity and a fresh attitude, Wallace should easily surpass last season’s numbers making him a draft day bargain if your fellow owners just look at last season’s results.
WR Brian Hartline
(2013 WR Rank—#26, 7.9 FPts/G)
Brian Hartline is a guy whose end-of-the-season ranking usually exceeds his preseason ADP. There are probably many reasons for this phenomenon, but the fairest one is that the guy just lacks any real upside and most owners like to draft for upside. His solid week-to-week statistics are useful depth for your fantasy team. He finished last season with a 76-1,016-4 stat line. Those four touchdowns were four times the amount that he had put up in any of his three previous seasons. That should help illustrate the lack of upside criticism. Hartline is a solid-possession-type wide receiver who has enough speed and route-running ability to get behind the coverage deep on occasion, but lacks consistent big play abilities. The team liked him enough to sign him to an above market contract last offseason and he had enough trust from his quarterback to earn 8.3 targets a game in 2013. With Mike Wallace expected to become a bigger part of the offense and with rookie Jarvis Landry, a similar player to Hartline, now in the mix, the problem with drafting Hartline is that he will likely see a reduction in targets. While that would naturally be bad for any player, it stands out more for Hartline who relies on volume more than playmaking ability to accumulate his stats.
TE Charles Clay
(2013 TE Rank—#7, 7.5 FPts/G)
Charles Clay is overlooked in fantasy football circles when the talk turns to tight ends. After being used mostly as a fullback/H-back earlier in his career, last season he was the starter at tight end by default after Dustin Keller was lost in the preseason. He impressed the team enough that the Dolphins did not seek an upgrade at the position this season. He caught 69 passes for 759 yards with six touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown as well. Last season he received seven carries from the fullback position, which adds to his value if he sees some goal line carries again this season. With neither Lamar Miller nor Knowshon Moreno excelling in short yardage situations that could be a possibility. In the passing game, Clay is a matchup problem as he’s fast enough to separate from linebackers and is an effective runner after the catch who can overpower cornerbacks and safeties if he gets room in the secondary. If one was to miss out on a top-five tight end in your draft, waiting late on Clay isn’t the worse strategy one could employ.