2016 Fantasy Recap
There are some who believe that the Miami Dolphins overachieved in 2016 and that the team will regress in 2017. Part of the reason for the Dolphins success evolved around the breakout season of Jay Ajayi. After not even being the named the starter in the opener, Ajayi went on to have three 200-yard games and finished the season with over 1,200 yards rushing. The 10-6 season and Miami’s first playoff berth in eight years gave head coach Adam Gase strong consideration for Coach of the Year in his first season.
The Dolphins have spent most of their offseason addressing their defense. Despite having a much-improved offense in 2016, the defense struggled throughout, particularly against the run. With a tougher schedule in 2017, it’s unclear yet as to how the Dolphins season is expected to go. No matter what their record turns out to be, Miami should have some valuable players to pickup in fantasy leagues this year, including a top breakout candidate.
Key Additions and Losses
Quarterback Fantasy Outlook
Ryan Tannehill has steadily improved each season that he has been in the league. He’s nowhere near the level of a Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers, and probably never will be, but he’s figured out how to be a leader in this league. He has behind him one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league in Matt Moore, who filled in admirably late in 2016 after Tannehill tore his ACL in Week 14.
Tannehill cannot be relied upon week-to-week for fantasy leagues but is a viable backup to own during the course of the season. As a former WR in college, Tannehill can be dangerous in the open field with his legs which adds to his value. The Dolphins continue to surround Tannehill with weapons so there’s an opportunity for Tannehill to become a top 10 fantasy QB in 2017, but don’t count on him being consistent every week.
Running Back Fantasy Outlook
Head coach Adam Gase has already expressed his desire to get lead back Jay Ajayi 350 carries in 2017. That has the attention of fantasy players everywhere. With a workload that heavy, Ajayi is easily a first round pick in fantasy drafts. Many are not buying the idea he’ll come anywhere near that amount of carries for a mixture of reasons. There’s the fact that although improved, the Dolphins offensive line is still not very good. Then there’s the question as to whether or not Ajayi can stay healthy for a workload that high. Both are valid arguments, but neither are good enough to let him pass out of the first round. He already ran for over 1,200 yards with a bad offensive line in 2016. As for remaining healthy, it’s a risk worth the reward. Passing on an elite running back because you’re worried they may get hurt is not a smart strategy.
Volume is key in selecting fantasy players. The fact that Gase wants to get Ajayi that many carries – whether it’s feasible or not – shows the amount of trust he has in his lead back. It’s an incredible leap from where we were this time last year when the Dolphins signed Arian Foster. After it was announced that Foster would be the Week 1 starter Ajayi expressed his displeasure, which ultimately led to Gase deciding to keep Ajayi at home in South Florida instead of traveling with the team to Seattle.
Ajayi matured quickly after that and accepted the challenge to get better. Once Foster retired mid-season, the job was clearly his. There’s no debate this season as Damien Williams and Kenyan Drake will battle for the primary backup spot, but neither are legitimate fantasy options due to a lack of touches. Add in the fact that the Dolphins think Ajayi can do more in the passing game to his potential 350 carries, Ajayi could very well finish as a top 3 running back in 2017.
Wide Receiver Fantasy Outlook
If there’s one position that the Dolphins are pretty set at its wide receiver. The main concern here is that there may be too much to go around with all that talent. Jarvis Landry remains Tannehill’s top target and will continue to be highly valued in PPR formats. The rest of the group is a bit of a risk, however. Kenny Stills had a career-high nine touchdowns last year, beating out both Landry and DeVante Parker combined. However, he did it on just 42 receptions and 726 yards. He showed last year to be the Dolphins deep-threat weapon that they traded for, but it makes his value in fantasy a boom-or-bust with a typically low ceiling. He’ll continue to have some value in daily leagues, but not for season-long leagues unless he starts to see an increase in receptions and yardage.
Parker, on the other hand, is a heavy breakout candidate for 2017. Yes, we said the same thing last year, but Parker looks poised for the first time in his short career. His attitude and eating habits have changed for the better. His work ethic has gotten the attention of Gase, who questioned that aspect of his game publicly earlier this year. This may finally be the year in which Parker shows the Dolphins that he can be the player they expected him to be when they selected him in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
Tight End Fantasy Outlook
Miami upgraded their tight end position prior to the NFL Draft. In a pair of trades with the Jacksonville Jaguars that also involved Branden Albert, Miami received TE Julius Thomas. Thomas was once a premier fantasy tight end in Denver when Peyton Manning was his QB. Tannehill is no Manning, but this is a great opportunity for Thomas to rejuvenate his career.
Thomas reunites with Gase, who was Denver’s offensive coordinator for a season. Gase has expressed that he badly wants to get his tight ends more involved, and is just the right person that can put Thomas’ career back on track. Even though the Dolphins were unsuccessful in re-signing Dion Sims, they did manage to bring back longtime Dolphin Anthony Fasano. Fasano is viewed as one of the best blocking tight ends at this point of his career and is not the receiver that he once was in Miami. Now that he is back, however, that could change. Provided both players can stay healthy – and that’s a tall task – this is a nice pair of tight ends for Adam Gase to have.
Defensive Fantasy Outlook
The Dolphins defense was the weak link in 2016, and it showed in their playoff loss to Pittsburgh. This offseason Miami has made strides to improve their defense, including selecting five of their seven draft picks on that side of the ball. In free agency, they signed Lawrence Timmons away from Pittsburgh, traded for William Hayes, and signed T.J. McDonald to a one-year deal. McDonald will be suspended for half the season but will be an excellent addition alongside Reshad Jones once he returns, and could be vital if the Dolphins make another playoff push.
Sharing the same division as the New England Patriots, and scheduled against some high-powered offenses, Miami’s defense is not trustworthy enough to hold onto every week. They are one of those teams stuck in the middle that is worth taking a flier on in an intriguing matchup. If Miami fails to improve against the run, however, then their defense will be nothing more than a liability.