Fitz on Fantasy: 2019 Miami Dolphins Buying Guide
With training camps here, TFG fantasy expert Pat Fitzmaurice is breaking down the prospects for all 32 teams. Click here for a running list of teams, and check back often as teams are added on an almost daily basis. On to the Buffalo Bills…
It’s going to be much more fun to preview the Dolphins from a fantasy perspective a year from now. Miami should be picking early in each round in 2020, and a franchise starved for skill-position talent will be presented with one of the deepest collections of QB-RB-WR talent we’ve seen in years – maybe ever.
A year from now, we might be talking about how the Miami offense will operate with Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Herbert at quarterback. We might be talking about a backfield led by a young stud such as Travis Etienne or Jonathan Taylor. We might be talking about Tee Higgins, Collin Johnson, Jalen Reagor or any of the other beasts from a loaded receiver class as the next alpha dog of the Dolphins’ WR corps.
For now, there’s little to be excited about.
RB Kenyan Drake might be the most attractive fantasy asset in Miami, even after speculation that second-year man Kalen Ballage had a chance to win the starting job in training camp. It’s still not clear how Drake, Ballage and others will divide work, but I see Drake as a heavy favorite to earn a majority of touches.
The notion that Ballage might pass Drake on the depth chart doesn’t pass the smell test. The 6-2, 231-pound Ballage is built like a Greek god and has a 97th percentile speed score. But Ballage also has the lateral agility of an Atari Pong paddle and the run vision of a cave bat. He didn’t exceed 669 rushing yards in any of his four college seasons at Arizona State and played behind Demario Richard, who went undrafted and never played a game in the NFL. If you watched Ballage play at ASU, you quickly realized there was no “there” there. Ballage has good hands, which might help get him on the field, but with no elusiveness or savvy, he’ll be lucky to hang onto a roster spot for a few years, let alone challenge for a lead role.
It’s much harder to figure out what to make of Drake. In late 2017, after the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to the Eagles, and after Drake’s tag-team partner Damien Williams went down in late November with a shoulder injury. Drake averaged 126 scrimmage yards and scored two touchdowns from Week 13 to Week 16 – the fantasy playoffs. I despise the term “league winner” in fantasy football because it’s often grossly inaccurate to tab a player as such, but Drake undoubtedly helped deliver some fantasy championships in December 2017.
Drake averaged 19.3 carries and 3.5 receptions over that span, so it’s hard to understand why then-Dolphins head coach Adam Gase didn’t view it as a credible audition for lead-back duties in 2018. Instead, Drake started seven games last year and got 36 fewer carries than Frank Gore. Now, with Gase gone and a new coaching staff in place, there’s chatter about Ballage possibly challenging for a lead role. (And let’s reiterate that Ballage was never able to win a lead role with the Arizona State Freaking Sun Devils.)
We chase running backs with opportunity in fantasy football, and if Drake has the inside rail to be the leading man, that’s attractive even if the Dolphins are going to be one of the two or three worst teams in the league. But then, the Dolphins clearly have commitment issues with Drake, and if they’re going to be in tank mode this season, there’s little incentive for them to commit to one back instead of test-driving every RB on the roster. With a low touchdown ceiling for a bad team with a mediocre offensive line, and with his usage so uncertain, Drake looks like a potential trap for owners looking for a running back in the sixth round or so. Steer clear.
Rookie seventh-rounder Myles Gaskin isn’t draftable in most leagues, and at 5-10 and 200 pounds, he doesn’t have feature-back size, but he ran for more than 1,200 yards in each of his four college seasons at Washington and scored 62 touchdowns for the Huskies. Also in the mix is Mark Walton, a former Bengals fourth-round pick who was released after being arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, marijuana possession and reckless driving – the triple crown of pro athlete malfeasance.
What’s the more loveable aspect of Ryan Fitzpatrick– his lavish beard or his derring-do as a quarterback? Fitz averaged an almost inconceivable 9.6 yards per pass attempt for the Buccaneers last year and came out of the gate with three consecutive 400-yard games and 11 TD passes. But the FitzMagic started to run out later in the year, and he threw multiple interceptions in each of his final three games. That’s pretty much the deal with Fitz: He’ll give you some big games, and he’ll throw interceptions by the bushelful. You can’t play him every week, but he’s streamable in weeks where the matchup is right.
The Dolphins traded for Josh Rosen during this year’s NFL Draft when the Cardinals’ drafting of Kyler Murray made Rosen expendable, and Miami will inevitably give Rosen a look at some point. He was dealt a lousy hand in Arizona last year, constantly under duress behind a bad offensive line, and spending too much time under the command of worst offensive coordinator in the league, Mike McCoy. Rosen was a stud at UCLA and gets high marks for intelligence and mechanics, but a so-so arm limits his ceiling. It’s hard to see Rosen becoming a valuable fantasy asset in 2019.
DeVante Parker is the Jerry Rice of OTAs, turning heads every spring before turning stomachs every fall. He did it again this spring, and so hope blooms anew. Parker was a first-round pick out of Louisville in 2015, which draws the draft-capital zombies to him like moths to a flame. But there simply haven’t been many signs of life here. Parker has scored nine touchdowns in 53 games spanning four seasons. He had a catch rate of 51% last year and had only 24 receptions in 11 games. He gets banged up often and rarely shows up when he tries to play through his ailments. Parker’s athleticism is mouth-watering, but it hasn’t translated. He’s a dart throw in deep leagues only – and make sure you have at least five trustworthy receivers in your portfolio before you take a shot at him.
Albert Wilson is the only Dolphin I’ve been aggressively buying. He was an undrafted free agent from small-school Georgia State, and he didn’t make much noise during his four years in Kansas City, but now Wilson has a real opportunity. He had it last year, too, and was starting to cash in, with 26 catches for 391 yards and four touchdowns in seven games before a hip injury ended his season. Wilson has above-average speed and athleticism. And perhaps best of all, he’s in line to be the primary slot man for offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea, the Patriots’ wide receivers coach for the last 10 years. Slot men Wes Welker and Julian Edelman thrived under O’Shea’s tutelage, and perhaps Wilson is next. I urge you to take him well above his bargain-basement ADP of WR76.
Is it possible to make my interest in Kenny Stills contingent on who the Dolphins are using at quarterback? If Fitzpatrick is under center, his downfield bravado should pair well with Stills’ sub-4.4. speed and big-play ability. (He has a career average of 16.0 yards per catch.) But if Rosen is quarterbacking the Dolphins, Stills will be less attractive. Wilson is my target in this WR corps, and it’s really easy to get him. But if I couldn’t get Wilson in a draft, I wouldn’t mind getting Stills, who has a career average of 9.3 yards per target and has scored a touchdown on 15.3% of his catches over the last three years.
Another Miami receiver to watch: Preston Williams, an undrafted rookie from Colorado State who had four catches for 97 yards in his preseason debut and 96 catches for 1,345 yards and 14 TDs in his final college season.
TE Mike Gesicki flopped as a rookie but was miscast under Adam Gase, who frequently asked the second-round pick to block. Get a load of Gesicki’s athletic measurables at PlayerProfiler.com, and then consider that he had 105 catches for 1,242 yards and 14 TDs over his final two seasons at Penn State. Gesicki is VERY intriguing as a second TE who can be had in the late rounds.
|Josh Rosen||QB34||QB33||QB33||Wait and see|
|Kenyan Drake||RB34||RB27||RB28||Bad investment|
|Kalen Ballage||RB50||RB44||RB50||Check, please|
|Albert Wilson||WR52||WR60||WR76||Buy late|
|Kenny Stills||WR55||WR55||WR67||Decent Value|
|DeVante Parker||WR65||WR68||WR73||Be skeptical|
|Mike Gesicki||TE23||TE24||TE26||Late dart|
ADP = Average Draft Position ECR = Expert Consensus Ranking (based on half-PPR scoring)