When attempting to win a fantasy football league championship, it’s important to take a close look at each NFL team. Each team provides a unique opportunity to find a cheap asset that can provide you with a huge return on investment. In this article, I’ll be taking a close look at the Miami Dolphins’ running backs.
2019 Miami Dolphins
Let’s start by explaining that the Dolphins were likely the NFL’s weakest backfield. The Dolphins ran just 349 times, the fewest in the NFL – the league average was 418.3.
In addition to the low volume, the Dolphins ran for just 3.31 yards per carry – the second-fewest yards per carry, ahead of only the Jets.
The Dolphins two leaders in rush attempts, Kalen Ballage and Patrick Laird, astonishingly combined to rush for just 2.23 yards per carry.
2020 Miami Dolphins
Most expected the Dolphins to address the running back position in the NFL draft. Instead, the Dolphins signed Jordan Howard and traded for Matt Breida. In post-NFL Draft redraft leagues, Howard and Breida are being selected as RB42 and RB44, respectively.
Perhaps rightfully so, the Dolphins are the last NFL team to have a running back selected in fantasy drafts. Is it worth drafting Howard or Breida? Let’s take a closer look.
How Good Is Jordan Howard?
Despite being a fifth-round selection, Howard broke onto the fantasy scene as a rookie in 2016. Displaying an impressive size/speed combination, Howard dominated on the ground. Since then, Howard’s rush attempts and targets have reduced every season. Below are his last three seasons.
Last season’s lack of touches can be explained by injury – but there’s little doubt that the Eagles wanted to transition over to rookie Miles Sanders.
Let’s see how Howard’s production compared with the running backs on his team.
With the exception of yards per carry last season, Howard’s running back teammates were more efficient through the air and on the ground. However, wherever Howard has played, he’s been the preferred option on the goal-line.
Obviously, Howard’s strength is not in the passing game, but it’s a bit troublesome that he’s also been below-average on his own team in terms of yards per carry.
Is Matt Breida A Threat To Howard?
Unlike Howard, Breida is known as a low-volume player that has excellent efficiency.
Over the past three seasons, Breida has averaged almost an entire yard more per carry than Howard. In addition, Breida has averaged 1.59 yards more per target.
I must note that Breida was on the 49ers with offensive genius Kyle Shanahan, who runs a more efficient offensive scheme than nearly every offensive team. Let’s see how Breida compared with the running backs on his team.
In 2017, Breida was much more efficient than backfield leader Carlos Hyde. However, as the backfield became more efficient, Breida continued to do a good job of remaining still more efficient than his teammates. During his 49ers’ tenure, he averaged over a half yard more per carry than his teammates and over a yard more per target.
There are also concerns about Breida’s ability to stay healthy as a featured back. But NFL seasons lead to many players being banged up, and Breida has missed just three of a potential 48 regular-season games. He also has shown the ability to perform while injured, as evidenced by him rushing for 814 yards at a clip of 5.3 yards per carry while battling a high ankle sprain in 2018.
How Will the Dolphins Play This?
Howard is expected to be the lead and goal-line back but how long of a leash will he receive? That remains to be seen – but there’s little evidence that he’s an above-average talent in this league. He lacks the upside that comes with being involved in the passing game and relies solely on touchdowns to hit his ceiling.
Unfortunately, the Dolphins rushed for just 10 touchdowns as a team last year. The running backs accounted for just five of those.
Breida comes with more upside – but in order to hit his ceiling, he’ll need to win the passing game role. With Howard lacking passing game traits, Patrick Laird appears to be Breida’s top competition.
Laird was abysmal on the ground last season, rushing for just 2.7 yards per carry as a 24-year-old rookie. Despite the folklore surrounding him after appearing on the “Taekcast” podcast, he simply doesn’t look much like a successful NFL player. He’s a good receiver but went undrafted, was inefficient as a rookie, and has a 9th percentile BMI – something that is a major red flag for running backs.
While we can agree Laird isn’t a good player, he was superior to all of the Dolphins’ running backs in the passing game last year. This may earn him a valuable offensive role, but could his lack of rushing ability and overall talent keep him on the Dolphins’ sideline?
Howard remains a fine play at his cheap cost – but without receiving upside, can he finish as an RB1/2 on the Dolphins? He’ll need the offense to move the ball and score rushing touchdowns. After finishing with one of the league’s worst records and fewest carries last season, it’s unlikely that Howard will be seeing many clock-killing carries.
The Dolphins are likely to be playing from behind in the 4th quarter, yielding some valuable targets to running backs. Breida is a player that fantasy owners have been waiting to gain an opportunity, this season he’ll finally get his chance. Can he win the valuable passing game job that could allow him to become one of 2020’s breakout players? At an RB44 price, it might just be worth finding out.