LamarMillerPhilbin thinks Thomas played well | Miami Dolphins In Depth.

“I think they played well,” Philbin said of Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas. “I thought both of them. Lamar had one of his better days in pass protection. His awareness was excellent. I thought Daniel Thomas had a good game as well. Lamar had a couple of cleaner run opportunities but I thought they both played well.”

What?

Daniel Thomas played well? Really?

Thomas, vying with Miller for the starting running back job, basically delivered an unimpressive performance that should have knocked him from the competition. He rushed for 3 yards on seven carries. He caught two passes for 12 yards. Two of his seven carries lost yardage, including a 3 yard loss on first-and-goal.

He didn’t break a tackle. He didn’t turn a bad play into a positive play. He didn’t seem to do anything that suggested the Dolphins running back job is in good hands.

And so that’s playing well?

The above quote is lifted from the same article by Dolphins beat writer Armando Salguero that generated the Rotoworld.com blurb speculating that Daniel Thomas being used as a motivational tool to keep Lamar Miller from feeling “comfortable” as the featured tailback.  To be fair, Salguero admits in the article that using Thomas as a proverbial carrot in front of Miller’s mule…

…would be so unPhilbinlike that it sounds improbable to me. The coach may not say much, but he rarely blows smoke.

But personally, I think Salguero is onto something.  I won’t speculate why the Dolphins would need to motivate Miller that way, but based on the way the two running backs have looked in the preseason, the competition isn’t even close.  The Dolphins beat writers seem to agree with me:

And in another Salguero article from August 25th where he recaps the 3rd preseason game against the Bucs:

“I do feel like I won the job,” [Miller] said.

Miller gained 35 yards on eight carries. That’s a 4.4 average. It included a 20-yard run. With Daniel Thomas gaining 3 yards on seven carries — a 0.4 yard per carry average — I do not disagree.

 Lamar Miller is your starting running back.

While all of the “wide open competition” and “it’s neck-and-neck” comments coming out of Miami are making fantasy football drafters wring their collective hands with anxiety, you shouldn’t be a bit nervous about it.  In fact, you should be downright thrilled that Miller’s value is getting depressed as much as it is because he’s the far superior talent in that backfield and I think he’ll run away with that job (pun very much intended).  As I outlined in my examination of Miller’s fantasy stud potential back in July, he has the kind athleticism and college production that spell success in the NFL.

I also see many parallels between this Miller/Thomas situation and the Martin/Blount situation from last season.  The main difference is the order of events.  Blount was the presumed starter throughout the offseason until he was eventually leapfrogged by the younger, better talent.  Conversely, Miller has generally been the presumed starter this year once Reggie Bush left for Detroit, but now faces a “challenge” from the longer tenured back.  Despite how we got here, where we are with Miller/Thomas at this late stage of the offseason is strikingly similar to Martin/Blount.

According to Fantasy Football Calculator Doug Martin was only a 3rd round pick by the end of drafting season in early September, in part because there was still some doubt about what kind of a workload he would see.  Despite putting together a much better preseason, Martin was still perceived to face a challenge for playing time by Blount.  Per ESPN.com fantasy analyst AJ Mass in his August 28th, 2012 piece “Is LeGarrette Blount Undervalued?“:

For one thing, Schiano told the Tampa Bay Times that this competition was not yet over. Blount still has every opportunity to go out there against Carolina in Week 1 and muddy the running back waters all over again. After all, there’s no reason to think Martin will get 25 carries, so Blount will get a chance to impress…

Sounds a lot like what’s being said about Miller/Thomas, doesn’t it?  I’m not suggesting Miller and Martin are the same type of runner, because they’re not.  Martin is more of an Agility Score Star and Miller is more of that breakaway straight-line speed type, but their overall levels of talent aren’t that disparate.  And I think it’s hard to argue that Miller isn’t in the same situation as Martin was last year – a far superior runner with what appears to be a big question mark around his usage because of an older, less talented player being artificially pumped up via coach-speak.  We all know how the Martin situation eventually played out.

Despite climbing as high as average pick 3.03 on August 1, Miller is now the 45th player off the board on average, according to FantasyPros.com.  I think that is tremendous value given my belief that he should run away with the starting job, just like Martin did.  It makes Miller the perfect candidate to target in RB-RB-RB drafting and in RB-heavy dominant auction draft strategies due to the depth at wide receiver this season.  Draft him with confidence.  It’s Miller time.

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