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LamarMiller

Continuing a series of looks at running backs with cheaper price tags (find the other articles here), the latest crush of the Zero RB drafting community is Lamar Miller. With news coming out of Dolphins camp that Bloatshon Moreno will miss at least a month of training camp with an injury, the fantasy football community is ready to embrace Miller in the third year of his career.

Theoretically, Miller’s positioning should be a great victory for the Zero RB drafter. No matter how far the hype around him rises, his ADP will likely not go any higher than the late third or early fourth round. In most years, that, anecdotally, seems to be the breaking point for RBs who shoot up draft boards all summer long (Doug Martin in 2012, Felix Jones in 2011, Le’Veon Bell in 2013 for example). If he does displace Moreno and Daniel Thomas, taking Miller as your second or even first RB would allow for the selection of several solid WRs first, thus building a foundation for a league-winning Zero RB team .

The coaching staff in Miami has never shown faith in Miller. They let Daniel freakin’ Thomas shoulder a heavy load and signing a veteran like Moreno is never a positive sign for a young RB. We got indications as far back as Miller’s rookie season that the coaches didn’t believe in him as they had him playing on special teams. Having your rookie RB playing kick coverage is not optimal. Since Jeff Ireland is no longer in Miami, you have to assume that the team realizes spending extra capital on a position that the coaches feel is shored up isn’t a smart use of the salary cap. Either the front office viewed KNOWSHON MORENO as a luxury expenditure, or the coaching staff let it be know that they needed other options.

For the time being, Moreno is not an obstacle to an immediate starting gig. Miller is competing against Mike Gillislee, Daniel Thomas, and by the looks of things, handling them with no problem. Miller has been running with the first team for a majority of the offseason thus far, so I actually think it’s fair to say that we evaluate Miller on his own merits and see if it is likely that he does earn a lion’s share of the carries for Miami. The concern with Miller isn’t so much that he won’t be given the starting job, but that he will be supplanted at some point. At this point last year, Miller was entrenched as the starter for the Dolphins. Chris Wesseling of NFL Around The League summarized the feelings of fantasy community in his “Making The Leap” piece. We all expected a breakout, and we got thoroughly disappointed.

We’ve already seen a significant sample of Miller in the NFL and we’ve seen that his coaches don’t feel shy about making him play behind someone without the same physical gifts, so the primary lens through which we will conduct this analysis is through Sim Scores. Before we step in the RotoViz machine, this is a table of players1 since 2000 who through two years of their career amassed less than 1,000 rushing yards, less than 35 receptions, and less than four total touchdowns (with a >17 games played filter to exclude players who only played 1 season).

Player From To Rush Att Rush Yds  Y/A Rush TD Y/G Rec Rec Yds Y/R
Bernard Pierce 2012 2013 260 968 3.72 3 30.3 27 151 5.59
Vick Ballard 2012 2013 224 877 3.92 2 51.6 18 147 8.17
Kendall Hunter 2011 2012 184 844 4.59 4 31.3 25 255 10.2
DeShaun Foster 2003 2004 172 684 3.98 2 38 35 283 8.09
Quentin Griffin 2003 2004 179 656 3.66 2 41 18 129 7.17
Bernard Scott 2009 2010 135 620 4.59 1 21.4 16 127 7.94
Vernand Morency 2005 2006 142 618 4.35 4 22.9 27 205 7.59
James Jackson 2001 2002 207 608 2.94 2 22.5 10 65 6.5
Troy Hambrick 2000 2001 119 607 5.1 2 31.9 4 62 15.5
Najeh Davenport 2002 2003 116 604 5.21 3 26.3 11 71 6.45
Ladell Betts 2002 2003 142 562 3.96 3 28.1 27 321 11.89
Ahmad Bradshaw 2007 2008 90 545 6.06 2 20.2 7 54 7.71
Ronnie Hillman 2012 2013 139 545 3.92 2 23.7 22 181 8.23
Jonathan Wells 2002 2003 202 543 2.69 3 18.7 11 65 5.91
Kenny Watson 2002 2003 116 534 4.6 1 22.3 32 253 7.91
Kenton Keith 2007 2007 121 533 4.4 3 33.3 13 77 5.92
J.R. Redmond 2000 2001 160 525 3.28 1 21.9 33 258 7.82
Kolby Smith 2007 2008 147 507 3.45 3 22 32 200 6.25

This table isn’t all bad as you can see from the inclusion of Ahmad Bradshaw and DeShaun Foster. Mostly, being in this group doesn’t doom Miller for failure, though there are a few warning signs. Namely, the inclusion of popular sleepers  Ronnie Hillman, Bernard Pierce, and Kendall Hunter; all of whom had a competition with a veteran RB last season and lost.

We are past the hype stage with Miller. His ADP resurgence isn’t based of him looking amazing at training camp or any sort of perceived talent boost. It is simply a function of a newfound opportunity. So what can we expect him to do with said opportunity? The RB Sim Score App tells us two different stories. His season N+1 Table is horrifically bad, topping out at 11.4 PPR points. For comparison’s sake, that is very close to Trent Richardson’s table.

Lamar Miller Standard Half PPR PPR
Low 4.6 5.2 6.1
Median 6.5 7.5 8
High 9.9 10.8 11.4

Again, this doesn’t doom Miller by any means as around 70 percent of RB fantasy football production comes from volume. But after digging, I’m finding it less and less likely that I own Miller at an increased cost. This analysis would suggest there is enough potential in Miller that a sixth or seventh-round ADP still has the potential to return profit. When you could get him in the eighth round, he was sort of a no brainer. We know that Miller is a physically talented player and he shown flashes of ability in the NFL, but if we see his ADP rise to Gerhartian levels, I’d have to say no thank you. Whereas the contextual factors surrounding Toby Gerhart scream “breakout,” those surrounding Miller are lukewarm. As with almost everything we do at RotoViz, investing in Miller is price sensitive. 

There is a glimmer of hope for those who think grabbing Miller in the fourth is a steal. While the raw numbers in the Sim Score table aren’t in love with Miller, many of his comps improved in year three. Frank Gore, DeAngelo Wlliams, and Marshawn Lynch are all names that pop up on this list and are all obviously players you would like to see comped to someone you’re investing in.

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  1. Generated at Pro Football Reference  (back)
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Davis Mattek is a 21 year old English Major at Kansas State University. He can be found most days writing about fantasy sports for www.sportswunderkind.com , FantasyInsiders, RotoAcademy and Rotoviz.

4 comments
BSchujasNYG
BSchujasNYG

Moreno, by comparison, has went from a 6th round pick to a 9th round pick (FFcalculator); they've basically flipped ADPs. 


If the concerns surrounding touch distribution are valid -- and, for the record, I feel they are -- then I'm just gonna target Moreno at his discounted price and hope for the best, i.e., a combination of health, and commitment from Philbin/Lazor. 

patrickkeefe
patrickkeefe

I was really disappointed that Moreno got hurt, not because I'm a compassionate human being but because I knew it would increase the price of a prime RB Zero target. Get well soon, Knowshon! 

pmitch87
pmitch87

Factor in the recent Pouncey injury and I see myself not drafting Miller in many leagues. Simply not worth his rising ADP

Justin Winn
Justin Winn

For now, his ADP seems to be between the 7th and 10th rounds in MFL10s, which makes him a bargain for sure. I also don't really think he was ever the entrenched starter last year; that was just outside hype. I read through all the Rotoworld blurbs the other day and it never seemed concrete. Additionally, I remember we had an article showing RBs peak in their 3rd year.