Advice

3 Reasons Lamar Miller is a Bargain in the 3rd Round

According to the Best Ball ADP App, Lamar Miller is currently being drafted halfway through the third round as the 15th running back off the board in fantasy drafts. Perfect. That makes Miller not only cheap enough to be a bargain, but it makes him a bargain at a point in the draft where talent tends to drop off. Here are three reasons why you should target Miller:

1) Past Production

Last season Miller averaged 14.3 PPR fantasy points per game. That made him the RB9 overall for the 2014 season. So even if you’re a Miller skeptic, you are already getting a pretty sizable discount being built into his price relative to his past production.

But what does that past production mean for the future? The RB Sim Score App can tell us just that, giving us projections based on what players who had similar seasons to Miller did the following year. The median projection it gives Miller? 15.3 PPR FPPG, higher than his 2014 output. It also gives him a high projection of 16.5 and a low projection of 9.5. Overall, I like those odds.

2) Great Efficiency

Last season Miller averaged 5.1 yards per rushing attempt, which was third in the NFL last season among RBs with over 60 attempts, behind only Justin Forsett and Latavius Murray. But Murray only had 82 carries last season, so among RBs with a heavy workload Miller was behind only Forsett.

But while Y/A is a great descriptive stat, it’s not a very nuanced or deep stat. So let’s look at some more advanced measures of efficiency. Our Fantasy Efficiency App gives Miller a per attempt rushing efficiency score of 0.24. For context, zero is average and Jamaal Charles led the league1 with a score 0.32. Among qualifying RBs, Miller tied with Justin Forsett for seventh overall. If you limit it to RBs with more than 150 touches, Miller moves up to fifth. Again, he was one of the most efficient rushers in the league last year.

One more thing: Chase Stuart recently created some RB heat maps for last season. These heat maps show how RBs did against the average RB at generating runs of at least a certain number of yards. So how did Miller do? Well, he was just average at generating runs of at least zero yards. But he was above average at generating runs of every other distance. Miller wasn’t a boom or bust back last year- he was just truly and consistently efficient.

One knock people have against Miller is that thus far in his career he’s just been an average receiver. That’s true. His per target receiving efficiency score of -0.01 was almost exactly average. Maybe that’s cost him some receiving work in the past, maybe it will in the future. But I don’t think it’s likely to cost him substantial opportunities in general. He’s still an incredible rusher, even if he’s an “only” average receiver.

3) Excellent Opportunity

To follow up on that last point, Anthony Amico recently looked into the most valuable opportunities for RBs: receptions and red zone rushes. How many of these touches did Miller rack up in 2014? 77, good for seventh overall in the league. And as I’ve pointed out before, Miller is actually very good in the red zone.

So it’s time I address the elephant in the room: Jay Ajayi. Many fear that Ajayi will steal these valuable situational touches from Miller. But as Anthony points out, non-Miller Dolphins RBs saw over 40 percent of the team’s situational touches last year. What’s more likely? That Ajayi takes most of his situational touches from Miller? Or that he takes most of them from the other RBs who don’t figure to see much playing time at all now that Ajayi’s around? I think it’s pretty firmly the latter. But even if you disagree, the loss of some touches may already be factored into Miller’s discounted ADP. And in his contract year, the Dolphins may have less incentive to limit Miller’s touches than ever before.2

There’s one more thing I want to point out about Ajayi. Before the draft Ajayi was a consensus top three RB in this class, then he fell to the fifth round. Everyone’s assuming that Ajayi fell because of longterm concerns over his knee. But that’s just what it is- an assumption. I’m sure Ajayi fell partly because of his knee. But did he fall from the first round or the fourth round? That’s a pretty big distinction, and it’s one we just don’t have the answer to. But the fact that he was the 13th RB off the board,3 not the third or fourth, shouldn’t be discounted too much just because we disagree with it. It may be the case that Ajayi’s a great talent and he’ll hurt Miller’s production this year. Or it may be the case that he’s a mediocre talent, or that the Dolphins don’t like him that much, or that they have concerns giving him very much work because of his knee. We just don’t know.

Conclusion

I sympathize with a lot of the concerns about Miller in 2015. But given that Miller is already being drafted at a discount relative to his 2014 production, they’re already baked into his ADP to some extent. Projecting him to be even worse than his ADP involves a bit of catastrophizing, which seems like a good way to open yourself up to projection errors.

My advice? Take the discount, be happy if it’s fair, and ecstatic if it turns out he never should have been discounted at all.

Subscribe for a constant stream of league-beating articles available only with a Premium Pass.

  1. Among RBs with more than 60 rushes  (back)
  2. See the 2014 Cowboys and DeMarco Murray.  (back)
  3. 14th if you count Jalston Fowler, a fullback.  (back)
By Justin Winn | @TheHumanHuman | Archive

Comments   Add comment

  1. I think Miller illustrates why picking RBs in fantasy can sometimes be maddening. He already showed he can play well. But we still have to sit back and sweat whether a coaching staff will (seemingly) arbitrarily decide he's not their guy.

  2. Agree completely with the point about Ajayi....everyone seems to take it as a given that he slipped in the draft because of his injury, but I think teams also just don't think he's that good. That being said, I think Damien Williams could factor in there, and/or someone else could emerge to fill the "Knowshon role."

  3. I guess my counter to that is just that Ajayi's knee is so well documented that it looks like a clear issue. Draft position is absolutely a powerful predictor, but sometimes it is wrong. While I certainly wouldn't make a habit of it, I think there is a better chance Ajayi is an outlier than not. Admittedly, that only qualifies as an opinion.

    The bigger issue to me is just the Dolphins trust of Miller as we've been talking about. When Moreno was healthy, he got all 4 goal line carries for the team. A small sample of course, but the fact that they let him touch the rock so many times in week 1 over Miller speaks volumes. Him receiving touches over guys like Damien and Thomas isn't particularly impressive to me, and they still took him off the field quite a bit. I know you mentioned the situational touches as a positive, but isn't at least a little troubling that his percentage is so low in that area?

    Again, this is coming from a person that is on Team Ajayi and has sworn off Miller a little bit, so I'm clearly looking for reasons to question him. I just think its much more likely that his efficiency and/or usage take a hit than he sees consistency or a bump in either area.

  4. This is an awesome piece. On Ajayi: it's possible that his fall was some weird combination of talent, injury, and perceived lack of scarcity. If NFL teams were as high on Javorius Allen, Mike Davis, and David Cobb as many believe, then there was no need to select Ajayi and take on the injury concerns when those other players also lasted deep into the draft. (Of course, this is a trickier argument when you only have 1 of every 32 picks in most cases.)

    My only concern with Miller would be that when you select a player in R3, you really want a league-winning finish to be within the range of his reasonable outcomes. And Miller seems to lack that unless the usage pattern changes quite a bit. In that case, you could argue that the risk/reward isn't in your favor even if he is discounted relative to 2014 finish.

  5. That last point is a good one. I can see a few paths to him getting more touches, though I'm not sure I'd necessarily bet on any of them individually. For one, his touches have increased every year. Coachspeak can be unreliable, so why are we so sure 2014 was the apex? He's reportedly put on a little weight (which I actually dislike in terms of efficiency, but if it makes the team give him more touches I'll take that tradeoff). As I mentioned in the article, depending on what their incentive for limiting his touches is, they may not do so in his contract year. And then there's the real outside possibility that they're trying to trade Miller because they have Ajayi now.

    On that last point, this wasn't really a dynasty article, but I think Miller's a strong buy in dynasty leagues. Everyones's short-term pessimism is driving his price down and he's going to be one of the best young RBs to hit free agency in recent years.

Discuss this article on the RotoViz Forums

5 more replies