They say life is better in Miami. It sure seems that way for Dolphins fans. In comes a new head coach, a re-built backfield, and an upgraded offensive line. Plus, the addition of the now highest paid wide receiver in football, Tyreek Hill.
Fantasy managers are flocking to two specific weapons in this offense for next season. Both are wide receivers, and both are hauling in top 15 average draft positions at their position. One going in round two. The other is going in round three.
Top 15 ADPs are rich, giving a number of factors pointing towards two top 24 wide receivers in Miami being unlikely. Let’s dive into those factors and why you should exercise caution in which of these two wide receivers you choose to draft.
The Tua Factor
It feels like #TankforTua was so long ago now. The fantasy community was a buzz for this Alabama product. Needless to say, the early results of this process have been volatile for fantasy managers. Through 21 full games played in two seasons, Tua has finished as a Top 12 quarterback 5 times. Only three times producing over 20 points.
Tua is a safe and smart quarterback, who doesn’t necessarily push the ball downfield with real conviction ranking No. 30 in deep ball attempts, No. 30 in air yards, and No. 33 in air yards per attempt. From experience, this is an ugly combination of factors that don’t translate to a reliable and consistent fantasy quarterback. Air Yards and deep ball attempts have a very strong correlation to top 12 quarterbacks and fantasy success.
Let’s take a look at last season. Looking at the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks, 11 ranked in the top 12 in air yards. Of the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks, 10 ranked in the top 12 in the league for deep ball attempts. Every season it becomes truer than ever. The NFL is a passing league.
Is this to say that Tua can’t turn some of these stats around with adequate weaponry? Not at all. But these types of major steps forward don’t happen overnight in the NFL. Seeing a quarterback increase his deep ball attempts and air yards by 20-percent or more from one season to the next doesn’t happen that often.
Mike McDaniel Offensive History
Mike McDaniel is often referred to as the other side of Kyle Shanahan’s brain. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A creative offensive mind who produces a respectable offense in overall production is far from an insult. The pit falls? A run first offense with limited fantasy pass catching opportunity.
Let’s look at the last three seasons of the San Francisco 49ers offense in average per game output and opportunity.
Yards per Game: 108.3 (No. 18 in NFL)
Attempts per Game: 29 (No. 6 in NFL)
Yards per Game: 170.0 (No. 24 in NFL)
Attempts per Game: 24.7 (No. 31 in NFL)
Some may point to the higher-than-average passing yard output last season, 236.6 per game or No. 12 in the NFL. What is important here is this happened with limited receiving opportunity. The offense ranked No. 31 in passing attempts, 29.4 attempts per game. The ability to do less with more was big in that offense. Ask the No. 2 in yards after the catch wide receiver Deebo Samuel and No. 2 tight end in yards after the catch George Kittle.
One can argue that McDaniel’s offense will look different than a Shanahan offense. However, the addition of Tyreek and a complete retooling of the running back room make it difficult to gauge the truth to that statement. Afterall, history does have a funny way of repeating itself, so caution should be exercised.
Volume is King
This is where things could get complicated. In the last three seasons only three teams have had two wide receivers with 135 or more targets. The 2020 Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers, and the 2021 Cincinnati Bengals were those teams. If you took anything from the first few paragraphs, a big question remains. Can Tua provide meaningful volume for these two volume hogs?
Expecting two receivers to do the majority of work after the catch seems a risky proposition. Especially when the stats after the catch of these two are a little inflated. Of wide receivers who saw at least 50 targets last season, Waddle ranked No. 37 in yards after the catch per reception with 4.4. Hill ranked No. 40 with 4.3.
One point to argue the contrary. Of the top 20 receivers after the catch per reception with 50+ targets, there were two teams with multiple wide receivers in the top 20. The Bengals and the 49ers. It is true, McDaniel’s offense will provide opportunity to generate plenty of yards with less volume. However, Waddle and Hill have work to do as Deebo had 10.8 yards after the catch per reception and Aiyuk had 5.9.
This volume discussion hasn’t even addressed another elephant in the room. Mike Gesicki had 106 targets last season. Gesicki is essentially a jumbo wide receiver playing 62-percent of snaps in the slot and 29-percent out wide. And we can’t ignore the usage of the tight end in the Shanahan/McDaniel system. Over the last three seasons, the Shanahan system has targeted the position 21-percent of the time or greater.
The running back position has been targeted 20-percent or more the last three seasons in San Francisco. My math leads me to believe a minimum 40-percent of targets goes to the tight end and running backs which leaves a maximum 60-percent of targets for wide receivers. Based on last season’s Dolphins total targets of 597, which is 40 targets over the 49ers highest target total the last three seasons and the only season in the last three the 49ers surpassed 500 total targets, 60-percent of that is approximately 358 targets for wide receivers.
Something about this math isn’t trending well for multiple Dolphins wide receivers to have the meaningful volume they require to have significant fantasy relevance.
Cost of Doing Business
When looking at the current average draft position landscape per Underdog Fantasy since the end of the NFL Draft, May 2. Tyreek Hill’s ADP is 20.8 or WR9. While Jaylen Waddle’s current ADP is 35 or WR15. Both are trending slightly downward since the draft. However, investing two picks in the first three rounds for these two is rich, very rich, given the high volatility that exists.
Where things get dicey is the idea that the QB17, Tua, is going to sustain a low-end WR1 and a high-end WR2.
The logic of buying into this Miami offense based on the situation doesn’t match historic fantasy trends. A run-centric offensive mind, but no top 24 running backs being drafted. Two top 24 wide receivers, but the quarterback is not going in the top 12 of quarterbacks. I never understood how fantasy managers can buy into multiple receiving weapons, but not the one responsible for feeding them.
Tyreek Hill may not be afraid to continue Tua versus Mahomes commentary. However, for fantasy purposes take that commentary with many grains of salt. For Hill and Jaylen Waddle the numbers don’t lie. The prospect of both of them landing as top 24 wide receivers this year, or any year behind Tua, is tough to conclude without dramatic steps forward in Tua’s game.
It is not impossible, but managers are expecting Tua and Miami that buck current trends. It also depends on McDaniel to shift his mindset that has been successful in San Francisco. Life may not be so good and clear-cut in Miami for fantasy receiving options.