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LaMarvelous Miller

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Lamar-Miller-Dolphins

This year’s Rodney Dangerfield Award goes to Lamar Miller. Yes, 2013 was disappointing, but Miller’s 2015 Keeper League Startup ADP on MyFantasyLeague is RB23 – downright disrespectful.

At first I thought there might be a bug on the site, but after searching high and low, I was unable to find any dynasty ADP for Miller that placed him higher than RB16. I don’t understand how a proven, young, healthy RB is lasting so long in dynasty startup drafts. Lamar Miller should be off the board by the 4th round in all formats.

The Efficiency King of Miami Football

In 2014, Lamar Miller achieved top-12 fantasy RB status for the first time in his three-year career. In PPR formats, Miller finished the season as fantasy’s No. 9 RB, ahead of perennial fantasy stalwart LeSean McCoy who carried the ball nearly 100 more times than Miller (McCoy: 312 carries, Miller: 216).

Miller was also an efficiency all-star in 2014, posting a noteworthy 5.1 yards per carry; good for second best amongst all running backs. Only the 29-year-old Justin Forsett had a higher YPC, aided by his preposterous 17 rushes of 20 yards or more.

LaMore with Less

There is a strong correlation between the run-blocking ability of an offensive line and fantasy RB scoring. DeMarco Murray handily took 2014’s rushing title, amassing nearly 400 carries behind PlayerProfiler’s #2 overall run-blocking offensive line. Given that running back talent and offensive line run-blocking ability both contribute to rushing production, Lamar Miller must be incredibly talented. In fact, Miller had his best two games of the season in weeks 16 and 17, after Pro Bowl LT Branden Albert had gone down with a torn ACL. PFF identified the 2014 Dolphins offensive line as the 6th worst run-blocking line in the NFL after Albert’s injury.

The Dolphins’ offensive line should be better in 2015. Branden Albert should be fully recovered from his season-ending week 10 knee injury. Their line, which featured four brand-new starters in 2014, will have had another year to acclimate and learn how to better operate as one cohesive unit. Improved run-blocking puts 5.5 yards per carry (YPC) well within Miller’s range of outcomes in 2015.

Unsafe at Any Speed

After looking at his profile, I immediately noticed two things about LaMarvelous™:

LamarMiller-RB-Dolphins

  1. Miller had his picture taken before shooting a Clorox advertisement, and
  2. This is a running back with elite speed and very good agility.

Miller’s spectacular 116.3 speed score factors in both his sizable 218 lbs. and his blistering 4.40 combine 40 time (which would have been the fastest time for any RB in this year’s rookie class). Out of the top 30 RBs from 2014, only #28 Jonathan Stewart and #24 Knile Davis had higher speed scores. No slouch in lateral quickness, Miller also turned in a sub-7-second 3-cone time, which added to his impressive agility score.

This rare combination of size, speed, and agility contributed to Miller’s rushing success despite the horrendous performance from his offensive line. PFF named Miller their 5th best pure-runner in 2014, displaying more effective rushing than Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles, or Arian Foster.

Precocious RB Whiz-kid

Despite 2015 being his fourth season, Lamar Miller is only 24 years old. He just had a birthday, too. Entering his fourth(!) season, Lamar Miller will be the same age as incoming rookie “Buck” Allen. Top RBs have been able to produce RB1 seasons deep into their 20’s, and Lamar has steadily improved in each of his NFL seasons. He’s only getting better. As an added bonus, his limited touches have left plenty of tread on his tires. He’s like Jamaal Charles without the non-contact injuries!

The Jay Ajayi “Problem”

This is Jay Ajayi:

JayAjayi-PlayerProfiler

Athletically, he and Miller aren’t even on the same planet. Jay has burst, it’s true, but only a handful of players in the entire NFL can match Lamar’s stellar speed score.

Yes, I saw his highlights. Yes, I was wowed by his dreidel-like spins, his awesome balance, and his cool hair. The J-Train is fun to watch, but he is no reason to avoid Lamar Miller. Why? Because even if he were a Miller-level athlete, and even if he weren’t playing on a degraded knee joint, there are plenty of rushing attempts to go around in Miami this season.

In 2014, the Dolphins rushed 399 times. Only 216 of those went to Lamar Miller, who is treated like your dad’s secondhand sports car (driven gently, weekends only). If we assume that Miller will keep his carries, and Ryan Tannehill will scramble on occasion, that still leaves over 100 rushes that used to belong to Knowshon Moreno, Daniel Thomas, and Damien Williams. Consider that Miller, a higher draft pick in 2012, was given only 52 carries in his rookie season. Even if Miami gives their bone-on-bone fifth-round rookie RB twice the carries their current starter received in his rookie year, Miller will have plenty to eat in 2015.

Unlike many running backs, Lamar doesn’t need a ton of carries to be a useful fantasy rusher.

Passing Attack Matters

Miami added pass-catching weapons in Devante Parker, Kenny Stills, and Jordan Cameron. The addition of Parker alone would be a vast improvement for their receiving corps, but if Cameron can stay healthy, he is only one season removed from top-tier TE production. 2015’s Dolphins will feature a dynamic passing attack under Chip Kelly disciple Bill Lazor.

Despite losing Mike Wallace and Charles Clay, the Dolphins have bolstered their receivers, which will force defenses to respect the passing game and leave Lamar and Co. an RB-friendly front to run against.

Worst Case Scenario: He’s Awesome Somewhere Else

In the extremely unlikely event that Lamar is somehow usurped by the running-on-borrowed-time Jay Ajayi, he’s still a fantastic dynasty investment. Miller is a free agent in 2016. He will be only 25 years old. He has already demonstrated that he can deliver productive seasons behind a below-average offensive line.

After Branden Albert went down, only five teams had worse run-blocking scores than Miami in the second half of the 2014 season. Yet, Lamar Miller’s two most productive weeks were week 16 and week 17. The five teams with worse run blocking offensive lines were RB wastelands: Atlanta, Arizona, Buffalo, Oakland, and San Diego. Of the running backs on these teams, only Fred Jackson even cracked the RB2 rankings. Regardless of how Miami’s offensive line performs in 2015, Miller’s ability to produce behind a sub-par offensive line enhances his lifetime value dynasty leagues.

Get Over 2013

Lamar Miller is begging you to draft him in your dynasty startup. He is pleading with you to buy him low during the Jay Ajayi scare. This is an electrifying young RB at the top of his game, and nobody seems to want him despite the following high level attributes:

  1. Top-10 RB production in the books? Check!
  2. Elite metrics? Check!
  3. Quality receiving options to keep defenses honest? Check!
  4. Youth? Check!
  5. Injury free? Check!
  6. Low mileage? Check!

That is a dynasty league RB23? That ADP is behind a slew of ancient and high-mileage RBs in Marshawn, Arian Foster, Matt Forte and Adrian Peterson. Lamar Miller is also being selected after players who were not even the RB1 on their own team in 2014, such as Gio Bernard. Miller is actually being drafted behind Jacksonville’s unproven T.J. Yeldon, and Washington’s slow-and-steady Alfred Morris. Incredible.

Bottom line: Lamar Miller is the best-value incumbent running back in dynasty league fantasy football.

John Solis is an attorney in Southern California.  He wants the Chargers to stay in San Diego and the Clippers to come back.