As the NFL regular season slowly creeps toward us, we are all entering a key portion of the year: fantasy football draft season. This is the time of year when everyone is debating the value of players all across the NFL, and how that value translates into average draft positions. Should you grab someone like Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck early, or wait until later for a Tony Romo or Eli Manning as your starting quarterback? If you did not grab Rob Gronkowski as your starting tight end, how long should you wait to pick up one? Who is that one player no one may be targeting early, but, when you draft him and he racks up a ton of points for you, will make you look like a fantasy genius?
Sleepers. Breakout players. Whatever you call them, they make the difference every year when it comes to fantasy football. That player that you knew you would get, allowing you to pick up someone else earlier in the draft - filling a need at another position and getting massive points for both spots. Genius.
According to USA Today, there is a Miami Dolphins player who appears set to breakout this season and rack up the points for your fantasy team: running back Lamar Miller. "Miami play-caller Bill Lazor is a Chip Kelly disciple who believes the offense needs a strong running game," explains Chris Bonini of his selection of Miller as a breakout candidate. "One might argue that Miller broke out last year (1,099 rushing yards, eight touchdowns) in his third pro season, and he should be even better in Miami's upgraded offense. Miller added 10 pounds of muscle in the offseason, bringing his weight to a healthy 225 pounds. In the prime of his career, he's entering a contract season and auditioning for a huge payday. Build early with powerhouse receivers and draft him as an RB1 in Round 3."
Round three is exactly where I would draft Miller, and I would not have a problem making him my RB1. I personally have drafted two leagues so far, and I have Miller as my RB2 in both, having selected a running back in the first round for both as well. I like the idea of targeting wide receiver early, picking up some people who are guaranteed to put up big numbers (Calvin Johnson) then adding Miller as the RB1 in round three.
The concern for Miller will not come from talent or injury, but rather the coaches. Last year, Miller seemed to be on a carry count, never reaching 20 carries in a game; he averaged just 13.5 carries a game. Will the coaches give Miller the ball more this year? Will he still find himself splitting time with other running backs - specifically Damien Williams for this season, who has looked good in the Preseason thus far? It does add a little bit of risk to relying on Miller as your top running back, but it should be a risk worth taking. The coaches should open up the offense more this year, and that will likely include letting Miller run the ball more.
If the Dolphins up Miller to just a 15 carries-per-game average, and he is able to maintain his 5.1 yards per attempt average, he would jump from 1,099 yards for the season to 1,224 yards, which would jump him up to seventh in rushing yards using last year's statistics. That is just a carry-and-a-half difference, so the ability to make that kind of jump is not that far off from what Miller and the Dolphins are already doing.
My projection for Miller will be somewhere in the 1,300 yards neighborhood, with 10 touchdowns. That would be plenty for a RB1 and great for a RB2. Miller appears set to breakout this season, and your fantasy team could be the beneficiary.