Hey, any of you guys see where my offensive line went?
Hey guys, I get it, risk is scary. Most people go their entire lives doing whatever they can to avoid risk. No matter what it is, people avoid risk like I avoid poison ivy and country music. Well consider me to be the fantasy version of the tacky motivational poster on your boss’s wall. Throughout my years as a fantasy football player, I’ve come to know a few things to be true. Never draft a Mike Shanahan coached running back, never draft a QB in the first round, and those who take risks, win. Some of the best picks I’ve made have been some of my riskiest over the years. For example, Randy Moss in 2007 was going rounds after other top receivers after a futile stay in Oakland and a Training camp of DNP’s. What ensued was pure fantasy magic as the combo of Moss and Brady carried several of my teams to Payout City. Think of all the players that avoided Peyton Manning last year coming off of neck surgery. Now think of all the laughs the owners had who took the risk on Manning, as they cashed the more conservative owners checks.
It’s funny, because when I look at Lamar Miller‘s ADP, I’m struck by a few things. First, how much of a hit an oft-injured, out of shape Knowshon Moreno had on Miller’s value. Hey I get it, the guy was good last year and his premier pass-pro ability keeps him on the field, but this ain’t Denver, and he’s going to have to be even better if he’s going to produce like a lead back. In this sense, Moreno is already behind the 8-ball, as he showed up to camp out of shape and almost immediately suffered a knee injury. Needless to say, I’m not convinced he’s going to cut into Miller’s workload much more than Daniel Thomas did last season. This leads me to my second point, look at some of the RB’s in more competitive committee situations that are going ahead of Miller. Just to name a few– Ray Rice, Toby Gerhart, Reggie Bush, Frank Gore, and Shane Vereen. Are all of those players really better bets to handle a greater workload than Miller? Gore is breaking down and has Carlos Hyde on his tail, Ray Rice is going to miss at least two games for his suspension, is breaking down, and could lose his job to Bernard Pierce at a moments notice. As for Gerhart, MJD did nothing in Jacksonville last season and he’s better than Gerhart even in his current geriatric state. As for Bush and Vereen, I’m not sure either will stay healthy or handle anymore than 50% of their teams touches. Miller is sounding better right? Good, that’s how I planned it.
Some of the other things that have me excited about Miller are his age, ability, and potential to expand his role in the passing game. I’ve come to the same conclusion most fantasy owners have over the last five years, and that conclusion is when it comes to RB’s, younger is better. Don’t get me wrong, there are exceptions to every rule, but ball carriers usually have 3-4 years of operating at maximum effectiveness. Miller is just 23 and has averaged 4.2 YPC over his 228 career attempts, including an eye-popping 4.9 YPC in 2012. The YPC dropped to 4.0 last year, but anybody who watched the Fins knows that was maybe the worst O-Line in football. Miller’s circumstances have held him back more than anything else. I’m hoping some good luck can change that. With Moreno as fragile as fine China, what’s to say Miller couldn’t tote the rock 240+ times, plus expand his role as a receiver? I think it happens. Miller caught 26 balls last year and I don’t see any reason he can’t improve in that area. He’s already clearly the better back in camp according to all reports coming out of Miami and he seems poised to be an under the radar breakout candidate. In a few drafts I’ve watched Miller go as late as the 9th round. For even a solid committee back (which is Miller’s floor) that’s late. For a guy who could be a solid RB2/Flex play it’s criminally underrated.
I’m not saying Miller is going to carry you to a championship but he’ll be a useful part of your RB rotation. The days of workhorse backs are gone. In today’s fantasy landscape you need a deep pool of options to pull your running backs from. You need to be able to exploit matchups against poor defenses weekly, and grabbing as many backs as possible is the only way to do that. I’ve been coming away from the draft table with 5 RB’s on my rosters about 80% of the time.