After a number of seasons of languishing in mediocrity, the Miami Dolphins took a full nose-dive to the pits of despair in 2015. The 6-10 record does not accurately reveal just how poorly they played -- as many of their losses came in embarrassing fashion. They will enter the 2016 season with their third head coach in a single calendar year: the Dolphins decided to move on from interim head coach Dan Campbell and hired the offensive-minded Adam Gase to be their new head coach.
We believe that the move to Gase will have a positive impact on many of the team's offensive skill positions. Also, the Dolphins have made a number of positive moves in the off-season to get better. The question, of course, is whether these moves will actually work.
Ryan Tannehill looked like a breakout candidate in 2015 after he was a solid Fantasy quarterback in 2014 when he finished No. 11 in standard leagues. But he took a step back in production last year and was the No. 17 quarterback. He only declined by 28 Fantasy points with three fewer passing touchdowns and 170 fewer rushing yards, but his passing yards actually improved by 165.
You can see that Tannehill is probably in that range, but we're expecting him to play at a higher level this season with the addition of Gase. He's done well with quarterbacks in his previous two stops with Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning in Denver and Jay Cutler in Chicago, and the Dolphins have a receiving corps on the rise with DeVante Parker, Jarvis Landry, Kenny Stills and Jordan Cameron. Miami also has question marks at running back and defense, which could force Tannehill into the most attempts of his career (590 was his high in 2014). He's only worth drafting with a late-round pick in the majority of leagues, but this could be Tannehill's best season to date. He's a great sleeper heading into 2016.
Things were looking good for Jay Ajayi heading into the final month of the off-season. He was expected to be the featured back for the Dolphins and split time with a rookie in Kenyan Drake, who really was a distant No. 2 option at best. But then Miami signed Arian Foster in late July, and Ajayi will likely share touches with Foster and could lose a significant amount of work. That said. Ajayi is the stating back on paper, while Foster is listed with the second team. Of course, this depth chart really means little in the grand scheme of things. Ajayi should remain the starter and have the chance to work at the goal line.
Foster could easily be the No. 2 option and play on passing downs, and he'll also be used in a change-of-pace role. But keep in mind he'll be 30 in August and is coming off a torn Achilles from last season. It's hard to argue with his production -- four seasons of at least 1,200 rushing yards, 50 catches and double digits in touchdowns since 2010 -- but it will be hard for him to recapture his previous form since he switched teams and is coming off the injury at his age.
The addition of Foster is a knock on Ajayi's outlook, and it drops him from a solid fifth-round pick to somewhere in Round 6 or 7 in standard leagues, with his value lower in PPR. We still consider Ajayi the best running back to own in Miami, but his outlook was better before Foster signed in July. Meanwhile, in PPR formats Foster's receiving ability puts him on the better side of the committee. Foster is worth a pick in the back end of your draft, starting in Round 8 in most formats, with his value slightly higher in PPR leagues. He has a good chance to contribute to the Dolphins this season since Ajayi is unproven, but don't overvalue him based on his name and history.
The Dolphins drafted rookie running back Kenyan Drake in the third round of the NFL Draft out of Alabama, and he's expected to be No. 3 on the depth chart behind Jay Ajayi and Arian Foster. Drake was the backup to Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry for the Tide, and he had 77 carries for 408 yards and one touchdown and 29 catches for 276 yards and one touchdown in 2015. He's battled injuries during the past two seasons, and he would only be Fantasy relevant as a starter if Ajayi or Foster got hurt. Drake is worth drafting with a late-round pick in all seasonal leagues, and he's a second- or third-round selection in rookie-only drafts.
Damien Williams will compete to be a backup for the Dolphins this season behind Jay Ajayi, Arian Foster and Kenyan Drake. He spent time in 2015 playing behind Lamar Miller, and Williams finished with 16 carries for 59 yards and 21 catches for 142 yards and a touchdown. He would need an increased workload to be relevant in the majority of leagues, and Williams is not worth drafting in most leagues this season.
Jarvis Landry was a PPR machine last season and things are about to get even better. After being used exclusively in the slot by the previous regime, Gase has stated that he'd like to use Landry on the outside. Over his first two seasons in the league, Landry has averaged 9.9 yards per reception and a move to the outside would allow him to become the playmaker that he was his last year at LSU when he averaged 15.5 yards per reception and scored 10 TDs on only 77 receptions. The hype on Dolphins' No. 2 WR DeVante Parker (see below) is through the roof as he does have the physical tools to be an elite wide receiver in the league. But after getting off to a slow start last season due to injury, we need to see Parker produce over an entire season before we move him ahead of Landry. We expect Landry to be QB Ryan Tannehill's go-to guy for at least one more season.
Landry enters his third season in the NFL looking to have a breakout campaign with the Dolphins and build off what he's done through his first two years. He had 111 catches for 1,159 yards and four touchdowns in 2015, with his reception total good for a third-place tie with DeAndre Hopkins and behind only Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. He also had 166 targets, which was No. 6 among receivers, and he finished as the No. 19 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues. His stats went up from his rookie campaign when he had 84 catches for 758 yards and five touchdowns, and we believe he will continue to improve this season. If he can find the end zone a little more frequently his value could skyrocket, especially in PPR leagues. DeVante Parker's emergence could hinder Landry, but we still consider Landry a borderline WR2 receiver in standard leagues and a solid WR2 option in PPR formats.
The hype-train for DeVante Parker is fully loaded and about to leave the station. With only Jarvis Landry above Parker on the depth chart, the opportunity will be there for Parker to explode in 2016. With the arrival of Gase, expectations are sky-high for the Dolphins offense. Parker will have plenty of competition for targets as he'll have to battle Landry, Kenny Stills, TE Jordan Cameron and rookie WR Leonte Carroo. Be that as it may, we expect Parker to step up this season and show why Miami took him with the 14th overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Meanwhile, Adam Gase has spent time as a receivers coach and offensive coordinator with the Broncos and as the offensive coordinator of the Bears. In those jobs, he's been the beneficiary of huge seasons out of Brandon Lloyd, Brandon Marshall, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, Emmanuel Sanders and Alshon Jeffery. DeVante Parker could be next in line. He was limited during his rookie season in 2015 with a foot problem and didn't see extended action until Week 12, but he scored double digits in Fantasy points in a standard league three times in his final six outings and scored less than eight points once over that span. If he can stay healthy and develop the rapport with Ryan Tannehill that we anticipate, this could be a breakout season for Parker in his second year. He's an excellent option to target in all leagues in Round 6.
Gase also says that he is excited to work with veteran Kenny Stills this year, and Stills figures to be the #3 receiver in Miami's offense behind Parker and Landry. Stills spent 2015 with the Dolphins after two years with the Saints, and his stats declined across the board. He had season lows in catches (27), yards (440) and touchdowns (three), but his role should increase with Rishard Matthews now in Tennessee. Stills so far in his career has proven to just be a deep threat -- and throwing the deep ball is not one of Ryan Tannehill's strengths -- but Gase believes he can maximize his skills and get Stills and Ryan Tannehill to develop a solid rapport. We would only draft Stills with a late-round flier in the majority of leagues.
Rookie third-round WR Leonte Carroo has reportedly had a "good camp," and the Dolphins are eager to see more. The Dolphins reportedly had Carroo ranked as the second-best wide receiver in this year's draft, so he could push for targets as early as this year. Carroo is an upside prospect who had a solid off-season, but will have trouble earning targets behind Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Arian Foster and even Jordan Cameron.
Jordan Cameron was a bust in his first season with the Dolphins in 2015, but he's looking to bounce back in Miami under new coach Adam Gase, who considers Cameron a good fit for his offense. Cameron had 35 catches for 386 yards and three touchdowns on 70 targets last season, and hopefully Gase can help him improve his production. Gase has done well with tight ends in stops in Denver and Chicago the past few seasons with Julius Thomas and the combination of Martellus Bennett and Zach Miller. Cameron was once a breakout tight end for the Browns in 2013 when he had 80 catches for 917 yards and seven touchdowns, but he'll need to be in that range again this season for Fantasy owners to trust him. He's not worth drafting in the majority of leagues, but he could be a waiver wire addition this season if he starts off playing well under a new regime.
Dion Sims will be the No. 2 tight end for the Dolphins this season behind Jordan Cameron, but he has minimal Fantasy value in the majority of leagues. In 2015, playing behind Cameron, Sims had 18 catches for 127 yards and one touchdown on 25 targets. He only has 42 catches for 411 yards and three touchdowns in the past two years and should not be drafted in most formats.
The kicking position has not been a fertile spot for fantasy owners in recent years. Currently, Andrew Franks is ahead of Marshall Koehn for the Dolphins' kicker job.
Franks is a mediocre kicker, but he appears to have the edge over Koehn, an undrafted rookie out of Iowa.
Franks made 13-of-16 field goals last year with a long of 53 yards. It's believed Franks would "really have to tank" to lose the job. Still, keep a close eye on this situation throughout the preseason. Regardless of how it turns out, we advise looking elsewhere for a fantasy kicker.
Losing Olivier Vernon in free agency was a big blow to the Dolphins defense, and while they tried to cover up that loss by signing Mario Williams, a 31-year-old on his third big contract might be a bit of a risk. Still, Williams will team up with Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh to create a formidable front line, possibly creating play-making opportunities for the linebackers and defensive backs. This isn't a top unit to invest a draft pick on, but they could have streaming appeal later in the season, especially if the line gets consistent pressure.