Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller turned in a disappointing 2013 campaign after he was hyped as one of the top under-the-radar backs that season. The hype stemmed from his status as the team's starter, a guy slated to see a high volume of carries and maybe even achieve 'feature back' status. If you coveted Miller before your draft in 2013, you hoped he would fly under the radar enough so you can snag him in the mid rounds for great value. But that value just didn't come. Miller finished with a pedestrian two touchdowns and 703 rushing yards despite being the No. 1 running back for the Dolphins the majority of the season.
Of course, it wasn't made any easier thanks to a series of bizarre bullying incidents between two of his offensive linemen. The Dolphins would eventually cut both players involved but it didn't help matters much in terms of improving the quality of play up front. In 2014, his line was still largely inept due to several factors including an severe ACL injury to their top free agent acquisition in Branden Albert, some shifts along the offensive line that led to center Mike Pouncey playing out of position, and some very inconsistent play from the guard position with Dallas Thomas.
But even with all that working against him, Lamar Miller managed to compile his first ever 1,000-yard season and finish ninth overall among fantasy running backs in 2014. Miller ended up with 1,099 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns. He also caught a respectable 38 passes for 275 yards and one receiving score. He played some of his best football in the waning moments of the season as well, recording 43 of his total 171 fantasy points in the final two weeks.
One of the major differences from 2013 and 2014 for Miller was that he had no backup threatening to take carries from him. In 2013, Daniel Thomas logged over 100 carries, which kept Miller's carry total under 200. In 2014, that threat was largely avoided as free agent pickup Knowshon Moreno played in just three games before tearing his ACL in Week 6 against the Packers. Aside from a 124-yard explosion in Week 1 against the Patriots, the threat of Moreno overtaking Miller was non-existent.
Where Miller succeeded
A steady, consistent runner who values positive yardage over dancing around the hole, Miller established himself as one of the most reliable fantasy options among running backs last season. A one-cut-and-go back, Miller was most effective out of the shotgun especially when he was able to get the edge and turn up field. Miller also showed good decisiveness when finding the hole which prevented him from being brought down for a loss more often than not.
Miller also very rarely turned in a dud performance, and ended up scoring at least 5 fantasy points in all but two games.Those two games where he really struggled came against Buffalo and Detroit, two of the best rushing defenses in the league last season. While those numbers may not be jump off the stat sheet, it's always valuable to have a running back that puts points on the board week in and week out.
The video below is one of my favorite runs from Miller in 2014. Watch as the Kansas City defensive end cheats inward and Miller busts it to the outside for a large gain.
What 2015 may have in store
We mentioned the Albert injury earlier. Albert tore his ACL and MCL last season but is expected to be on track to start in Week 1. Albert made a huge difference especially in the pass blocking game and his status will play a big role in Miller's fantasy value.
Guard Dallas Thomas is still currently penciled in as the team's starting guard according to Ourlads.com, but you have to figure the Dolphins may look to upgrade through the draft as Thomas graded out to be one of the worst guards in the league last season according to Pro Football Focus.
There's also an X-factor player in Billy Turner, a second-year player who might've gotten a shot to see playing time as a rookie last season had injuries not set him back. Turner stands at 6'5, 315 lbs and was the No. 67 overall pick by the Fins in 2014. Drafted as a tackle. Turner is expected to play the other guard spot and should be the starter at the beginning of the season.
At receiver, the Dolphins added speedster Kenny Stills during the offseason. A speedster who will help stretch the field and allow Miller more room to work with, Stills battled injuries and will need to stay healthy but otherwise should help Miller in terms of fantasy value.
It's tough to see Miller repeating another 1,000 yard season if the offensive line doesn't improve and Albert can't go at the start of the season. He'll likely remain a reliable RB2/flex in deep leagues with no RB1 upside.