News And Notes: More Miami Mischief
June 24, 2014 | Jeff
The Miami Dolphins backfield has been a hot topic this offseason, with newcomer Knowshon Moreno attempting to hold off 2013 heartbreaker Lamar Miller for top running back duties. After reports that Moreno showed up to offseason workouts out of shape, Lamar Miller’s 2014 stock began to slowly rise. Now, after enduring weeks of updates on Moreno’s eating habits, weigh-ins, and Weight Watchers points totals, fantasy folks have learned that Moreno will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery and miss 4-5 weeks of action according to our good pal Adam Schefter. This gives Lamar Miller the green light to burst ahead of Moreno and claim the lead back role in new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor’s attack (that is an American Gladiator name, right?), as Moreno won’t be completing many Insanity workouts on crutches. The issue that is preventing Miller from skyrocketing up fantasy rankings is the same issue that plagued Miami last season, their offensive line. In 2013, Miami ranked 30th in the NFL in run blocking according to the wizards at Pro Football Focus, and they just learned that starting center Mike Pouncey has a “significant” labrum tear in his hip, as reported by ProFootballTalk. Miller managed 709 yards on 177 totes last season (4.0 yards per rush) and will have a hard time surpassing that mark in 2014 if his offensive line is in shambles again. Plenty of factors in play here, but the bottom line is that Miller is the fantasy back to own.
We have touched on the San Diego Chargers tight end situation both in redraft and dynasty formats, and it appears that San Diego beat writers are adding their two cents as well. Kevin Acee from the San Diego Union Tribune thinks that the up -and-coming Ladarius Green will “at least double last year’s 17 receptions for 367 yards and three touchdowns.” Just to put this estimation into extremely literal terms (in case you were curious), a 34 catch, 734 yard, six touchdown stat line would have registered as fantasy football’s 11th best tight end in 2013 (.5 PPR). While that is a useless exercise for the most part, I do think that a TE10-TE12 finish is probably Green’s ceiling in 2014 with Grandpappy Antonio Gates still hanging around.
The long awaited demise of Frank Gore is still probably further off in the distance than fake footballers would like, but we may finally have an actual understudy for old Frank. After years of LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter, and most recently Marcus Lattimore day dreams, Carlos Hyde could hold the key to the future of Jim Harbaugh’s run-heavy offense. Bill Williamson of ESPN.com recently reported that Hyde has looked solid in the early weeks of offseason action and may chip in earlier than people think. “The running back has shined out of the backfield as a runner and as a receiver. The Ohio State product is likely to get a chance at playing time right away.” The San Francisco offense has averaged a beefy 498.3 rushing attempts per season over the past three years, with Gore averaging 272 rushes per season over that same span. This is a power running squad with plenty of carries to go around, so if Gore’s usage is tempered this season (he turned 31 in May) to the tune of 225-240 carries, I could see another back carving out a decent role behind Gore. Hyde will have to hold off his aforementioned backfield mates but the 49ers cracked open their velcro wallet and dropped a second round pick on the young running back so he should get every opportunity to figure strongly in the mix.
Eli Manning chucked a barf-inducing 27 interceptions last season, but he will have control of an entirely new offense in 2014 as the Giants install a West Coast scheme under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo. McAdoo spent the last two seasons as Green Bay’s quarterbacks coach which should earn him a shiny gold star, as the guy throwing the ball in Green Bay is a fantasy beast. According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Eli and the Giants will be installing a “quick-hitting passing attack that is predicated on timing.” This will, of course, be far superior to the 2013 New York Giants offense which was predicated on Peyton Hillis and interceptions. Shorter routes and screen passes are the general preferences of a West Coast attack, and those are facets of a passing game that New York is equipped to handle well. New running back Rashad Jennings can handle passes out of the backfield with ease, and Victor Cruz has proven to be a solid contributor from the slot. Although this is a scary passing game to invest in coming off a horrific 2013 campaign, we expect Manning and Cruz to return to pre-2013 levels (our man Joe Siniscalchi hit on this recently). If the quick passing game is as advertised, Cruz, who has received 68.3% of his targets from the slot over the last three seasons, may be a fine fantasy asset yet again.