by Dan Trader (@RotoNostra)
In fantasy football, only single players are highlighted and given room to shine, regardless if they’re on a great or horrible team in real life. So what I chose to do instead of standard power rankings was take a look at all 32 NFL teams and rank them based on their fantasy relevance for the 2016 season in standard leagues, considering their current rosters, systems and surrounding conditions as criteria. Much can change between now and the opening of the regular season, but the following rankings are merely opinions from my perspective based on the current state of affairs and are ranked in the order in which I would invest in them, not based on which teams will have the best records at the end of the season.
The rest of the rankings can be found here.
The Dolphins have struggled with personnel in recent years, even when facing relatively easy schedules. Now with Adam Gase as head coach and wheelin’ and dealin’ Mike Tannenbaum operating as the new vice president of football operations, there seems to be cautious optimism in the air, but the fan-base would probably be content with any overall improvement in 2016.
The Dolphins are truly in a state of transition; with change and transition comes a time of adjustment. So regardless of the organization’s intentions and the reasons to be on the sunny side going forward, I can’t endorse investing high picks in an unproven overall situation. I’m personally optimistic for the future. But that doesn’t mean I’m all in for 2016.
With Gase’s arrival comes a new offensive line coach (Chris Foerster), assistant offensive line coach (Jeremiah Washburn), and offensive quality control coach (Chirs Kuper). Kuper played for eight years in the NFL as a guard before finishing his career in Denver under Gase.
The changes in personnel are certainly encouraging but I’m absolutely expecting it to take a period time for the offense to get on the same page. With a brand new system and several new coaches, it will take time for the team to consistently execute as a unit. Any improvement offensively will be noticeable though, as the team was ranked 27th in both total offensive yards and average points for in 2015.
I will admit that I’m a little hesitant to simply accept that the Dolphins are bound for glory under Gase. I’m not taking away anything from the man’s career, but from my perspective he probably gets too much credit for Peyton Manning’s resurgence in Denver. Regardless, new coaching staff or not, my main problem with buying into this offense probably stems from the fact that I essentially don’t have a lot of overall faith in Ryan Tannehill as a franchise quarterback, who last I read was reportedly engaged in a self-inflicted push-up punishment due to missing a motionless target by nearly a foot during OTAs in May. Perhaps I’ve been burnt too many times, because this definitely has the potential to blow up in my face.
But this could also be Tannehill’s last chance to take the next step in Miami. Overall, in terms of fantasy, he has been a relatively decent streaming option in years past, putting up over 4,000 yards the past two , but touchdown totals haven’t stretched beyond mediocre as of yet. And his best touchdown to interception ratio was 2.25 to 1. In other words, we know what his floor looks like, but he’s failed to take his game to the next level. Can Gase really take him there? That’s what we’re ostensibly gambling on by drafting anyone on the offense.
On the sunny side, he’s probably in a better situation than he ever has been since being signed, and he appears to have a lot more freedom in the new offensive system, as he was seen making changes and calling audibles at the line of scrimmage during OTA’s.
Tannehill’s biggest improvement, statistically, over his four NFL seasons was his touchdown to interception ratio from 2012 (12:13) to 2013 (24:17). He also completed more than 66% of his passes in 2014. But since 2013, his attempts, completions and percentage, yardage totals, touchdowns and interceptions have all floated around the same numbers, and has equated to averaging 16.1 fantasy points per game (in standard ESPN leagues) in the past three seasons.
If your drafting strategy is anything similar to mine, you know that 20 points every game is serviceable if you’re waiting until the later rounds (or the waiver wire) to grab one, especially if you’re only playing the friendly matchups. But ideally, at least in my opinion, you target more reliable players with higher upside. Tannehill has a decent arm, but downfield accuracy will need to improve pretty drastically before he can truly be considered a high-upside play. His longest pass in 2015 was ranked #42 among quarterbacks at 54 yards, behind the likes of Johnny Manziel, Zach Mettenberger, and Case Keenum, to name a few. In 2014, it was 50 yards, ranked at #43. His net yards-per-attempt over the past two seasons have also been no greater than six yards, while tossing 12 interceptions to 24 passing scores. Hopefully these numbers improve under Gase but I need to see it before I believe it.
Receiving Corps Review
There is definitely talent in the receiving corps between Jarvis Landry, DeVante Carter and Kenny Stills, and maybe even rookie Leonte Caroo. But other than their ceiling being dependent on Tannehill's effectiveness and execution, I expect that the targets will be distributed more evenly. Landry was a target monster last season, drawing 167, which was up 52 from his rookie year. But after 111 catches, 1,159 yards and four TDs in 2015, while he may still hover around the same touchdown total, I’m expecting a regression in targets, catches and yards, especially if we’re to assume that the rest of the wide-outs will be involved at full health. I’m also of the opinion that the spike in targets in 2015 is at least partially due to a lack of quality options at Tannehill's disposal beyond Landry. He presents additional upside in the run-game also though, gaining 111 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts, and remains a decent WR2 or viable flex at the very least.
But Carter is the one who can stretch the field and Stills have shown flashes in the past. But Carter is coming off a foot injury and we have no reason to believe that Stills will produce similar stats as he did during his time in New Orleans. Leonte Caroo was also drafted in the third round, so there certainly are questions at receiver going into mini-camps.
Additionally, Jordan Cameron is a hopeful candidate for production in the receiving game, but overall, he hasn't lived up to the projected potential. The tight end position is already fluky enough, so I'll pass.
Some OLine Uncertainty
Another concern on the offensive side is Tannehill has been sacked more than any other quarterback since 2012 due to inconsistent protection, but the Phins landed the steal of the draft in Laremy Tunsil, who presumably will start at left guard. He’s obviously an upgrade along the line and should help improve the run game. But overall, I don’t see his presence being enough to turn the offense around in his rookie season.
Mike Pouncey is a Pro Bowl center but coming off hip surgery. He is self-reportedly at 100% and will need to be for the duration of the season in order for the line to be operating at full speed and efficiency. Brandon Albert currently figures to remain the starting left tackle, but the right side of the line is up in the air at guard, and Ja’Wuan James, the right tackle, has been dealing with a toe injury.
Run Game Upside
You may find the running back position presents the best value with the greatest upside in your fantasy drafts. With Lamar Miller inking a new deal in Houston, the options behind the line in Miami are Jay Ajayi and Kenyan Drake at running back. Based on Drakes's skill-set, it seems Ajayi has the confidence of the front office, and is definitely a player I’m targeting as a draft-day bargain. He doesn't exactly come without risk though.
His knee was a concern coming out of college and he spent the first 8 weeks of 2015 on IR (Designated to Return) with reported knee and rib injuries. He needs to work on his catching efficiency to be the workhorse back that Adam Gase wants to feature, but he is poised for production in 2016 with Drake assuming a change-of-pace role.
Ajayi is currently going late in fantasy drafts. Getting him at value could mean RB1 production, low-end or not, with little risk in your overall team investments. But another thing to keep in mind is Miami could bring in a veteran before the start of the season.
Admittedly, there aren't many players I currently trust very much on the Dolphins, but at the right price, there are certainly options to consider for your fantasy squad, especially Ajayi given his current ADP. I also would take Landry on my team, but I wouldn't lose sleep but his upside and the upside of the rest of the receivers is dependent on whether Tannehill can go beyond what we're familiar with. The organization at least appears to want Tannehill to succeed, and Gase could absolutely get the best out him in his fifth season. But after four seasons of mediocrity, it’s also possible we’ve seen enough to gauge his fantasy worth too. And if he can't get it done this season, I wonder how long the upper-management is willing to wait.