The Miami Dolphins' running back situation is not solidified by any stretch as the 2014 season approaches. For prospective fantasy football owners, selecting the likes of Lamar Miller or Knowshon Moreno could be a dicey proposition.
Ultimately, Miller's fantasy value will hinge upon Moreno's health.
Miller did lead the Dolphins in rushing a season ago. The former University of Miami star accrued 709 yards on the ground to go with two rushing scores.
His upside as a runner is undeniable. At 5'10", 224 pounds, he has great physical ability. In particular, Miller's speed has many salivating at the prospect of him becoming a dynamic runner one day in the league.
However, he's yet to put it all together.
Despite Miller's potential, Miami did go out and sign Knowshon Moreno in the offseason. He was undoubtedly brought in as a means to add a veteran presence and production to a unit which ranked No. 26 last year in total rushing.
The signing of Moreno could signal Miami's reluctance to commit to Miller as its top back and in the process derail his fantasy value.
However, Moreno's inability to stay healthy for long stretches of the season poses some concern. Last year, Moreno did play in 16 games. In the previous two seasons, though, he missed a total of 17 games.
The health of Moreno will not only impact the team, but likely will also determine how effective Miller will be this year.
Miller has had a strong camp up to this point. According to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, head coach Joe Philbin has been impressed.
"I like everything Lamar has done since he's gotten here," Philbin said. "He's had an excellent offseason and camp ... I like everything he's done since April 21."
Moreno, on the other hand, has been battling a balky knee throughout camp. It has limited his participation, and it appears as if Miller is taking advantage.
Moreno did have a productive last preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys, rushing for 64 yards on 10 carries. James Walker of ESPN.com reported both backs split first-team reps in practice this past week.
Philbin hasn't yet revealed his cards when it comes to a possible pecking order. "We haven't released anything. We're still evaluating everything right up until we name the starter. I thought [Moreno] played well," he told Walker.
|Production Totals in 2013|
|Carries||Rushing Yards||Receptions||Receiving Yards||Total Touchdowns||Yards Per Carry|
Moreno is coming off a season during which he had over 1,000 rushing yards to go along with 10 touchdowns on the ground. He also had 60 receptions for over 500 receiving yards. By comparison, Miller had 26 catches in 2013.
Again, it all comes down to Moreno's overall health.
Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel does not expect Moreno to play in the final preseason contest. Theoretically, this would open the door further for Miller to stake his claim as the leading back.
From a fantasy standpoint, Moreno could be used strictly as a third-down back. Miller would then receive the lion's share of the carries. As a result, Miller's fantasy stock would rise considerably with more touches.
FantasyPros has Miller ranked as the No. 71 player overall in its ADP (average draft position) rankings. I'd imagine Miller going as high as a fifth-round pick for most drafts. In reality, with the potential for Moreno to steal come carries, I would look at Miller no later than in the seventh round.
If Moreno can stay healthy for the duration of the season, both will likely split carries. In this scenario, neither would seem like a strong fantasy option.
Should Moreno's availability frequently come into question, look for Miller to have a solid season as the lead option in Miami's backfield. It could be the difference between Miller becoming a No. 2 back on a fantasy squad or one only considered as a flex/bench option.