StrategyJuly 21, 2009

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Daily Preview: Miami Dolphins

By Matt Blevins

The Miami Dolphins not only rebounded from a 1-15 season to a division championship in a division dominated for many years now by the powerhouse New England Patriots, but they also crawled back into fantasy relevance. No one will accuse these Dolphins of being an offensive powerhouse but they pioneered the introduction of the “Wildcat” offense into the NFL last season and, if nothing else, they are efficient offensively.

QB: Chad Pennington, Chad Henne, Pat White
RB: Ronnie Brown, Ricky Williams
WR: Ted Ginn, Greg Camarillo, Davone Bess
TE: Anthony Fasano
PK: Dan Carpenter

Quarterback: Chad Pennington is not a starting fantasy QB. That being said, he’s not a bad choice at all as your primary backup QB, as he’s a guy who may not put up the big fantasy numbers, but he doesn’t make many mistakes and is in an offense built on efficiency and not explosiveness. In standard leagues last season, Pennington finished a respectable #10 overall behind a career high 3,653 passing yards to go with his 20 total TDs and just 7 INTs. Don’t expect him to set new career highs again, but expecting another 3,400+ yard season and single digit INTs is a pretty decent bet, and he makes for a solid spot starter and backup.

If the Dolphins turn to Chad Henne at some point in the season, because the year isn’t going the way they wanted, then it will likely hurt all of the Dolphin players’ fantasy values. He’s an unknown right now, and that’s going to guarantee a feeling-out process that will take a while to get used to should that happen. Pat White could be used in a Wildcat role some this season, but it shouldn’t be enough to make him draftable in anything but the deepest leagues.

Running Back: In 2007 it looked like Ronnie Brown was emerging as a top-five caliber fantasy back before he went down with a knee injury that ended his season just seven games in. Last season, as expected, they brought him along slowly, using Ricky Williams in tandem with Brown and giving him just 214 carries all season. Chances are he will take on a larger role in the offense this year, as Williams is not as young or as talented as he once was and Brown is now a full season removed from his knee injury.

While his prospects look like they’ll improve this season from a touches standpoint, the Dolphins schedule is less friendly than last season, and even with a larger role he is still a borderline top-15 RB. He’s a good receiving back but wasn’t used much in that role last season, so the upside is limited in that respect unless they decide to fully utilize his abilities. Williams isn’t really draftable at this point, unless it’s a deeper league, as his upside is severely limited — he’s a borderline top 50 RB this year.

Wide Receiver: The top-three receivers last season for the Dolphins were all pretty even as far as numbers are concerned. Ted Ginn led the group with 56 receptions, Greg Camarillo was just behind with 55 and Davone Bess rounded out the trio with 54 receptions. None of them broke 1,000 yards and none of them had more than two TDs. None of the three are really going to be starter caliber in fantasy leagues this year, as they will likely be inconsistent, and it’s unlikely that any of the three really will separate themselves from the pack.

Ginn made some strides last season by catching 22 more passes and increasing his yards per receptions to 14.1, which is pretty good considering that Pennington isn’t known for being able to throw the ball very deep. He had a couple rushing TDs last season, a trend that could continue this year if he’s used in the Wildcat, but you can’t really bet on that. He’s seeing less action in the return game, and that could continue this year as well.

Camarillo and Bess are guys who are bigger sleepers because they have a good chance of putting up similar numbers to Ginn without being drafted at such a high position. Camarillo had 55 receptions in just 11 games last season, which put him on a 80-reception pace that would have easily led the team. A season-ending injury could make it difficult for him to come back at 100% at the start of the season, however, which leaves room for Bess to continue to bloom. Bess started just six games last season and in those games managed a very respectable 35 receptions for 366 yards. He didn’t score any TDs, but he showed a good nose for getting open and could be a nice spot play in PPR leagues, as he averaged nearly six receptions per game.

Tight End: Anthony Fasano might be the most fantasy relevant player on this team outside of Ronnie Brown. In his first year with the Dolphins, he only caught 34 passes for 454 yards but but added 7 TD receptions. This means that Pennington looks for him when they get down to the goal lin,e which will likely only continue in his second year with the team. If he’s able to improve his receptions and yardage, he could be a nice pickup as a TE later in drafts, if a fantasy team chooses to wait to take one.

IDP: The Dolphins made the switch last season to the 3-4 defense which can hurt many players’ fantasy values on defense even as it gains popularity in the NFL. Jason Taylor is making a return to the team but will be forced to play a new position as a standup OLB in the 3-4 look and will be competing with incumbents Joey Porter and Matt Roth for playing time on the outside. The most usable fantasy defensive players from the Dolphins are LB Channing Crowder (113 total tackles last season) and DB Yeremiah Bell (120 total tackles). Matt Roth, while playing at OLB last season, had DL eligibility on some sites, which could once again give him some nice value as he had 54 tackles and six sacks last season.

The Dolphins aren’t a fantasy gold mine by any means but if taken at the right times and in the right roles for your fantasy teams, they can have some solid contributors if you know where to look. Pennington and Brown are the most likely to put up solid numbers from a fantasy standpoint, but we could see guys like Ginn, Camarillo, Bess or Fasano emerge as well, especially if the passing game is opened up a bit more this season.

Matt Blevins is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Matt in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of mattb47.
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