Fantasy owners caught a break when Cam Cameron was named the Dolphins head coach earlier this offseason. Cameron's resume includes a stint as offensive coordinator for the Chargers -- you know, the team that led the league in scoring last season. Granted, Cameron doesn't have anyone of LT's magnitude on the Dolphins roster, but Ronnie Brown is nothing to sneeze at, and the Dolphins do have some weapons in the passing game. Coming off a season in which the team averaged 16.3 points per game (29th in the league), a fresh approach on offense was needed.
But Miami's future would be a lot brighter if the offense weren't in the hands of a 37-year-old, immobile quarterback playing behind a suspect line. Newly acquired Trent Green figures to start for the Dolphins, with Cleo Lemon serving as the backup and Daunte Culpepper likely out of town by Week 1. Draftee John Beck is the QB of the future, but right now fantasy owners are stuck with Green.
One thing that hasn't changed in Miami is the defense. The Dolphins' D remains one of the best in the game. Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas head a blitz-happy unit that now includes Joey Porter, a free-agent acquisition who knows a thing or two about pressuring the QB.
The Dolphins might not get to where they're going this season, but they're on the right track.
Projected draft round Player Round Trent Green, QB 15-16 Ronnie Brown, RB 2 Lorenzo Booker, RB 16 Chris Chambers, WR 5 Marty Booker, WR 12 David Martin, TE DND Jay Feely, K DND Defense/special teams 11-12 Draft position based on a standard 12-team combined scoring and yardage league with a 17-round draft. DND: Do not draft.
Jason Taylor, DE.
Zach Thomas, LB.
Ronnie Brown, RB. True No. 1 running backs (that is, non-committee backs) are getting harder and harder to find these days, which is part of the reason why Brown ranks as a top 12 fantasy back. But there's also reason to believe that Brown will break out in Cam Cameron's two-back sets with Cory Schlesinger blocking for him. Brown missed time last season because of a broken hand, but that isn't a lingering concern. A threat between the tackles, on the outside or in the receiving game, Brown is a solid pick at the tail end of the first round.
Chris Chambers, WR. Other than the Dolphins' fans, no one suffered more from the team's woeful QB situation in 2006 than Chambers. His numbers (677 yards, four TDs) failed to live up to preseason hype, but a new offensive system and a (relative) upgrade at quarterback have Chambers poised for a bounce-back season. Chambers is the Dolphins' deep threat and should find the end zone more frequently this year. He's worth a shot as your No. 2 receiver.
Dolphins defense/special teams. Sacks? Check. Less than 18 points allowed per game? Check. IDP studs? Check. With Jason Taylor and Zach Thomas leading the charge, the defense provided one of the Dolphins' few fantasy bright spots last season. The key pieces (including coordinator Dom Capers) are coming back for more, and the addition of Ted Ginn Jr. adds to the possibility of special teams touchdowns. The Dolphins' D/ST is a top five unit. Key additions: QB Trent Green, TE David Martin, LB Joey Porter, WR Ted Ginn Jr., FB Cory Schlesinger, K Jay Feely, RB Lorenzo Booker.
Key losses: QB Joey Harrington, TE Randy McMichael, WR Wes Welker, DE Kevin Carter, K Olindo Mare.
Marty Booker, WR. Very quietly, Booker ranked 35th in receiving yards among wideouts last season while catching six touchdowns -- numbers worthy of a No. 3 fantasy receiver. And that was while he was competing with Wes Welker and Randy McMichael for looks. Now that they're out of the picture, Booker should produce more consistently. His sleeper potential makes him worth a spot on your bench.
Trent Green, QB. After trade negotiations that lasted nearly as long as the construction of Guns n' Roses' Chinese Democracy, Green arrives in Miami as the favorite to win the starting job. He missed half of the 2006 season after suffering a concussion, and he didn't play particularly well when he was on the field (167.8 YPG, 9 INTs). Is he declining? Yes. But he also played in a Chiefs system that ranked 27th in pass attempts last season. He figures to get more opportunities to throw in Miami, and Chris Chambers gives him the true No. 1 wide receiver he didn't have in KC. Fantasy owners shouldn't be eager to draft a 37-year-old quarterback with concussion concerns, though. I might use Green as a bye-week replacement, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.
David Martin, TE. Sometimes, change is a good thing. Sometimes, you end up with David Martin. The Dolphins signed Martin during the offseason and then released fantasy stalwart Randy McMichael. Due to injuries and depth chart issues, Martin has never started more than eight games in a season -- and he has been around since 2001. Martin has the physical skills to be productive, and Cam Cameron likes to use the tight end in the passing game. But fantasy owners can't trust Martin as a starter. Draft him for your bench, or preferably, not at all.
Jay Feely, K. Feely's accuracy has improved dramatically over the past couple seasons, but the Dolphins' offense must show that it has improved before Feely gets picked off the waiver wire. There is potential here, but don't use a draft pick on him.
Ted Ginn Jr, WR. A chorus of boos rang out from the Dolphins faithful when the team drafted Ginn instead of Brady Quinn, but Ginn might have been the fastest player in the draft. He won't produce immediate dividends as a receiver, but he gives the Dolphins an immediate special teams boost. If anyone can make a Devin Hester-like impact this season (other than Hester), it's Ginn.
Lorenzo Booker, RB. The beneficiary of Ricky Williams' continuing struggles with the NFL's substance abuse policy, Booker heads into the season as the Dolphins' No. 2 back. Unfortunately, Ronnie Brown is the team's unquestioned No. 1. At this point, Booker is more injury insurance than legitimate sleeper.
Ultimate Fantasy Football Tip: Maurice Jones-Drew, Clinton Portis and Reggie Bush cost more than Ronnie Brown ($6.75M) in Ultimate Fantasy Football. Fred Taylor's price is the same as Brown's. But why spend the money on timeshare backs (Jones-Drew, Bush, Taylor) or an injury risk (Portis) when you can have a healthy back with a solid starting job? As an added bonus, Brown's Week 1 opponent -- the Redskins -- ranked 27th against the run last season.
TO KNOW LIST Coaching: With Nick Saban dumping the Dolphins to take the head coaching gig at Alabama, former Chargers offensive coordinator Cam Cameron takes over in his first head coaching job in the NFL. Fantasy owners should benefit from Cameron's emphasis on offense -- he'll call the plays and isn't afraid to throw the ball downfield. He might be limited by his personnel (Trent Green and David Martin come to mind), but the Dolphins should put more points on the board than they did last season. Of course, that's not saying much.
Offensive line: One of Cam Cameron's first moves as the Dolphins' new coach was to reshape the line, so that should tell you something about how poorly it operated last season, especially in the passing game. The Fins allowed 41 sacks last season, prompting Vernon Carey's switch from right tackle to left tackle. Trent Green's stats (and health) depend on that move working well.
Schedule analysis: The Dolphins' schedule doesn't feature any streaks of favorable or unfavorable matchups, so it's not a huge factor. But when fantasy playoffs time rolls around, Miami gets a double-whammy of the Ravens and Patriots in Weeks 15 and 16. You won't be starting borderline options like Trent Green or Jay Feely those weeks. Fantasy Strength of Schedule: 18th toughest (or 14th easiest).