In the first part of this series on shallow running back sleepers, we took a look at Jonathan Stewart and why I think he has the potential to be a low end RB1, despite being drafted as a RB3. This time around I want to take a look at a guy being drafted as an RB2 that I can see finishing in the top 10 RB as well. This player is Lamar Miller.
In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Dolphins took Boise State RB Jay Ajayi in the fifth round. Ajayi fell in the draft because of several executives backing off of him after their medical staffs evaluated his surgically repaired knee. The injury(torn ACL) was in 2011, and he played three healthy seasons after that surgery. But something about the repaired knee and his heavy college workload caused teams to back off and allowed Miami to scoop him up in the fifth round.
The reason I am talking about Ajayi is because I think it is important to handcuff Lamar Miller with Ajayi, just as the Dolphins have. I think in the long run of this season, Ajayi only has the potential to steal 3rd down plays from Miller and not much more. But I do think it is important to handcuff him.
That being said, there are not a ton of carries to be spread around, the speedy Miller never carried the ball more than 19 times last year and under Philbin the Dolphins have the 3rd lowest carries in the league. However, he has said:
“I would tell you I’ve never been in a meeting where I’ve said to (offensive coordinator) Bill (Lazor) or (running backs coach) Jeff Nixon or the offensive line coaches have said ‘Lamar can’t carry the ball 20 times a game. He can’t do it,'” Philbin told ESPN.com. “I’ve never heard that. That’s never come out of my mouth.”
So if this means Miller can average around 20 carries a game if he preforms well (like his 5.1 YPC last year, 2nd only to Justin Forsett), he should finish in the top 10 RB. Among the top 30 RBs in 2014, Lamar Miller ranked 3rd in pound for pound speed (Speed Score), only behind fellow shallow sleeper Jonathan Stewart and the best handcuff in football, Knile Davis.
The Dolphins offense is improved, and the offensive line is young but healthy. LT Branden Albert’s season ended in week 10 last year, and after he got hurt the line was shuffled and out of order. With Albert back healthy, 2nd year RT Ja’Wuan James goes back to his preferred position and has a year under his belt now. Pro Bowl Center Mike Pouncey gets to go back to C after shifting from C to G mid season last year. If the Dolphins end up signing Evan Mathis, I would like Miller even more, as Guard is the weak spot on the Dolphins OL. However even if they don’t, they hope rookie Jamil Douglas can help out along with Billy Turner (2nd year) and Dallas Thomas (3rd year).
With the O-line of some concern, Miller is reported to be bigger this year, and came into camp adding 15 pounds of muscle to boost his durability. Miller, 24, is in the final year of his rookie contract and has a pretty big incentive to preform whether he stays with the dolphins or not. I have him as my RB 12, and would be ecstatic to get him in the 2nd round as my teams RB1 if I decide to go WR or Gronk in Round 1.