The Not-So-Sexy Running Back Pick That Will Win You Your League
Everyone wants that home run running back lottery pick that blows the lid off a fantasy season and helps you win a championship. Last year it was Alvin Kamara, third in the pecking order in NO to start the year but receiving pre-season hype as a rookie with impressive measurables. He turned out a top-3 standard finish by end of season with historic efficiency numbers. This series is NOT for you Kamara dreamers, it’s for the seasoned veterans who know they need quality depth with upside and, more importantly, a carved out role.
For every surprise stud that emerges from the ashes of a failed season where a player took too many high-risk shots on the Toby Gerhart’s of the world there are three consistent, good running backs that no one wanted because they lacked elite upside or weren’t the new hotness. These players rarely get the press that they deserved until half way through the season when people suddenly start to take notice. Well I say no more, it’s time for them to shine like the imperfect, low-cost diamonds they are! Without further ado, here’s the first player we’ll cover in this series:
Un-Sexy Pick – Lamar Miller
Miller is perhaps the king of this category of fantasy picks. He has been a steady RB2 for fantasy purposes over the last few years since he moved teams to Houston. Volume alone has kept Miller relevant over this time, as he’s averaged a yawn-inspiring 3.85 YPC over the last two seasons. However, these facts are well known in the fantasy community and will help you get him after the early rounds as the RB26 (FantasyPros ADP). Miller is absolutely worth an investment at his ADP and may be more qualified than most as a reach candidate. Here’s why:
In the six games that Watson played as the starter for the team, Miller averaged 12.7 standard FPPG (ESPN). If we extrapolated that out to a full season, that would be good enough for RB8, just ahead of the much sexier RB pick, Leonard Fournette. Now, we know better than to assume that that production will be consistent throughout a full season. Still, the reality of the fact is that Miller has had zero help from QB play in the time he’s been in Houston until his lord and savior Deshaun Watson started. Watson kept defenses honest and that allowed Miller to shine with his impressive breakaway speed. With Watson back this season, we could see the fringe-RB1 version of Lamar Miller instead of the plodding low-end RB2 we’ve grown accustomed to.
Pass Blocking Prowess
This offense is now the Deshaun Watson show. The coaches know it, the fans know it, you know it. Protecting the QB is important on any team but with a shoddy offensive line (nothing new here) protecting Watson will be difficult without a good pass-blocking RB. Lamar Miller is a very good pass blocker (top 4 in 2015 based on PFF) and will demand more than just standard running play snaps as a result of it, which will translate into opportunities.
I know, I know, isn’t Foreman being on the team a NEGATIVE for Miller? The answer is, of course, still yes but the news isn’t as bad as it was perceived to be a season ago. Foreman is still not ready to play and is coming back from an achilles tendon tear that cost him a decent chunk of last season. This sort of injury has been the death-knell of some running back’s careers and there has been discussion which suggests it’s one of the most difficult injuries to come back from and return to form. There’s a chance he won’t be ready to play by the start of the season and that he could have lost a step which is obviously bad news for his NFL value. Miller was the presumed starter to open the season either way but will have an edge after getting more preseason practice time in with Watson.
Follow the $Money
Miller signed a $26,000,000, four-year contract with Houston a few years back. With this upcoming season and then the next being his final two years on that contract and with all the money invested in him, Houston will have every incentive to continue running him into the ground as a high-volume back. If he shows improvement over last season, as I predict him to this year, there’s little reason for them to reduce his role in a meaningful way.
Lamar Miller is a player that no one gets excited to pick in the early-middle rounds of their fantasy football drafts. However, even if his situation doesn’t change at all from last season, you’re still drafting a player that was a high-end RB2 last season at a low-end RB2 value. The promise of having Deshaun Watson for a full season to keep defenses honest opens up a world of fringe-RB1 possibilities for Lamar Miller. Instead of drafting a Ronald Jones type in the fifth-round, who has never played an NFL snap, instead pick the decidedly un-sexy Lamar Miller and reap the consistent, cheap rewards.
-By Alex Murphy
We talk Lamar Miller and much more on our Way Too Early Mock Draft! podcast episode. Check it out here!