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The Flores Effect

The announcement of Brian Flores as head coach of the Miami Dolphins presents us with another difficult fantasy situation to peg. Like Vic Fangio, Flores has no head coaching experience. He also made his chops on the defensive side of the ball.  At least Fangio had several years of experience as a coordinator. I am always excited for a young coach to get his shot as an NFL head coach, but the hire is somewhat questionable. Even this late in the game, there are experienced coaches out there (i.e. McCarthy, Caldwell) to be had.

The Fish are in the Tank

A lot of chatter is coming out of Miami that they are setting up for an all-out tank job. From that aspect, I suppose the Flores hire makes some sense. We could be looking at another Steve Wilks situation where he is one and done. He has a five-year guarantee on his contract, however. The Dolphins need to be patient with Flores if they are indeed in rebuild mode. They have been one of the bottom teams in the NFL the last decade, going a combined 72-88 since 2009, with only one season over .500.

Flores has announced Chad O’Shea as his offensive coordinator. O’Shea has no offensive coordinator experience but has spent the last 10 years as a wide receiver coach for the New England Patriots. This further complicates things from a fantasy perspective. I will look at what little data we have and what we can possibly expect from the skill position players on offense this year in South Beach.

Ryan Tannehill (QB1?)

The converted wide receiver is reportedly a candidate to be cut this year.  Tannehill has shown some flashes over his early career, but recent injuries have derailed any momentum he may have had from prior years. He certainly has not lived up to his lofty draft status (#8 overall, 2012). When you factor in that Russell Wilson, Nick Foles, and Kirk Cousins were all taken much later, it makes the miss much more glaring. The chart below shows fantasy ranks of Tannehill, Wilson, and Cousins (Foles hasn’t started as much so I left him out).

The Dolphins may give Tannehill one more shot since this draft class is not teeming with top-end talent. However, it is not that likely given his high cap hit.  They will likely go with a stopgap veteran for this season. Avoid the Dolphins quarterback situation altogether.

Kenyan Drake (RB1)

This spot has my interest piqued. Given the amount of usage the running back gets in the passing game in New England, you must think some of that trickles down to Drake via O’Shea. McDaniels loved to scheme Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead open. O’Shea would be wise to implement some of that in his scheme.

Drake was wildly underused under now New York Jets head coach Adam Gase. He averaged just over 10 total touches per game last year and still finished as RB14 in PPR. As I mentioned in my Gase article, Gore was used to pounding the middle for three or four yards instead of getting Drake in a groove and giving him a chance to hit the home run.

Look at how he compares to Jordan Howard over the past three years.  The trend is pointing way up for Drake and he can be had a bit later than some of the expensive RB’s.

The next plot chart shows us that Drake has the potential to produce solid numbers on any given week. Drake was also second on the team with 53 receptions. Running backs need to catch passes in today’s PPR formats compared to years ago when 40 catches was deemed “a lot”.

He was often right at league average or above. With O’Shea in town, we should see less inconsistency out of Drake as the Dolphins builds for the future. Do not be afraid to lean on Drake as a back end RB1 or high end RB2 for your fantasy team.

Wide Receivers

I usually use this spot to break down the WR1, WR2 and WR3 (if relevant) for each coaching change. With so much upheaval likely coming in Miami, it is difficult to peg who is going to be around after the fallout of the roster dump. There should be some interest in Kenny Stills or Albert Wilson. Let’s dig into the situation.

Danny Amendola led Miami in receptions but is not a lock to be back with no guaranteed money left on his contract.  If he is back, he does have some WR3 appeal. Stills dropped off a bit from his 2017 year, but part of that can be attributed to having the “Brock Lobster” Brock Osweiler as his QB. He has big play potential and is always a threat to throw up a 20 spot. Wilson missed most of the year but was a sneaky good signing for the Dolphins. If healthy he could be a late-round bargain. He was never able to find the targets in Kansas City but does have fantasy potential.

DeVante Parker has been a perennial bust that never lived up to his hype, in fantasy or on the field. He is has a club option for 2019 and probably will not be brought back during a rebuild.  They may choose to look at some younger receivers on the roster such as Isaiah Ford or someone they select in April.  Other wide receivers that saw the field for Miami that are coming off injury or will not be a factor are Jakeem Grant, Brice Butler, and Leonte Carroo.

Reason for Hope?

One thing to also keep in mind is that the offensive coordinator is a grizzled wide receiver coach by trade. He may be able to make something out of nothing here. He does not have Tom Brady to throw to his wide receivers, but the hope is that he can develop some late round talent into productive receivers a la Julian Edelman (seventh round pick).

If the Dolphins do not move up to draft a quarterback and decides to “tank for Tua”, “flop for Fromm”, or “hurt for Herbert” then maybe they get their playmaker in Round one. Kelvin Harmon, Hakeem Butler, or N’Keal Harry all make sense. Any of those three immediately set off a blip on my radar. Especially in a dynasty format.

Mike Gesicki (TE1)

There is moderate interest here for the simple fact that O’Shea has worked with Rob Gronkowski for his entire career in New England. They are both 6’6” with Gronk having 20 pounds on Gesicki (265 to 245).  I am not comparing him to Gronk by any means, but he could garner Gronk type usage. Factor in the lack of wide receiver depth and it may create even more opportunities for the second-year pro.

Gesicki showed great ball skills in the red zone at camp and in practice his rookie year. He also runs a 4.54 40-yard dash. Think of a Coby Fleener or Jimmy Graham type. Graham and Fleener both saw significant jumps in their second years.

If we find Gesicki getting Gronk type usage, then we need to pounce right away. He probably can go undrafted in 10 and 12 team leagues unless he really stands out at camp.  He is certainly a buy if you are in a startup dynasty league or looking for a trade target.

Conclusion

The Miami Dolphins appear to be in full rebuild mode. They have had major changes in the front office and coaching staff and will soon be overhauling the roster. They have guaranteed new head coach Brian Flores a five-year contract. This suggests they want him to be the man to bring them back to relevance. The big question is will Stephen Ross be patient enough to let it play out. The shakeups in the front office suggest he will be patient and try to get it right.

For fantasy purposes, I will be in wait and see mode on everyone not named Kenyan Drake. The draft and any free agent signings the Dolphins make may change that some, but for the time being, it is almost a complete avoid for me. Even Drake comes with some worry. If he is the only producer on offense, opposing defensive coordinators will just scheme to take him out of the game plan on a weekly basis. Definitely proceed with caution.

Thank you for reading. You can read some of my other work and thoughts on Twitter @FFJeffSmith. Follow FFStatistics on Twitter @FFStatistics_. Please check out everything that FFStatistics has to offer. New statistics and data are being added constantly. Read more in my coaching changes series as well as other articles from the FFStatistics writing staff here. Listen to the FFStatistics family of podcasts here

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