The Flores Effect: Miami on the Mend
The Flores Effect: Miami on the Mend
This is an update of a previous article in my New Coaching Impact series to reflect roster moves and changes since it was first published on February 7th, 2019. Please enjoy.
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. The first time head man also made his chops on the defensive side of the ball. At least Fangio had several years of experience as a coordinator. It is always exciting for a young coach to get his shot as an NFL head coach, but the hire is somewhat questionable. Even this late in the stage of the hiring process, there were experienced coaches out there (i.e. Mike McCarthy, Jim 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, the Flores hire makes some sense. We could be looking at another Steve Wilks situation where Flores is one and done. There is a five-year guarantee on his contract, however. Miami needs to be patient with Flores if they are indeed in rebuild mode.
The Dolphins 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 a .500 win percentage. A rebuild is necessary at this point and Miami did well to get at least a fourth-round pick for Ryan Tannehill from the Titans on March 15th. Everyone knew he was going to be released so getting any kind of pick for him was a win.
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. Let us take a 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 Fitzpatrick (QB1)
With the departure of Ryan Tannehill, it is now “Fitzmagic” time in South Beach. Ryan Fitzpatrick signed a two year, $11 million deal on March 17th. The journeyman quarterback will be a solid stop-gap in Miami. Fitzpatrick flashed as a fill-in for Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay last year. If compare the careers of Tannehill and Fitzpatrick since 2012, we see that they essentially are the same player from a fantasy perspective.
Fitzpatrick actually finished as the QB5 on a point per game basis with 20.7 PPG. This was a higher per game average than Andrew Luck (20.4 points per game) and Drew Brees (20.3 points per game). The talent at the skill position is lacking in Miami however. This makes a repeat of the high point per game total much less sustainable in 2019. The Dolphins are certain to select a quarterback having seven picks in the upcoming draft.
We do not really know what type of offense Chad O’Shea will be running. This makes Fitzpatrick a risky proposition for fantasy purposes. With the depth that exists at the quarterback position, Fitzpatrick should be a wait and see prospect in 2019. He probably should not be drafted in 10 or 12 team league formats.
Kenyan Drake (RB1)
This spot has my interest piqued. Given the amount of usage the running backs received in the New England passing game, you must think some of that trickles down to Kenyan 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 weekly game plan.
Drake was wildly underused by now New York Jets head coach Adam Gase. The Alabama product averaged just over 10 total touches per game last year and still finished as RB14 in PPR. As mentioned in my Gase article, Gore was used to pound the middle of the line for three or four yards instead of getting Drake in a groove and giving him a chance to hit the home run.
The chart below shows how Kenyan Drake compares to Jordan Howard, a top 20 running back over the past three years. Both of these running backs came out in the 2016 class. The trend is pointing way up for Drake and he can be had a bit later than some of the more expensive running backs.
The next plot chart shows us that Drake has the potential to produce solid numbers on any given week. The Crimson Tide grad 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 were deemed a lot.
Kenyan Drake was often right at the league average or above. With O’Shea in town, we should see less inconsistency out of the young running back 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.
This section usually breaks down the WR1, WR2, and WR3 for each coaching change. With no true WR1, all of the relevant wideouts will be covered here as a whole. The Miami Dolphins surprisingly brought back DeVante Parker on March 12th with a two year, $10 million extension. Danny Amendola led the team in targets last year (79) but has since departed for Detroit. Kenny Stills and Albert Wilson have flashed potential over the years, but lack consistency.
DeVante Parker has been an enigma since joining the NFL in 2015. The Louisville grad actually tested better across the board than did perennial stud wideout Davante Adams. For some reason, he has never been able to put it together at the pro level. It could be sub-par and inconsistent quarterback play during his time in Florida.
It is possible that the arrival of Ryan Fitzpatrick brings him to life. The new coaching regime must have seen something they liked in the beleaguered wideout since they brought him back. Fitzpatrick completed a career-high 66.7% of his passes last year so there is some potential here.
Kenny Stills dropped off a bit from his 2017 year, but part of that can be attributed to having Brock Osweiler as his quarterback for seven games last year. Stills has big-play potential and is always a threat to throw up a 20 spot. Looking at the points per opportunity chart from FFS, we can see that the ability to breakout is there. All that lacks is solid play at the quarterback position.
The former Sooner has actually made more of his opportunities in than past than stud wideout Deandre Hopkins. Stills just lacks the number of opportunities or we could be talking about him as a WR1.
Kenny Stills is someone to keep an eye on this preseason. If he develops a rapport with Ryan Fitzpatrick early on, then there is potential for late-round value in the Oklahoma grad.
Similar to Stills, Albert Wilson is a point per opportunity monster. Wilson has also lacked the opportunity and has been injured often in his career, playing 16 games only once in his five seasons in the league. The small school wide receiver has never seen more than 62 targets in a season. Wilson was a sneaky good signing for Miami last year and we could see a breakout from the Georgia State grad if he can play 16 games.
Looking at the combine data for Stills and Wilson, we can see that they can stretch the field with sub-4.45 forty times for both of them. Albert Wilson will likely be a little under the radar because he missed much of last season. There is the likelihood that he will be available later in drafts for you to take advantage.
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). Gesicki is not Gronk by any means but could garner Gronk type usage. Factor in the lack of a true number one wide receiver 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. The Penn State alumn also ran 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.
The signing of Dwayne Allen on March 9th is not too concerning as he will likely fill the same role he did with O’Shea in New England. If we find Gesicki getting Gronk type usage, then we need to pounce right away. The big tight end probably can go undrafted in 10 and 12 team leagues unless he really stands out at camp. Gesicki is certainly a buy if you are in a startup dynasty league or looking for a trade target.
The Miami Dolphins appear to be in full rebuild mode. They have had major changes in the front office and coaching staff and will be overhauling the roster. Miami has 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 Ross will be patient and try to get it right.
For fantasy purposes, there is some potential on the roster for 2019. 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. Parker, Stills, and Wilson could emerge as viable plays. They all come with some worry because of the history of inconsistency. Proceed with caution with many of the Dolphins players on draft day. There are a lot of warts and uncertainties with this offense.