2019 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 4,960 (27th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 32 (25th)
Offensive Plays: 1,022 (11th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 673 (Fourth)
Rush Attempts: 349 (32nd)
Unaccounted for Targets: 67 (25th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 109 (11th)
Although they ranked near the bottom in most statistical categories, the Dolphins were one of the league’s biggest overachievers on offense last season. So it was surprising when one of their first orders of offseason business was firing OC Chad O’Shea and replacing him with 68-year-old Chan Gailey. One of the NFL’s most well-travelled coaches, Gailey is back on the sideline after four years in civilian life. Gailey has never overseen a top-five scoring offense in his decade-plus calling plays, though he does have extensive experience with Ryan Fitzpatrick, his trigger man for three years in Buffalo and two with the Jets. Often associated with run-oriented, balanced attacks, Gailey began to spread the field more in New York, deploying three- or four-receiver sets 86 percent of the time. Gailey is not allergic to change. He has down-field weapons to work with in Miami. Most importantly, Gailey also has a potential franchise quarterback after years on the journeyman grind.
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Coming off one of his patented spoiler campaigns, Fitzpatrick is the favorite to start Week 1, though the Tua Tagovailoa clock is already ticking. The Dolphins’ dream pick for the better part of two years, Tagovailoa has supposedly recovered from his dislocated hip, but his situation was further complicated by the coronavirus-erased offseason. Zero live reps of any kind will set back any rookie, even a top-five quarterback. When Tagovailoa eventually takes over, he will be doing so as a live wire who thinks big and challenges down the field. When healthy — he also had persistent ankle issues at Alabama — Tagovailoa is an accurate and aggressive in-pocket passer who can thread the needle on the run. Alabama leaned on run-pass options to utilize Tagovailoa's decision making and athleticism, but he’ll need to regain his pre-surgery maneuverability to win the same ways in the NFL. Quick and agile, Tagovailoa has natural dual-threat ability, but it was never a big part of his game in the SEC. Especially coming off injury, Tagovailoa's legs probably won’t be a big factor in his rookie fantasy output.
Fitzpatrick and Tagovailoa have no shortage of players to sling it to, starting with a resurgent DeVante Parker. Fifth in yards, fourth in touchdowns and ninth in yards per catch last season, Parker finally delivered on his pre-draft promise after years of stasis under a clueless Adam Gase. Parker’s 2019 numbers were undeniably huge, though they were goosed by the Week 9 loss of impressive rookie Preston Williams to a torn ACL. Parker's average targets (6.5 to 9.5) and fantasy points (7.8 to 14.7) went through the roof in Williams’ absence. Williams, of course, will be coming off major injury following a lost offseason. The WR7 by average points in standard last season and WR16 in PPR, Parker is a potentially massive bargain as someone who is barely being drafted as a WR2.
Standing in at an imposing 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, Williams went undrafted after a turbulent off-field career at Tennessee and Colorado State. A classic boom/bust prospect, Williams almost immediately boomed for the ‘Fins, commanding 23 targets over his first three games en route to posting a 32/428/3 line over the first half of the season. That was all he would get after wrecking his knee in Week 9. Now 23, the Dolphins are “hopeful” Williams will be ready for Week 1, but variables abound, from the strange offseason to the Dolphins’ new quarterback and coordinator. Still a strong bet in Dynasty leagues, Williams feels like a sophomore slump waiting to happen in re-draft. He is nevertheless a fantasy flier well worth taking as someone coming off the board in the WR55-60 range.
Albert Wilson will get another chance to round out three-receiver sets in the slot after restructuring his contract. Limited by injury his first two years in Miami, Wilson is a dangerous YAC threat whenever he manages to stay on the field. He just doesn’t seem likely to compile enough to challenge for PPR relevance behind Parker, Williams and Mike Gesicki. Rounding out the Dolphins’ receiver corps, neither Jakeem Grant nor Allen Hurns will come into 2020 value.
Gesicki is the man to watch behind the wideouts. Like Parker, Gesicki’s 2019 production spiked following the loss of Williams, but it was a much-needed step forward after a concerning rookie effort. A pure pass catcher up the seam, Gesicki spent 72 percent of his snaps in the slot last season, something Gailey has pledged to continue with a “big slot” role. Standing in at a mountainous 6-foot-6, 250 pounds, Gesicki certainly has the size to create mismatches. Coming off a campaign where he showed clear improvement, Gesicki has more target competition than it might appear at first glance, but he is well worth a look on the TE1/2 borderline in a year full of intriguing options at what is usually a staid position.
It’s not an exaggeration to say the Dolphins’ running game was historically unproductive in 2019. Kalen Ballage was one of the least efficient runners in league history, while Fitzpatrick “led” the team with 243 yards rushing. Jordan Howard and Matt Breida aren’t necessarily the cavalry, but they’re coming. Both underappreciated in their own way, Howard and Breida provide instant respectability. Howard is a dependable grinder while Breida is capable of moving the chains on all three downs.
So who will come out on top? Perennially underestimated, Howard seems likely to begin the year on early downs. For his part, Breida is as efficient through the air (8.4 YPC) as he is on the ground (5.0 YPC). Breida was the beneficiary of excellent blocking in San Francisco, something that will be in shorter supply in Miami. Breida is a more dynamic overall talent than Howard, but it could take some time before he takes command of the Dolphins’ backfield. A pure two-down back, Howard is a low-upside RB3 for an offense in transition. Breida might feel like filler on your September bench, but he will be worth keeping around to see what happens in October and November.
The Dolphins may be ahead of schedule, but they are still one of the league’s lowest-totaled teams, checking in at 6.0 on FanDuel and 6.5 on DraftKings. Their schedule is on the softer side in the Tom Brady-less AFC East, with Warren Sharp rating it as the league’s 12th easiest. It does come out hot, with Weeks 1 and 2 matchups with the Pats and Bills. There is a Jaguars interlude before dates with the Seahawks and 49ers. That’s the recipe for a rough start considering the “under construction” nature of both the Dolphins’ offense and defense. Windows to compete don’t open exponentially. This has the feel of another pure rebuilding year, making the under the smarter play.