Fantasy News & Analysis

2022 Fantasy Football Team Preview: Miami Dolphins

Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1), shakes hands with Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jaylen Waddle (17) during pregame action against the New England Patriots during NFL game at Hard Rock Stadium Sunday in Miami Gardens. New England Patriots V Miami Dolphins 07

Free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft have come and gone. Now, it’s time to fully embrace the 2022 offseason by breaking down each team's fantasy football aspirations before draft season truly gets underway in August.

What follows is a Miami Dolphins fantasy-focused breakdown, focusing on key questions like:

  1. Will an improved supporting cast lead to a fantasy explosion from Tua Tagovailoa?
  2. Is Chase Edmonds fantasy football’s cheapest starting running back?
  3. Are both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle poised to ball out in 2022?

Every fantasy-relevant player from the Dolphins will be covered in the following paragraphs. Make sure to check out the team preview landing page through early July for more all-encompassing fantasy football coverage.

Notable offseason moves

From the front office, to the coaching staff, to the roster: Every 2022 NFL team will be different than its 2021 version.

New head coach Mike McDaniel figures to bring plenty of Kyle Shanahan's offensive principles to Miami. He's flanked by offensive coordinator Frank Smith, who has mostly worked as an offensive line and tight ends coach over the years.

While McDaniel did not call plays with the San Francisco 49ers, he confirmed at his introductory press conference that he does plan on doing so in Miami. The 2021 49ers posted an extremely low 55% pass-play rate in non-garbage time situations – the third-lowest mark in the league. This coincided with them working as the 29th-ranked offense in situation neutral pace (Football Outsiders). Obviously, a lack of passing volume didn’t stop Deebo Samuel and George Kittle from putting up major fantasy production over the years, but just realize this offense shouldn't be expected to produce more than one or two high-end pass-catchers. This is especially true with the addition of FB Alec Ingold, who could make three-WR formations tough to come by if his usage is anywhere close to Kyle Juszczyk.

Additionally, the Dolphins have made plenty of changes to their roster. The following quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and tight ends have either joined or left the Dolphins in some way, shape or form this offseason:

    • QB Jacoby Brissett: The team's 2021 backup is now the No. 2 in Cleveland.
    • QB Teddy Bridgewater: The two-gloved assassin signed a one-year deal worth up to $10 million. While Bridgewater did note that signing with the Dolphins provided him a “unique opportunity,” the lack of guaranteed money ($6.5 million) and general sentiment from Dolphins beat writers signals that he’s nothing more than a clear backup.
    • RB Chase Edmonds: The ex-Arizona Cardinals back signed a two-year, $12.1 million deal to seemingly become the new Dolphins starter.
    • RB Raheem Mostert: Followed McDaniel from San Francisco, but Mostert’s modest one-year, $3.1 million deal seems to indicate he won’t be more than a committee piece.
    • RB Sony Michel: Another veteran addition to the running back room but also another flimsy one-year contract that won’t necessarily guarantee a weekly roster spot in this crowded backfield.
    • RB Phillip Lindsay: Remains an unrestricted free agent after handling 39 touches in four games last season.
    • RB Malcolm Brown: Remains an unrestricted free agent after handling 36 touches in seven games last season.
    • RB Duke Johnson: Signed with the Buffalo Bills.
    • RB Patrick Laird: Remains a restricted free agent after playing in 37 games for the Dolphins over the past three seasons.
    • FB Alec Ingold: Signed a far from insignificant two-year, $6.5 million deal that could indicate an incoming lack of three-WR usage from this offense.
    • WR Tyreek Hill: Acquired in exchange for five draft picks and should be expected to work as the offense’s No. 1 pass-game option.
    • WR Cedrick Wilson: Signed a surprisingly steep three-year, $22 million deal to seemingly start in three-WR sets, although Preston Williams and TE-who-is-really-a-WR Mike Gesicki‘s presence complicates who will be out on the field with Hill and Jaylen Waddle.
    • WR DeVante Parker: Traded from the Dolphins to the New England Patriots, where he suddenly profiles as a starter in three-WR sets. 
    • WR Will Fuller: Remains an unrestricted free agent after playing just 65 total snaps in 2021.
    • WR Albert Wilson: Remains an unrestricted free agent after playing 34 games and racking up 1,033 total yards during his time with the Dolphins.
    • WR Isaiah Ford: Remains an unrestricted free agent after playing 32 games for the Dolphins over the past four seasons.
    • WR Trent Sherfield: Signed after spending last season with the 49ers. He’s unlikely to carve out any sort of fantasy-viable role in the offense.
    • WR River Cracraft: Signed after spending last season with the 49ers. He’s unlikely to carve out any sort of fantasy-viable role in the offense.
    • WR Mack Hollins: Signed after spending last season with the Las Vegas Raiders. He’s unlikely to carve out any sort of fantasy-viable role in the offense.

The Dolphins didn't have much draft capital to work with after trading the house for Hill. Ultimately, fourth-round WR Erik Ezukanma and seventh-round QB Skylar Thompson were the only players added to the offense. History tells us not to expect much from either, as the fantasy track record of players not selected inside of the draft's top-three rounds isn't pretty.

Quarterback: Tua Tagovailoa (Ian’s fantasy football QB20), Teddy Bridgewater (unranked)

Tagovailoa has been mocked for the better part of the offseason, most recently due to his viral underthrow to Hill during training camp. While the offseason wouldn’t be the offseason without overreacting to every random practice clip, concerns over Tagovailoa’s ability to throw a football more than 20 yards downfield are a bit extreme.

Furthermore, Tagovailoa posted some borderline erotic numbers when throwing the ball deep last season. The following metrics denote his performance among 42 qualified quarterbacks when throwing to a target at least 20 yards downfield in 2021:

  • PFF passing grade: 83.9 (No. 20)
  • QB rating: 77.2 (No. 27)
  • Yards per attempt: 18.1 (No. 2)
  • Adjusted completion rate: 55.2% (No. 1)

One key reason why Tua’s rating metrics aren’t higher is due to him only having a single touchdown on these sorts of throws in 2021. He was also the league's sixth-most turnover-prone quarterback when throwing deep.

The problem isn't necessarily Tua's ability to throw an accurate deep ball, but rather his willingness to do so. Last season, his 7.4-yard average target depth ranked 39th among 44 qualified quarterbacks — only edging Daniel Jones, Ben Roethlisberger, Jared Goff, Mike White, and Colt McCoy. Gross.

The biggest reason for Tagovailoa optimism moving forward is the reality that he’s posted mostly average-to-above-average grades in PFF’s more stable metrics. His specific grades and rankings in these categories are as follows:

  • Passing grade from a clean pocket: 85.2 (No. 15 among 38 qualified quarterbacks)
  • Passing grade on standard dropbacks (from within the pocket): 72.6 (No. 17)
  • Passing grade on first/second down: 73.5 (No. 17)
  • Passing grade with no play-action: 58.2 (No. 33)
  • Passing grade on passes at/beyond the sticks: 76.1 (No. 22)

And yet, he was one of only six quarterbacks last season who averaged six or fewer yards per attempt when removing RPOs, screens and play-action attempts. It’s worth noting that backup QB Jacoby Brissett also joined this group, so the Dolphins’ offensive line and play-calling aren’t completely free from criticism. Unfortunately, the former unit isn’t guaranteed to take a huge leap forward: PFF’s reigning league-worst offensive line didn’t add any pieces through the draft, while the verdict is out on whether or not ex-New Orleans Saints LT Terron Armstead and ex-Dallas Cowboys OL Connor Williams can pull off a major one-year turnaround.

Hill brought out the most-elite version of Alex Smith that the world has ever seen. It’d make sense if Tua, still just 24-years-old, improves in a major way as a real-life quarterback in 2021. The problem lies in expecting him to emerge as a fantasy star inside of a likely slow-paced and run-first offense. Tagovailoa has just two top-10 fantasy finishes during his short career, as his lack of a rushing floor (zero career college or NFL games with 50-plus rushing yards) doesn’t leave much room for error when throwing the football. Consider that Tua ranks 31st among all quarterbacks in fantasy points per game over the past two seasons.

The path for Tagovailoa as a high-end fantasy quarterback consists of him absolutely shredding defenses through the air and making up for a mediocre run- and pass-game volume. That’s probably asking a bit much, as he comes in as my QB20 behind preferred later-round darts Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, and Ryan Tannehill, who offer far more fantasy-friendly skill-sets.

Running back: Chase Edmonds (RB26), Raheem Mostert (RB62), Sony Michel (unranked), Myles Gaskin (unranked), Salvon Ahmed (unranked)

The latest coachspeak out of Miami indicates that the team wants to create a “competitive environment” in its backfield to let the guys sort out the pecking order. That’s fine and dandy, but it’s pretty clear who should be the lead guy if money truly talks (via Over The Cap):

  • Edmonds 2022 cap number: $5.5 million
  • Gaskin: $2.5 million
  • Mostert: $1.9 million
  • Ahmed: $875,000
  • Michel: Unknown

Edmonds should be the lead back in this new-look Dolphins offense that figures to also keep at least one other party involved. Mostert’s familiarity with McDaniel would seemingly give him the edge, although Gaskin shouldn’t be completely discounted after gaining 2,002 total yards and scoring 13 touchdowns for this franchise over the previous three seasons. Hell, even Michel has a chance to make some noise just one season after eventually winning out over Darrell Henderson in Los Angeles.

Edmonds profiles as the most fantasy-friendly back of the group thanks to his proven receiving ability. The problem is whether or not the receiving pie is large enough for him to take advantage of. Last season, the Dolphins (93 targets, 22nd) and 49ers (59, 32nd) were two of the league's bottom-11 offenses in terms of total pass-game opportunities to the running back. 

There are an awful lot of mouths to feed in the wide receiver and tight end rooms who are being paid even more money than Edmonds to be here, so the top Dolphins running back in targets could very well be the No. 5 pass-game option inside of a run-first offense.

The good news is that all this uncertainty has Edmonds sitting as one of the cheapest projected starting running backs in all of fantasy land. Coming in as the RB34 over at Underdog Fantasy, Edmonds is the second-cheapest starting back — behind only whoever you think will start for the Houston Texans. This is great value in the ninth or 10th round of fantasy drafts when choosing to load up on wide receivers early and often. I would take Edmonds over players with lower ADPs such as Damien Harris, Kenneth Walker and Devin Singletary thanks to his superior receiving ceiling. Historically, one target is equivalent to roughly 2.7 rush attempts in full-PPR fantasy scoring. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Mostert (RB47) and even Gaskin (RB104) are reasonably priced as well, although it remains to be seen if McDaniel’s scheme will be enough to overcome the offense’s aforementioned offensive line issues. Last season, the Dolphins were tied for 22nd with just 1.1 yards before contact per attempt, and only the Texans posted a worse explosive run play rate. This rushing “attack” has a long way to go before even approaching average so don’t expect Mostert or Gaskin to have a large enough complementary role to be in the RB3 conversation without an injury to Edmonds. Even then, the likelihood that this backfield would remain a committee if Edmonds misses time makes it tough to see too high of an upside scenario for either backup.

Wide receiver: Tyreek Hill (WR7), Jaylen Waddle (WR16), Cedrick Wilson (WR93), Preston Williams (unranked), Erik Ezukanma (unranked)

The central question facing this passing attack: Can both Hill and Waddle function as high-end fantasy options?

In Hill’s case: Yes. Right? He worked as the WR5 in PPR points per game in 2017 with Alex Smith before posting WR3, WR12, WR2 and most recently WR6 finishes on a per-game basis in four seasons with Patrick Mahomes. The Dolphins traded the house in order to make him the highest-paid wide receiver in the business in terms of total guaranteed money and average amount per year.

The grass isn’t greener on the other side when veterans switch teams in free agency, but it’s not unreasonable to expect an immediate impact from a big-time trade piece. Brandon Marshall (109-1502-14), Stefon Diggs (127-1535-8), DeAndre Hopkins (115-1407-6) and (especially) Brandin Cooks (65-1082-7, 80-1204-5, 81-1150-6) were all traded during the offseason and went on to post rather massive first seasons with their new employer. Things didn’t go quite as grand for Odell Beckham, Julio Jones, Jarvis Landry or Sammy Watkins, but it’s tough to doubt anyone’s idea of one of the game’s very best at the position. Overall, Hill has posted top-10 numbers in PFF receiving grade (92.5, No. 6), yards per route run (2.31, No. 9), and QB rating when targeted (118.8, No. 9) among 175 wide receivers with at least 100 targets since 2016. Only Antonio Brown, Davante Adams, Michael Thomas, Justin Jefferson and Ja'Marr Chase have averaged more PPR points per game during this span.

I’m comfortable picking stud wide receivers with enhanced continuity over Hill, but Adams is the only elite fantasy receiver who hasn’t changed teams this offseason that I’d draft over Hill. Here’s to hoping McDaniel pulls out a few of his Deebo Samuel plays for arguably the game’s single most-electric player in space:

Perhaps the larger question is whether or not Waddle can repeat his status as the WR16 in PPR points per game while sharing the offense with Hill. Historically, 4.3 teams have fielded multiple top-24 PPR wide receivers per season over the past decade, and no one season featured more than six-such instances.

Waddle certainly fits the criteria of the sort of highly-successful rookie we should expect to keep thriving. Rookie wide receivers don’t usually post a 75.0-plus PFF receiving grade and crash back to Earth anytime soon.

And yet, it’s tough to see Waddle living on the same sort of workload he received in 2021. One of just 15 wide receivers with an average target depth of seven or fewer yards (min. 25 targets), Waddle finds himself at the bottom of most metrics measuring yardage efficiency on a per-target and -catch basis. His status as the 35th-ranked wide receiver in yards per route run is certainly a positive, but it’s just not a given that he’ll manage to seamlessly continue to provide upside WR2 value in a completely different offense.

Ultimately, I have a hard time reaching on Waddle ahead of similarly-talented receivers that have a higher guaranteed target total. Reminder: Waddle had the 10th-most targets of any wide receiver last season, something that doesn’t exactly seem likely to happen again due to Hill's presence inside an offense that could feasibly run the ball more than ever. Betting on young studs is far from frowned upon, as Waddle is still my WR16 and is capable of eviscerating expectations if Tua winds up making a major leap. Still, I'd caution against taking him ahead of D.J. Moore, Michael Pittman and Terry McLaurin, who have also proved themselves as talented options and are far more secure as their respective offense’s No. 1 passing-game option.

Wilson's rather large deal was one of the more-perplexing signings of the free agency period given the Dolphins' eventual investment in Hill. He should start in three-WR sets, although it's far from a certain with Williams arguably offering more ability as an outside receiver, and TE Mike Gesicki potentially keeping his spot as the de facto starting slot receiver. Look no further than the Dolphins' decision to sign ex-Raiders FB Alec Ingold to a two-year, $6.5 million deal for evidence that McDaniel might refrain from over-using three-WR formations, so don’t expect any additional fantasy-relevant options at the position beyond Hill and Waddle.

Tight end: Mike Gesicki (TE15), Durham Smythe (unranked), Adam Shaheen (unranked), Hunter Long (unranked)

Gesicki is a wide receiver who we call a tight end. This is true because of his receiver-esque involvement in the three pillars of tight end performance:

  1. Run-blocking: Gesicki not only had more total snaps as a run-blocker in the slot (82) compared to inline (55) but also out wide (79) as a true wide receiver.
  2. Pass protection: Gesicki pass-blocked on just 11 total snaps the entire season, including just once while lined up as a traditional inline tight end. Allen Lazard, Demarcus Robinson and Gabriel Davis actually registered more pass protection snaps than Gesicki while lined up as a “true” tight end during the 2021 regular season. 
  3. Route-running: Gesicki was one of just eight tight ends who ran at least 75% of their routes from the slot or out wide in 2021, and his 92% rate far surpassed second-place Anthony Firkser (87%) and third-place Kyle Pitts (80%).

The Dolphins’ decision to franchise tag Gesicki indicates that they desire his talents, but the overlap at slot receiver makes it awfully difficult to foresee a full-time role in 2022. Hill, Waddle, Wilson and Gesicki spent most of their time in the slot last season. This isn’t to suggest none are capable of moving outside, but there’s an awful lot of competition inside of a potentially run-first offense for Gesicki, who faces the risk of (again) working behind the offense’s more traditional inline options in run-first situations.

Gesicki's ceiling is borderline erotic thanks to his natural receiving ability, but he's tough to get behind as a top-12 option at the position. I'm more confident in Irv Smith and Tyler Higbee thanks to their more-likely every-down role. It’s great that the Dolphins have surrounded Tua with high-caliber weapons, but just realize there’s only one football to go around, and volume tends to be close to everything in fantasy land.

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