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Fantasy Opportunity Spotlight: Miami Dolphins

A team-by-team analysis of coaches’ tendencies and using them to help create realistic fantasy football projections. @TubaDeus takes a look at the Miami Dolphins.

Welcome to the new home of my yearly Fantasy Opportunity series! For those who didn’t see this series on Reddit last year, I try to take a different approach to fantasy projections than your run-of-the-mill analyst. The basis of my process is that the number one indicator of fantasy success is opportunities to touch the ball. Obviously, individual player skill can (and will) affect that, but at the end of the day, players are at the mercy of playcalling and play design. Therefore, if we want to make accurate projections, we need to look at each coach’s scheme and how they like to spread the ball around.

As a result, this series is very coach-centric. I’ll touch on individual players, but only as they relate to their coaches’ schemes. On a related note, this series will only aim to establish projections on how touches will be split up, not what individual players will be able to accomplish with those touches. That will come later once depth charts settle through training camp. Think of this series more as a basis for realistic expectations.

Make sense? Good. Let’s dive in.

Most of my stats are pulled from Pro Football Reference. Please support them. They are awesome and are my primary source of statistical information.

Miami Dolphins

Last Year’s Accuracy

Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Projections990395 (39.9%)595 (60.1%)45 (7.6%)315 (57.3%)105 (19.1%)115 (20.9%)
2020 Stats1021428 (41.9%)593 (58.1%)34 (5.7%)303 (54.2%)108 (19.3%)136 (24.3%)
For league wide stats, see this spreadsheet.

Coaching Changes

Brian Flores might very well have one of the safest head coaching seats in all of football. Sure, he has yet to make the playoffs, but his 2019 team was considered one of the worst on paper of any team in recent memory, and his 2020 team would have made the playoffs if not for a once-in-a-decade set of circumstances. He has notably outperformed expectations for two straight years despite a lack of talent and constant shuffling of his coordinators. At least this time, he gets to keep his defensive coordinator Josh Boyer. On offense, he’ll enter 2021 with his third coordinator in three years after Chan Gailey’s resignation…and fourth coordinator while we’re at it. Running back coach Eric Studesville and tight end coach George Godsey have been named co-coordinators for the offense.

Eric Studesville has a long history of coaching to back up his OC promotion
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Coaching History

There isn’t a clear-cut picture of what to expect from the co-coordinators in 2021. Studesville has been a long-time running backs coach with no playcalling experience. At least Godsey called plays with the Texans in 2015 and part of 2016, but is the expectation to bring in Houston’s offense from then? It seems unlikely with the co-appointment of Studesville. The more likely scenario is the pair keeps Gailey’s scheme in place, just with some new twists. With that in mind, we’ll focus on what Gailey has done from an historical perspective.

Fortunately, what I said last year about Gailey still holds true. His offense continued to be among the slowest in the league, although at least he was able to break the 1000-play barrier thanks to a defense that was able to get off the field quickly, leading to more drives than average. He also continued to produce a run-pass ratio right around 41/59 (42/58 in this case). He continued to give his running backs right around a 20% target share on the positional side of things.

The one main difference is that Miami’s wide receiver and tight end target shares deviated significantly from Gailey’s norms, but there might be some precedent to that. Gailey has a long history of using a “big slot” role in his scheme. The Dolphins didn’t have such a player on their roster, which was exacerbated by the lack of depth at wideout in general. Instead, they had been using tight end Mike Gesicki in the slot. Gailey continued that trend, with Gesicki operating out of the slot on about 50% of his snaps in 2020. With the “big slot” role accounted for by a tight end rather than a wide receiver, the 15% swing in positional target shares from Gailey’s typical offense makes a lot more sense.

Looking Ahead

Of course, one has to wonder what Gesicki’s role moving forward will be. His outsized target share was one thing when Miami had no wide receiver depth in 2020, but this year the Dolphins added receiving talent through free agency and the draft and will even get a pair of receivers back from COVID opt-outs. Depth is such a non-issue at this point that it’s unlikely they all make it to the Week 1 roster. Gesicki is still a solid enough receiving tight end to prevent a complete crash in tight end targets, but it’s unlikely he leads the position group to such a strong showing in 2021.

Mike Gesicki's fantasy value increases after Dolphins' opt-outs
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Speaking of a strong showing, the offensive line started showing signs of life as the season went on. Sure, they didn’t start too hot, but that’s to be expected when you trot out three rookie starters. With a full season under their belt and a new notable addition from this year’s draft, the line stands a good chance at continued improvement going into 2021. Better protection means more time to throw and better lanes for running backs, which should ultimately help the Dolphins offense that was one of the worst in the league at extending drives. Don’t expect any miracles, but at least Miami’s offense should be solidly respectable this year.

2021 Projections

Total PlaysRush Attempts (Rush %)Passing Plays (Pass %) – Includes SacksSacks Allowed (Sack %)WR Targets (WR Target %)RB Targets (RB Target %)TE Targets (TE Target %)
2020 Stats1021428 (41.9%)593 (58.1%)34 (5.7%)303 (54.2%)108 (19.3%)136 (24.3%)
2021 Projections (17 Games)1066438 (41.1%)628 (58.9%)40 (6.4%)339 (57.7%)109 (18.5%)122 (20.7%)

Previous Entry: Los Angeles Rams

Next Entry: Minnesota Vikings

Find this article helpful? You can follow me on Twitter and Reddit as @TubaDeus, though I spend most of my time on Discord.

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