The Curious Case of Lamar Miller’s ADP
Lamar Miller signed a four-year, $26-million-dollar contract with Houston prior to last season. Along with that came hype that he could become the next fantasy stud. Well, he was awfully mediocre in his first season in Houston, setting a career high in carries with 268 but career lows in yards per carry (4.0) and yards per catch (6.1) over 14 games. He did finish 10th in the NFL with 1,073 yards rushing, but a dip in TDs and tallying under 200 yards receiving translated to finishing as just the RB18 in standard and RB20 in PPR last season. He averaged just over two catches per game and saw half as many receiving yards as the year prior in Miami. Pro Football Focus provides more evidence of Miller’s struggles, ranking him 50th out of 58 qualified RBs in yards after contact per attempt, and 49th out of 53 RBs in their elusive rating. On top of the struggles, numerous injuries nagged him during the year, with an ankle injury ultimately forcing him to miss the last two games of the season. Despite all this, his current ADP curiously sits at No. 25, meaning he’s been going as a late second/early third-round pick in drafts.
So, an offseason spent returning to health should have him primed for a big 2017 to justify that ADP, right? Well, probably not. In fact, a further regression could be in order. Miller was the coveted “workhorse” back last season (aside from the pedestrian Alfred Blue’s occasional carries) but was unable to capitalize and produce in a way that helped those who drafted him highly last year. It appears that Miller just isn’t built to handle the full-time duties of running between the tackles, as the pounding he took cost him the playmaking skills that had been displayed in Miami and left him unable to complete the season due to injury. He enters the 2017 season assured to have a lesser role yet is still being valued extremely high considering all the strikes against him.
The Texans roster additions via the draft also negatively affect Miller’s fantasy value. The Texans used a third-round draft pick to select 233-pound power back D’Onta Foreman from the University of Texas. Foreman ran for over 2,000 yards in his final Longhorn season and should come in and compete for a decent share of the early-down work as well as short-yardage and goalline carries. Miller may even see competition on passing downs. Both Akeem Hunt and Tyler Ervin are faster than Miller, with Ervin considered by some to be the best receiver in the RB group.
The possibility of rookie Deshaun Watson as the starting QB could also hurt Miller’s production. The tendency of rookie QBs, especially those blessed with the athleticism of Watson, is to run out of trouble if the first or second look in a pass play are covered. The dump off catches that Miller could benefit from (especially in PPR) may be replaced with a rookie QB running out of the pocket and trying to make a play with his legs instead of finding the safety valve.
In review, Lamar Miller has a steep hill to climb to justify his current ADP. The Texans (and the fantasy owners who select him) are believing that less is more when it comes to Miller’s workload. Fewer carries can limit wear and tear and should keep him fresh and able to maintain peak ability throughout the year, leading to more impact plays. However, scaling his workload down to 10-to-12 carries and two-to-three catches per game as he saw in Miami means that fantasy owners must rely on him hitting on big plays consistently. A risk like that seems better kept for players taken in later rounds, not in the top four rounds. I’m content with passing on Lamar Miller at such a high cost and letting someone else deal with the gamble.