Patrick Laird: Worth a Waiver Wire Flier? (Fantasy Football)
And then there were two. The Miami Dolphins have had an interesting 2019 season at the running back position. They’ve gone through starting running backs at a startling pace. First, Kenyan Drake, underused as always, was shipped off to Arizona. Mark Walton was given the next shot, but he got injured then arrested for the umpteenth time and cut by the Dolphins. During both of their runs, Kalen Ballage was always lurking, stealing touches even though he is objectively the worst running back in the history of the NFL. Ballage went down in Sunday’s matchup against the Eagles with what looked like to be a severe knee injury and had to be carted off the field. With Ballage likely lost for the season, Patrick Laird, an undrafted free agent who played college ball for the California Golden Bears, is ready to step into an expanded role.
If you don’t know who Patrick Laird is, it’s understandable. Laird wasn’t recruited to Cal, where he walked on. His first three seasons at the school were spent switching positions from running back to wide receiver and then running back again and being redshirted (twice). Laird showed out in his final two seasons with 2,088 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. He added another 610 receiving yards on 96 receptions, including five more touchdowns.
Despite his impressive final two college seasons, Laird wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine and ultimately went undrafted. He signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted free agent and was fifth on the depth chart in the preseason. With trades, suspensions, and now injury, he’s worked his way into a spot where he can provide good fantasy production. As you might expect from a player who averaged 48 receptions a season his final two years in college, Laird is an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He was a wide receiver in high school and also played the position in college before switching to running back full time.
Laird played zero offensive snaps until Week 10. Since then, he’s seen his snap share grow from 12% against the Colts in Week 10 to 60% in Sunday’s win against the Eagles. He had a season-high 10 rushing attempts, though he could only muster five rushing yard, but he did have a touchdown. Laird was also targeted five times in the passing game and had four receptions for 43 yards. Two weeks prior against the Bills, he was targeted six times, catching all six and putting up 51 yards receiving on his way to scoring 11.8 points for the week. Laird is a receiving back through and through. His rushing totals are basically a bonus, though he certainly looked like a legitimate running back fighting his way to the endzone against the Eagles.
patrick laird with his first NFL TD pic.twitter.com/f40yv3QIZB
— josh houtz (@houtz) December 1, 2019
As a receiving back, Laird could not be on a better team. The Dolphins are often trailing due to an awful defense that’s allowing 31.4 points per week. Teams that are trailing, unless coached by Bill Callahan, throw the football. The Dolphins also have an awful run-blocking offensive line. Per Football Outsiders, they rank dead last in the NFL, and the 3.1 yards per attempt their running backs average would seem to indicate that is true. With an increase in playing time, we should expect Laird’s usage to increase. Because the Dolphins will often be trailing and they can’t run block anyway, Laird’s usage should include plenty of targets. That’s fine since a target is worth more than a rushing attempt in fantasy football. While he might not give you RB1 or even RB2 production, Laird can certainly provide you with flex-level scoring. If the Dolphins get him more involved in the screen game he could end up putting up a monster week.
the dolphins need to find a way to get patrick laird more involved pic.twitter.com/ujNrwAQa2Q
— josh houtz (@houtz) December 1, 2019
I should mention Myles Gaskin since he’s also on the Dolphins. Gaskin has seen one target in each of the four games he’s been active. He also saw his snap share decline Sunday from the week prior despite the injury to Ballage. Nothing to see here. If you are going to take a shot on a Dolphins’ running back, Laird is your man.