Assessing the Rookies – Lamar Miller by DFW member Mark Modelski
Lamar Miller – RB
Team: Miami Dolphins
Ht / Wt:  
5’11’ / 212
Age / DOB:  
(21) / 4/25/1991
College: Miami (FL)

Miller definitely looks the part with his height, weight, and speed (4.4) combination. I’ve seen him ranked as the 2nd best RB in the draft on a site or two out there.  Lamar played at “The U” – Portis, Gore, McGahee, and Edgerrin James isn’t a bad track record for the last decade or so.  The Dolphins have a very good and young offensive line.  The way they drafted, they are going to have to run the ball a ton because there is no way they are going to be able to pass.  After scouting Miller (*cough* watching his U-tube highlights), I came away a bit smitten.  I love how he makes his cuts while still moving north and south without losing any power or velocity.  Even at the NFL level, I don’t see him getting caught from behind (unless he loses his balance – see OSU run).  There is no doubt that he has burst.  I see some CJ2000 in him.
Digging deeper he showed that he can play big against good defenses.  He averaged 7.1 yards for 184 against Ohio State (24th ranked defense) and 9.2 for 166 against VaTech, VaTech (12th ranked defense).  He averaged 6 yards per carry as a 19 year-old and 5.5 yards per carry as a 20 year old. He will only be 21 in his first year in the league – so he is still very young and does not have many miles on his tires.   It would make sense that Lamar still has some year s of getting better before he hits his prime – people in the business call that upside.
Let’s face it though, dude slipped in the draft.  As much as fantasy guys will be excited about his measurables and highlight real, when an NFL player slips that far there is a consensus feeling on their value amongst NFL General Managers.  I have seen him ranked as low as the 10th best rookie RB on some websites prior to slipping in the NFL draft, so even fantasyland is skeptical of his abilities.  Opinions on Miller just are not that great.  Some of the knocks on Miller are that he can’t juke linebackers, can’t pass-block, has low football IQ, and has a style that makes him injury prone.  Yet, a Miller supporter might respond saying who needs to juke linebackers when you blow right past them, few running backs can pass protect well when they come into the league, running the football isn’t rocket science, and, well, he runs like a bad-ass.  
The problems don’t end there with Lamar.  While he ran hard against some good college football defenses, he was a no-show against other good and bad defenses.  His situation is precarious with the Dolphins.  Reggie Bush just had his best year in the NFL and is still only 27.  Sure he has had some problems with his knees, but he doesn’t really have a ton of miles on him.   Until last year when he broke out, he never really ran between the tackles.  Also, let’s not forget that Bush was the 2nd overall pick coming out of USC.  He can and has done things on the football field Lamar Miller can only fantasize about – no pun intended.  I slapped Bush with the transition tag in my Dynasty league because I feel he has at least one more big year in him – quite possibly his biggest.  No way I was going to let him walk, guy was killing it down the fantasy stretch.  Miller shouldn’t challenge him this year.
Daniel Thomas is another guy standing in the way of Lamar.  Thomas was never 100% healthy last year fighting a hamstring injury – but still showed flashes of fantasy stardom.  Hamstring problems can be a big red flag for an NFL running back – just ask Moreno, but his seemed nagging and not severe.  The Dolphins traded up to get Thomas in the 2nd Round not 4th.  Although Miller doesn’t shy away from contact, Thomas is 15 pounds heavier and is considered to be the better power runner.  This should allow him to rack up more touchdowns.  Miller possesses breakaway speed Thomas just doesn’t have, but Thomas also has a little more wiggle in traffic with great burst in his own right.  The kicker might be that, according to real NFL scouts, Thomas is the better third down back because of his pass protection skills and has Miller’s equal ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.  Let’s not forget about Slaton… actually, let’s.  That guy just doesn’t have it.  
I need to be honest and discuss my own situation with Miller just to be fair.  I traded to get Bush last year (before he really started kicking ass) and drafted Thomas 2nd overall (I’m keeping my fingers crossed, but will never forgive myself for passing on Green).  I have about one-fifth of my salary cap wrapped into those two guys.   I do have the 4th ad 5th pick in the draft so I know I can get Miller there if I want him – but that is way too high.  Martin is a 1st round NFL draft selection so I have no choice on him.  Our league has 16 teams that can have up to 33 players on their roster with no limits on positions.  
I will consider Miller with my 17th overall pick, but there are several other players that I have ranked higher that should be there.   I do agree he is an injury risk due to the way he runs, but he still has time to learn how to make guys miss and soften the hits he takes.  I also need to admit that I have a bit of the late great Al Davis in me as I am a bit of a sucker for eye-popping speed.  If you aren’t invested in the Miami RBs like I am, I would be wary of taking Miller too high, especially if you want immediate production.  Jeff Ireland said himself that “My vision for Lamar is to come in learn and develop”.  I think he is a few years away from contributing.  But if he slips in your rookie draft like he did in the real draft and you have a shot at him in the 2nd or 3rd, he might be a guy that patient owners win a couple of championships with three or four years down the road.

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By DFW Member Mark Modelski