Written by Josh Haymond @JPesoFF
The conundrum – unknown upside and prototypical measurables vs. proven productivity and guaranteed short-term scoring.
Lamar Miller, MIA
The Miami Dolphins traded up to the 97th pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to select Lamar Miller. The 5’11’’, 212 pound Miami Hurricane displayed elite quickness at the combine but fell in the draft due to durability concerns. Miller spent the better part of his rookie year on the sidelines, failing to earn trust of the coaching staff on passing downs and lack of playbook understanding. In Week 16 against Buffalo, with Daniel Thomas lost for the year and the Dolphins out of playoff contention, Miller took his 10 carries for 73 yards. On the year, receiving carries in just 9 outings, Miller finished with 51 totes for 250 yards (4.9 yards per carry) and 1 TD, adding 6 receptions for 45 yards.
Miller runs reminiscent to Clinton Portis, but is a faster straight line runner than Southeast Jerome. Like Portis, Miller has above average instincts and can change speeds and directions to fight for the extra yard. Miller is no dancer – he hits holes with ferocity, and will only improve in this arena as he begins to trust his vision. Getting to the second level of the defense won’t be an issue.
Seeing improvement on Miller’s weaknesses, Miami let Reggie Bush walk in free agency. Miller has been praised this off-season for becoming more fundamentally sound, spending time under the wing of Hurricane great Frank Gore. However, this pre-season has been less than stellar for Miller, who fumbled away his first carry in week 1. Miller has totaled 17 carries for 72 yards (4.2 YPC), 1 TD, and just 4 receptions. The positional battle between he and Daniel Thomas remains a work in progress, but is a battle the more talented Miller is sure to win.
2013 Projection: 16 games, 225 rush attempts, 1220 yards (5.4 YPC), 8 TD, 40 receptions, 320 receiving yards, 1 TD = 248 PPR, 15.5 PPR PPG
Alfred Morris, WAS
There were few better stories in football last season than the rise of Alfred Morris. The Florida Atlantic product was drafted by the Redskins in the 6th round of the 2012 NFL Draft. After excelling in the 2012 pre-season, Morris was given the starting gig from week 1, a role he wouldn’t relinquish all season. Morris was reliable as it gets, amassing a whopping 335 carries for 1,610 yards and 13 TD, good for a 4.8 yard per carry average, and just over 100 rushing yards per game. He also added 11 catches for 77 yards.
Head Coach Mike Shanahan’s history of running back usage poses a long-term threat to Morris’ value, but won’t have an impact in 2013 or 2014. Although Shanahan noted earlier this month that Morris has improved in the passing game, third downs are still likely to be handled by third-year back Roy Helu. Helu, who was sidelined with toe and Achilles injuries in 2012, has had a strong pre-season, taking his 27 carries for 157 yards (5.8 YPC), 1 TD, adding 2 catches for 35 yards. Even so, Morris is the clear-cut back to own in Washington, and that won’t change any time soon.
Morris does not tout eye-popping athleticism, and with 4.7 40-yard dash wheels, he will never be a player to outrun defenders. But don’t hold that against him. He is a crafty runner who plays with a sense of urgency with the football in his hands. Morris fights his way back to the line of scrimmage like few backs in the league; he rarely loses a yard. In Washington’s zone blocking scheme, Morris should receive a floor of 300 carries and dominate goal line work. He’s a safe bet for production.
2013 Projection: 16 games, 330 rush attempts, 1500 rush yards (4.55 YPC), 12 TD, 20 receptions, 120 receiving yards = 254 PPR, 15.9 PPR PPG
Though Morris will outscore Miller in 2013, the gap will be tighter than the market suggests. Miller is close to 2.5 years younger than Morris. Miller also touts a higher fantasy ceiling – in 2014, I expect Miller to approach 280 PPR points, whereas I believe we have seen close to Morris’ ceiling.
The winner of this battle is Lamar Miller.
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