Dolphins fantasy football breakout candidates

Dec 20, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) looks to pass as San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Kyle Emanuel (51) rushes during the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 20, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) looks to pass as San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Kyle Emanuel (51) rushes during the first quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

New Dolphins head coach Adam Gase plans to give the offense a more uptempo speed in 2016. The approach, along with added experience, could make some key Dolphins players valuable options this season in fantasy football leagues.

Going into the 2016 NFL Draft, Miami was expected to load up on their defense that ranked near the bottom in almost every category. The Dolphins did the opposite, however, electing to load up on their offense instead. The only defensive players Miami drafted were cornerbacks Xavien Howard and Jordan Lucas. The strategy may have upset some Dolphins fans but Miami is looking to create a more high-powered offense.

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The truth is, for as bad as the defense was in 2015, the offense wasn’t much better. The Dolphins averaged just a meager 19.4 points per game and ranked in the bottom half of the league in both rushing and passing. First-year head coach Adam Gase is looking to change that and wants to work his offense at a faster pace. For those of you who are big fantasy football players, pay close attention to the personnel this year down in Miami.

For the past few seasons, Dolphins players have not been on the radar much for fantasy owners and for good reason. The offense has been mediocre at best and the only players worth targeting have been Jarvis Landry and now former Dolphin Lamar Miller. Miller was a complete runner and receiver, but never received near the amount of touches he should have, infuriating his fantasy owners. Landry has been Ryan Tannehill‘s favorite receiver since he entered the league. He doesn’t always get the big yards that we are used to seeing from other top wide receivers but he finds ways to get open and has great hands. He’s already caught 194 receptions in his first two seasons, making him a valuable option, particularly in PPR (Points Per Reception) leagues.

Gase may be in his first year as a head coach but he’s been well-praised around the league, most notably as a quarterback guru. Tannehill is finally expected to be given more freedom in the huddle and opportunities to audible this coming season. If Miami can, in fact, become the high-powered and uptempo offense that Gase envisions, Dolphins players will become a hot commodity in the fantasy world. While everyone else continues to be busy chasing Pokemon characters, it would be wise to do some fantasy research now and get a head start on the competition. Let’s take a look at some breakout candidates for Miami in 2016.

Ryan Tannehill

Now, let me point out that Tannehill has thrown for over 4,000 yards the past two seasons. In fact, much to the chagrin of his critics, Tannehill’s numbers have increased every year since he’s been in the league. The problem with Tannehill as a fantasy player, however, has been the consistency.

Tannehill finished 2015 with a career high 4,208 yards passing but just 17th among quarterbacks in terms of fantasy. His rushing yards were the lowest of his career with just 32 attempts on the season for 141 yards. Today’s elite fantasy quarterbacks generally have a good mix between arm strength and the ability to run. As a former receiver, Tannehill can definitely run and you can bet that Gase plans to use him in the rushing attack.

Tannehill had some good weeks last season and finished as the 9th best QB in 2014, showing he has the potential to be one of the best. If Tannehill can remain consistent under Gase there’s no reason he can’t finish as a top 10, maybe even top 5 QB, in the new offense.

Jay Ajayi 

No one benefited from Lamar Miller leaving in free agency more than Jay Ajayi. The Dolphins failed in their attempts to bring in other free agents like C.J. Anderson and Chris Johnson after Miller’s departure. They then decided to draft Kenyan Drake in the 3rd round of the draft, but it’s clear that Ajayi will be the lead back and could be an every-down back as well.

Ajayi rushed for just 187 yards in 9 games last year but the sky is the limit for him this year. No one is giving the Dolphins rushing attack much of a chance this season and that’s perfectly fine with Ajayi. He knows what he’s capable of, despite what the critics may think.

Receiving will be a big factor for Dolphins running backs this year. There are reports that some are skeptical about Ajayi’s hands, despite the fact he caught 50 passes in his final season at Boise State. If he is indeed an every-down back this year and Gase gives Ajayi the opportunities that Miller did not receive under Joe Philbin, he should be no less than a high-end RB2.

DeVante Parker

The Dolphins deepest position going into the 2016 season is at wide receiver. From a fantasy standpoint, that could be a good thing or a bad thing. Dolphins fan were ecstatic when the team drafted DeVante Parker with their first round pick in 2015. His performances in the final weeks of the season tell why. Parker dealt with a foot injury that plagued him his senior year at Louisville and much of his rookie season with Miami.

By the final week in November, Parker was healthy enough to receive consistent playing time. He showed why his size and length were what the Dolphins have been looking for. The 6-3 receiver averaged at least 20 yards a catch in five of the last six games with 3 touchdowns to finish the season. Given his limited action, Parker was rather productive in his first year.

Now that he’s fully healthy, expectations will be even greater for Parker in his sophomore season. Kenny Stills and Leonte Carroo could be breakout candidates as well in their own rights based on the overall athleticism of Miami’s receiving corps. However, the Dolphins will look to Parker to be their deep threat that they have longed for.

Jordan Cameron

Julius Thomas is a big reason why Jordan Cameron decided to take a pay cut to stay with the Miami Dolphins. Cameron had a great year back in 2013 with the Cleveland Browns when he reeled in 80 catches for over 900 yards and 7 touchdowns. Since then, Cameron’s production has regressed.

Cameron battled injuries in his final season at Cleveland, but did average a career high 17.7 yards per reception in 10 games of action. He looked to rejuvenate his career last off-season when he signed a two-year deal with Miami. Cameron was an afterthought in his first year with the Dolphins and it looked as though the Dolphins would cut the veteran to save the $7.5 million he was due in 2016.

The Dolphins were able to restructure Cameron’s deal, however, and a big thanks can go to Thomas. Thomas called Cameron and told him that he had to play for Adam Gase. Thomas and Gase spent time together in Denver and he expressed to Cameron that Gase has a lot of success with tight ends. Last season, Gase was the Bears offensive coordinator, and tight end Martellus Bennett recorded 53 receptions. Cameron may not like the pay cut now, but if he can have similar production under Gase as Thomas and Bennett did, his next contract will more than make up for the loss.