After losing starting QB Ryan Tannehill before the start of the 2017 season, the Dolphins were destined for a long season. They finished 6-10 with the underwhelming Jay Cutler behind center. Their offense ranked 25th in offensive yards and 28th in points scored (281) with regression of 82 points from 2016.
Adam Gase returns for his third season as head coach with a 16-16 record. From 2013 to 2015, Gase held the job of offensive coordinator for the Broncos and the Bears. He has 14 years of NFL experience while working under Nick Saban at LSU early in his coaching career and Josh McDaniels and John Fox in most recent seasons in the NFL. Adam’s highlight coaching moment came as the offensive coordinator for the Broncos’ in 2013 when Denver scored the most points (606) in a single season in the NFL.
Miami brought in Dowell Loggains to be the offensive coordinator in 2018. He held the same position for the two last years with the Bears while working as the QB coach under Gase in 2015. Loggains has ten seasons of NFL experience.
Matt Burke will have the controls of the defense for the second season. The Dolphins promoted Burke from linebackers coach to defensive coordinator in 2016. Matt has 14 years of experience in the NFL with eight coming as a linebacker coach. His defense was only league average in yards allowed (16th) while ranking 29th in points allowed (393).
This core of coaches is at risk to get fired in 2018 if Miami doesn’t move the needle in the league standings.
The biggest move in the offseason was the loss of DT Ndamukong Suh who was released by Miami in mid-March. Suh was one of the best run stoppers in the NFL in 2017 with value rushing the QB. He’ll be extremely hard to replace on the Dolphins’ defense. Ndamukong will start the year at age 31.
The Dolphins traded Jarvis Landry to the Browns for a couple of draft picks. Landry had a Hall of Fame start to his career with Miami (400 catches for 4,038 yards and 22 TDs). If he repeats his catch total over the last eight seasons, Jarvis will rank in the top five in NFL history in catches and top 25 in receiving yards. Miami acquired DE Robert Quinn from the Rams to help offset the loss of Suh.
C Mike Pouncey left to sign with the Chargers after playing poorly for Miami in three of his last four seasons due to injuries. Early in his career, Pouncey was just the league average at his position.
On the defense, the Dolphins lost S Michael Thomas and LB Neville Hewitt. Both players saw minimal playing time in 2017.
Miami lost RB Damien Williams, K Cordy Parkey, and G Jermon Bushrod to other teams in the NFL with no player offering an edge. QB Jay Cutler retired while S Nate Allen, CB Alterraun Verner, TE Julius Thomas, and Anthony Fasano became unrestricted free agents.
All additions in the offseason appear to be minor. Miami signed WR Danny Amendola, RB Frank Gore, QB Brock Osweiler, G Josh Sitton, and WR Albert Wilson. Amendola will have the best chance to add Fantasy value while Frank Gore tries to add a few more yards to his Hall of Fame career. He only needs 76 rushing yards to pass Curtis Martin for the fourth-most in NFL history.
With first four picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, Miami added two defenders and a pair of TEs.
In the first round with the 11th overall pick, they added S Minkah Fitzpatrick. He’ll bring an attack style to the Dolphins’ secondary while adding value in run support. Fitzpatrick plays with vision and anticipation while always wanting to get his hands on the ball. His coverage skills will work best moving forward in single coverage. His aggressiveness can lead to mistakes when attacking the line of scrimmage.
Second-round pick TE Mike Gesicki will move right into the starting lineup after Miami cleaned house at TE in the offseason. Gesicki comes into the NFL as a one-dimensional pass catching TE. He essence, he’ll be a big bodied WR who will create matchup problems for linebackers and safeties. Mike runs good routes with plus hands, but his lack of physicality hurts him vs. aggressive pressing teams while being almost dead in the water early in his career as run blocker.
The Dolphins invested in LB Jerome Baker in the third round. Baker brings speed and athletic ability to the defense, but his game has some weakness in run support while needing to add more bulk and strength. In today’s NFL, pass coverage is important at the linebacking position, which is where Jerome will have the best chance to add value early in his career. Baker tends to be a tick behind in his reads, which he overcomes with his edge in speed. Opposing offensives will use his aggressiveness moving toward the offensive line as a trap to create open space behind him in the passing game.
TE Durham Smythe was the player of choice for Miami in the fourth round. In a way, Smythe is the missing part of Gesicki in the blocking game. Durham will add value as a blocker, but his upside and value as a receiver will be extremely limited. Smythe still needs to add more strength to combat the defensive players at the next level.
With their second pick in the fourth round, the Dolphins selected RB Kalen Ballage. He’s a big back (6.2” and 228 Lbs.) with above league RB average speed (4.46). Ballage is built to be a north/south runner with an upright style, but he lacks the vision to see developing holes with very little wiggles to create his space through the line of scrimmage. His hands give him a chance in the passing game while needing to improve his skill set in pass protection. Kalen may need more playing time to help see holes develop when carrying the ball. Ballage may get a chance in the return game in his rookie season.
The next two picks were DB Cornell Armstrong and LB Quentin Poling. Armstrong played four seasons of college ball at Southern Mississippi where he made 110 tackles with five Ints and 29 defended passes. His playing time/role changed in his senior year leading to minimal value as a tackler (14). Cornell will add speed to the Dolphins’ defense, but his position is yet to be determined. Poling has the mindset and anticipation to be a productive linebacker, but his play speed may lead to less than impactful plays. More of a get it done type player at the next level than creating an edge.
With their last pick in the seventh round, the Dolphins took a swing at their future be adding K Jason Sanders.
Miami attempted the lowest number of rushes (360) in the NFL in 2017 leading to the 29th ranking in rushing yards (1,388) with only four rushing TDs. Their offensive line allowed 33 sacks and 79 QB hits. The Dolphins placed 18th in passing yards (3,535) with 24 TDs and 21 Ints.
LT Laremy Tunsil failed to live up to expectations in his second year in the NFL. Tunsil was a neutral pass blocker with losing value in the run game. Miami drafted 13th overall in the 2016 draft. Laremy should be a huge upgrade in pass protection while offering upside in run blocking as well. He has a nice combination of technique, foot quickness, and vision while needing to add some strength to his lower body. In 2017, he made the switch from guard to left tackle a position he played in college. Tunsil has Pro Bowl talent.
LG Josh Sitton has consistently been a top player at his position, but the Packers moved up from in 2016, and the Bears sent him packing with a year left on his contract after the 2017 season. Based on stats, Sitton should add value in both run and pass blocking.
C Daniel Kilgore has seven years of experience in the NFL, but most of the time he’s been a below-par option as starting center. Miami acquired him a deal with the 49ers in March after he signed a three-year contract. He’ll be paid like a starter, so it’s his job to lose.
RG Jesse Davis started the last ten games for Miami in 2017 while offering no upside in any area. The Dolphins signed him as an undrafted free agent in January in 2017.
RT James Ja’Wuan continued to trend in an upward direction after getting drafted 19th overall in 2014. He’s played well as run blocker in back-to-back seasons while showing growth in 2017 in pass protection.
Based on talent, the Dolphins have two edges on the offensive line with both players covering the outside of the line. The center position and right tackle have failure risk. Overall, this offensive line should grade slightly above the league average unless the interior of the line gets better play than expected from one or more players.
The above data shows the strength of schedule as far as rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA), and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2017, which will work as our starting point for 2018. We’ll look at all the changes on offense on each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades on each team on the defensive side. We’ll update this table when we finish the research on all 32 teams.
2017 LG Average = the league average of all stats from all 32 teams in 2017.
2017 Results = this is the results for each team in the NFL.
2017 Adjustment is based on the 2017 league average and the 2017 results for each team, this number will show if each team is above or below the league average in each stat category and the basis for the strength of schedule.
Miami had two matchups (TEN and MIN) vs. teams with strength in their run defense. Their best chances for success on the ground should come on the ground against Buffalo (X 2) and Cincinnati. Overall, the Dolphins have a favorable 2018 run schedule based on 2017 data.
On the passing side, Miami should have a slight edge as well. Their two games come against the Jaguars and the Vikings. New England grades as their weakest opponent in the passing game while having five other slightly favorable games (TEN, OAK, DET, GB, and IND)
The Dolphins threw the ball more than any other team in the NFL in 2017 based on passing percentage (62.6), but they ranked poorly in overall plays (962 – 20th). Miami had a league-low in rushing attempts (360) with emptiness in rushing TDs (4). The Dolphins’ coaching staff wants to throw the ball, but they don’t have the talent to deliver winning stats in the passing game.
QB Ryan Tannehill – With no games played in 2017, I’ll take a look back at Ryan’s previous season. The stats for Tannehill had minimal playable value in 2016. His best two games throwing the ball came in Week 2 (387/2) and Week 3 (319/3), but he did toss four interceptions. Over his first three starts, he averaged 37.7 pass attempts. The Dolphins switched to a rushing attack from that point on leading to him attempting only 27.6 passes per game over his next ten starts. Ryan had fewer than 200 yards in five of those games. Over his last seven games of the season, he had 13 TDs and five Ints. His completion rate (67.1) was the best of his career plus he made a nice step forward in yards per pass attempt (7.7 – career high). Over the last two seasons, Tannehill has been last active as a runner (32/141/1 and 39/164/1). His season ended in Week 14 due to partially torn ACL in his left knee that didn’t require surgery until it blew out last August. With a full season to recover, he’s expected to be ready for training camp. In 2017, Miami attempted 125 more passes than 2016 (477) with fade in their run game and Jay Cutler playing QB. The Dolphins lost their top possession WR in the offseason while adding a possible upside pass catching TE. Overall, Tannehill projects to be a league average player at best. Possible 4,000 yards passing with about 25 TDs.
Other Options: Brock Osweiler, David Fales
RB Kenyan Drake – Fantasy owners will be intrigued by the finished of Drake in 2017 after Miami traded Jay Ajayi to the Eagles. Over five starts, Kenyan posted 594 combined yards with two TDs and 17 catches on 108 combined touches. He averaged 21.6 touches per game as a starter with about 119 yards per game. His best value came in Week 13 vs. the Patriots (193 combined yards with five catches). Miami did bring in Frank Gore to compete for some playing time, which will lead to Drake falling to the 3/4 turn in most 12-team PPR leagues. In his college career, Kenyan was never a full time back creating a window of doubt for Fantasy owners this draft season. The Dolphins tried to add a power type RB back in this year’s draft as well. Last season Miami only attempted 22.5 rushing attempts per game with only four rushing TDs. Their RBs caught 70 of 100 passes for 491 yards and two TDs. Upside player for sure, but his final 2018 draft value will be fluid until Fantasy owners see how the Dolphins use the RBs in 2018. I’ll set his bar at 200 rushes for about 900 yards plus about 50 catches and another 350+ yards with a handful of TDs. Drake projects as a 200+ Fantasy point RB in PPR leagues.
RB Frank Gore – In his 13th year in the NFL, Gore fell just short of his tenth season with over 1,000 yards rushing (961). The Colts gave him 300 touches leading to 1,106 combined yards with four TDs and 29 catches. Frank needs 76 yards to pass Curtis Martin for the fourth most all-time. Miami will get him 150+ touches in 2018 with possibly most of the goal line chances. Gore never gets hurt, so he’ll be a pest all season for Drake owners.
RB Kalen Ballage – Over his four seasons at Arizona State, Ballage rushed for 1,858 yards with 76 catches and 26 TDs while playing time with other RBs. His best success came in his junior season (1,05 combined yards with 15 TDs and 44 catches. Kalen gained only 4.4 yards per rush in his college career. Power type runner with some pass-catching ability. His lack of a full-time job in college sets a low bar in the NFL. If Gore had an injury, Kalen should get eight to ten touches per game behind Kenyan Drake.
Update: 8/14/2018 > Ballage struggled with his pass protection skills in training camp leading to an unhappy Ryan Tannehill.
Other Options: Senorise Perry, Brandon Radcliff, De’Veon Smith
WR DeVante Parker – In his three seasons in the NFL, Parker hasn’t lived up to Fantasy owners expectations. He has 139 catches for 1,908 yards and eight TDs on 233 targets. Last year DeVante was one pace for his best season in his career (57/670/1), but he missed three games with an ankle issue midseason. Parker finished with five games with six catches or more and eight with 60 yards receiving or more. The drop-down at QB to Jay Cutler didn’t help his scoring value. 2018 will be DeVante’s last year in Miami, so a great season could be a win for him in free agency. With Jarvis Landry no longer on the roster, Parker will naturally see a bump in targets. His next step should be 80+ catches for 1,100+ yards and about seven TDs. His lack of success may lead to him falling in drafts. I’m interested in 2018, but I’m not paying a premium.
Update: 8/15/2018 > Devante Parker broke his middle finger on his right hand as well putting him on a similar path as Rashaad Penny for a return to the starting lineup. Parker hasn’t been getting positive reports this summer, which creates a better WR1 window for Kenny Stills with Albert Wilson getting gaining some momentum. When healthy, Danny Amendola is going to be active in the Dolphins’ passing game. In the end, Parker is now in position to be the WR3 in Miami at best. His draft value is starting to fade, which does invite some upside if he becomes a WR5 instead of a WR3 in Fantasy drafts.
WR Kenny Stills – Over the last two years for Miami, Stills has 100 combined catches for 1,573 yards and 15 TDs on 186 targets. The best success of his career came in his second season in the NFL with the Saints when Kenny caught 63 of his 84 targets for 931 yards and three TDs. His catch rate has been short in 2016 (51.9) and 2017 (55.2) while catching 24 passes for over 20 yards and six catches for 40+ yards. The loss of Jarvis Landry should be a big win for Stills. He has a deep speed skill set over his five years in the NFL, but New Orleans used him more productively in 2014. Kenny should push his catch total over 70 while posting his first season with over 1,000 yards receiving. His ability to score should create a Fantasy buying opportunity in 2018. Last year he had three strong playable games (6/85/2, 7/180/1, and 5/98/1) for the daily market. A healthy Ryan Tannehill will be a plus for him as well.
WR Danny Amendola – On name value, Fantasy owners will be attracted to Amendola in this offense. He has a possession type skill set to slide into the 100-catch void created by the loss of Landry. The problem with the quick Fantasy deduction is that Amendola will start the year at age 32 with some injury risk when asked to be more active in the passing game over the long season. Danny has never had over 670 receiving yards in a season while posting three years with 60+ catches (63, 65, and 61). Amendola has talent, and he’s played some of his best games in the playoffs for the Patriots. Last year he had five games with six catches or more, which accounted for 34 of his 61 catches. I’d leave this club in the bag in 2018. Too many off weeks with a low ceiling.
WR Albert Wilson – The Chiefs looked Wilson’s way 62 times in 2018 leading to a career high in catches (42), receiving yards (554), and TDs (3). In his four seasons in the NFL, Albert has 124 catches for 1,544 yards and seven TDs on 198 targets. Only a low-level insurance policy with no impact value if asked to start for the Dolphins.
WR Leonte Carroo – Based on the WR structure on Dolphins, Carroo could add goal-line value. Over three seasons at Rutgers, Leonte caught 122 passes for 2373 yards and 29 TDS in 30 games. He averaged 19.5 yards per catch and an almost one TD per game. His best season came as a junior when Carroo finished with 55 catches for 1086 yards and 10 TDs. His hand’s grade as an asset with upside as a blocker in the run game. In his two seasons in the NFL, Leonte has only ten catches for 98 yards and a TD on 20 catches. The changes at the WR position may give a chance to make a step forward at some point this season.
Other Options: Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford, Rashawn Scott, Francis Owusu, Drew Morgan
TE Mike Gesicki – Over his last two seasons at Penn State, Gesicki caught 105 passes for 1,242 yards and 15 TDs. He projects to be a pass catching TE with plus hands and upside in route running. Mike offers no value in blocking game leading to him having a rotational role in his rookie season. Gesicki needs to prove he can handle tight press coverage. In 2017, the Dolphins’ TEs caught 56 passes for 525 yards and four TDs on 90 targets. The previous season with Tannehill behind center for most games, TEs only has 55 catches for 551 yards and six TDs on 71 targets. Talent dictates opportunity. Gesicki may develop over the season, but his starting point can’t be higher than the TE chances over the last two years. Viable TE2 flier with hands catching skill set to offer upside in his rookie season. Think of him as 55/500/5 guy out of the gate in 2018.
Other Options: MarQueis Gray, A.J. Derby, Gavin Escobar, Durham Smythe, Thomas Duarte
PK Jason Sanders – Over the last two seasons at New Mexico, Sanders made 89 of 90 extra points and 22 of 28 field goal attempts. He has career FG rate of 71.4 percent in college. Miami may bring in a veteran kicker later this summer to compete for the starting job. Last year the Dolphins scored 31 TDs with only 23 field goal attempts. His leg has long-range upside if he wins the starting job with Miami. No Fantasy value in his rookie season.
The Dolphins have a neutral schedule for their run defense. They have one bad matchup (JAX) and three mid-tier contests (BUF X 2 and MIN). Buffalo won’t be the same team running the ball in 2018 with a non-running QB behind center.
Their pass defense catches a break by facing nine teams with weakness in their passing game. The Bears, the Bills (2), and the Colts struggled to pass the ball in 2017. Indy should be improved with Andrew Luck expected back behind center. Miami has three bad matchups (NE X 2 and DET). Overall, the Dolphins have one of the easier schedules for their passing defense.
Miami finished 14th in rushing yards (1,768) in 2017 with ball carriers gaining 4.1 yards per rush. They allowed 14 rushing TDs with rushers gaining over 20 yards on 13 runs. The Dolphins ranked 16th in passing yards allowed (3,603) with QBs tossing 26 TDs with nine Ints. Their defense record only 30 sacks.
DE Robert Quinn fell out of favor with the Rams after seeing his sack total fall to 17.5 over his last 32 games. LA drafted him in the first round in 2011. In his second, third, and fourth seasons in the league, Quinn record 40 sacks over 47 games. In 2013, Robert was the best defensive lineman in the league when he recorded 19 sacks. Quinn had risk vs. the run in 2017. At age 28, he still has the skill set to offer impact value attacking the QB. He did miss 16 games over the last three seasons.
DE Cameron Wake has a great career for the Dolphins rushing in the QB. He has 92 career sacks in 132 games while recording ten sacks or more in five different seasons. He’ll start the year at age 36 with 22 sacks on his resume over the last two years. Cameron was below the league average defending the run in 2017.
DE Charles Harris should be the player that replaces Wake in the starting lineup when he retires. Miami selected Harris 22nd overall in the 2017 NFL Draft as a linebacker. He’s an athletic pass rusher whose best value against the run will come when he’s attacking the line of scrimmage. Harris needs to improve his vision, and his ability to break free from the widebodies on the offensive line. His aggressiveness can lead to some mistake in misdirection plays. His next step is proving his worth in pass coverage. In 2017, Charles was on the field for 496 plays leading to two sacks.
DT Jordan Phillips has been rather boring over the last two seasons as a rotational player for Miami. In his career, Phillips has 4.5 sacks with ten defended passes. Jordan was a liability vs. the run in 2017. DE Davon Godchaux was just below league average in all areas in 2017 while being on the field for 500 snaps.
The Dolphins lost LB Raekwon McMillan with a torn ACL last August after getting drafted in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft. McMillan is a quick attacking option against the run with enough speed to handle his responsibilities in pass coverage. Raekwon can get neutralized at the point of attack by offensive lineman leading to minimal value in pressuring the QB, and he doesn’t have the recovery step to handle speed running backs with elusiveness.
Over his three best seasons in the NFL, Kiko Alonso has 389 combined tackles with three sacks, ten defended passes, six Ints, and a TD. His game was at its best in his rookie season in 2013. Over the last two years with Miami, Alonso has been a below average player with risk in pass coverage.
Rookie LB Jerome Baker will compete for a starting job in 2018. Baker offers more speed to Miami’ defense, but he does have some risk vs. the run. Jerome should see plenty of action on passing downs.
The safety position appears to be an edge after adding Minkah Fitzpatrick in the first round in this year’s draft. He’ll upgrade the pass coverage with value in run support. Fitzpatrick is a playmaker. S Reshad Jones has been one of the better safeties in the league in five of his last six seasons. He’s very good supporting the run with risk at times in pass coverage. His grade in 2017 was helped by two Ints returned for TDs. Reshad had five TDs over his last five seasons.
In his second season in the NFL after getting drafted in the second round, CB Xavien Howard finished with 13 defended passes, four Ints, and a TD. Howard chipped in vs. the run, but he did have games when he struggled in pass coverage. His best two games came late in the year vs. NE (three defended passes and two Ints) and DEN (five defended passes, two Ints, and a TD. Howard should be improved in his third year in the league
CB Cordrea Tankersley saw action in 11 games after Miami selected him in the third round in 2017. There are signs of upside especially with his speed, but I sense he has confidence issues when he feels he’s an underdog in his assignment. Cordrea needs to improve his technique plus his ability to read routes. It appears he plays it safe too much leading to easy catches underneath to protect against getting beat deep. I question his value as a pure man-to-man cover option out of the gate. Tankersley struggled in all area in his rookie season. He should show growth in 2018.
There are signs of upside on this defense at all three levels. The success of the linebacking core will be the key to their value in 2017. Miami will attack the QB with possible risk vs. the run in the center of the field. Their safeties have talent, while the CB position needs more experience. If the Dolphins can get to the QB, they will be a playable a Fantasy defense in multiple games this year. I’d draft them with the idea of playing them vs. the Bills and the Jets.
2018 NFL Team Outlooks