When you watch the first half of the gif, you see the reason why so many were eager to get their hands on Lamar Miller as we headed into the 2016 season. The broken tackles, the break-away speed, and the carving jukes were more than enticing enough to get owners to spend a first round draft pick on him. Unfortunately, I was one of the many who was seduced, taking him with the 8th overall pick. But if you watch to the end of that gif, you can see a perfect metaphor for how Lamar Miller’s season has gone: the inability to finish and achieve what was expected of him.
A Glimmer of Things to Come
Miller’s last season in Miami was solid but always hampered by a constant question of usage. It appeared the Coach Joe Philbin was unwilling to use his “star” running back as he ranked 18th in the league with 194 carries, despite a 4.5 YPC average that led to 872 yards and 8 rushing touchdowns. Miller also added 47 catches for 397 yards and 2 receiving TDs. If you extrapolate that 2015 rushing average to 280 carries (would have been 3rd most that year), Miller ends up with 1260 rushing yards and almost certainly more scores. Those who saw that production were excited to see what he could do next year given more opportunity.
Enter 2016. Miller signs a deal with the Houston Texans, a team that had traditionally touted a workhorse RB and needed a new one after the first of Arian Foster’s two retirements. Texans’ Coach Bill Obrien was known for using the running back profusely in his offensive schemes and all the preseason talk
seemed to point to a career year for Lamar, right? Wrong. Dead Wrong
Durability in Question
Miller has been hampered by nicks and tweaks throughout the season that have slowed his production down including an incredibly stupid shoulder injury sustained on MNF against the Broncos where Miller chose to take a tough shot and gain an extra quarter-yard on a 25 yard run
instead of stepping out of bounds. He also picked up a nagging ankle injury that he clearly has not recovered from. I am not questioning Miller’s toughness as he hasn’t missed a game this season but I am questioning his durability as it relates to his ability to be true workhorse in today’s NFL.
The fact that Brock Osweiler has been a gargantuan failure did not help Miller’s case and its effect became more and more apparent as the season progressed. Nobody foresaw how bad the $72 Million man would be. Just 23% of Osweiler’s attempts have gained 10 or more yards which is good for a league low. Without a formidable passing attack to keep teams honest, Miller has faced stacked boxes and defenses who are keying on the run every play, daring Brock to throw it. What’s odd is that despite the fact that Osweiler rarely throws down field, Miller hasn’t seen the number of check downs you would expect to precipitate from a situation such as this. I think this is partly the coaching staff’s fault for not getting the ball in Miller’s hand in open space on screens and other such plays. We all know what Miller can do when given these types of opportunities
. However, they were few and far between.
The Glass is Most Definitely Half Empty
In the face of the harshly negative tone of this article, Miller has not been “that bad” by any means from a real-life football stand point. He has however been a ferociously frustrating fantasy RB for those who paid his first-round price tag. Through Week 13, Miller has already eclipsed his rushing attempts and total yards of 2015 with 903 yards on 225 carries (4.0 YPC) but has only managed 3 rushing touchdowns in that span. He has also added a pedestrian 28 catches for 147 yards and 1 receiving TD to boot. These stats put him as the #17 overall RB in full point PPR leagues (16th overall in standard) and that is where the disappointment begins and ends.
All these detrimental factors mentioned above led to some blue-ballsy stats the have spelled frustration for Lamar Miller owners this season. Miller managed 100+ yards rushing in only 3 out of 12 games so far. It should be mentioned that he did have 7 games of 80+rushing yards, but he managed to score in just two of those. In the other 5 games, he had 61 rushing yards or less, including a ghastly 14 carry, 22 yard dud in Week 13 against a Green bay Packers’ defense that has been vulnerable against the run on several occasions this season. This game was a microcosm of Miller’s season in that he was not the highly-prolific workhorse he was supposed to be heading into this season. This is maddeningly exemplified by the fact that Miller’s backups, Johnathan Grimes and Alfred Blue posted lines of 5 rushes for 43 yards (8.6 YPC) and 5 rushes for 38 yards (7.6 YPC) respectively . What gives? For a player who was 5th off the board amongst running backs, this production simply would not do and this hurts even more when less talented backs are getting it done on the field. He may be hobbled by injury but that doesn’t cushion the blow of his lack of production.
Perhaps the most irksome part of Miller’s 2016 season has been his inability to score. Miller’s touchdown per game ratio has been cut in half from .63 TDs per game in 2015 to .33 TDs per game in 2016, despite the fact that he has seen a huge uptick in usage and opportunity. Miller failed to get into the end zone until Week 6 of this season, in which he scored 2 of his 5 total TDs. Only a fool would see an RB1 in the picture painted by these facts.
Going Down With the Ship
In the end, Lamar Miller’s play has been just good enough to where you feel like you can’t complain but not enough to make you feel comfortable starting him on a week-to-week basis as your RB1. For my season, it came down to point differential as a tie-breaker and I lost out on a playoff spot by almost 90 points. It’s hard to look at my team and find a culprit more deserving of blame based on what I felt he was capable of when I drafted him. I’m sure I am not the only fantasy football owner who was left out in the cold by Lamar Miller and I must recognize him now for what he is now that my season has ended: a half-dead weight that sank my season to the depths of “almost” fantasy glory.
***For those who have made it into the playoffs with him on your roster, he picked up an additional injury to his ribs but that shouldn’t keep him out of this juicy matchup with the Colts. Hopefully he can get it going in this game, but it’s too late for myself and many others to reap the benefit.