It’s hard to remember now, but the Miami Dolphins were actually the second place team in the AFC East in 2018, and for a while had some playoff aspirations. The Dolphins finished the year 7–9, a disappointment after the team entered the season with some playoff aspirations.
After going 10–6 under Adam Gase in 2016, the Dolphins finished below .500 for the second year in a row in 2018, following a 6–10 finish in 2017. That was enough to lead to some sweeping changes. But the question is whether the Dolphins will be any better in 2019?
After missing the playoffs, the Dolphins did, indeed, clean house. Coach Adam Gase was fired after three seasons, going 27–29. But he had a soft landing with the Division Rival New York Jets. Gase was hardly the only Dolphin to leave town.
This off-season the Dolphins saw Ju’Wan James go to Denver on one of the richest deals in the league for a right tackle, Cameron Wake head to the Titans, and running back Frank Gore shuffle off to the division rival Bills. Danny Amendola, a steal from the Patriots a year prior, went to the Detroit Lions, Sylvester Williams went to the Saints and Branden Bolden went back to the Patriots. Meanwhile former starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill was dealt to the Titans, where he’ll serve as a backup to Marcus Mariota.
But it hasn’t been a one-way street for Dolphins. They welcomed a new coach, Brian Flores, who had been with the New England Patriots since 2004, most recently serving as defensive coordinator in 2018. As a career defensive coach, the hope is he can turn around the Dolphins’ defense, but it might be their offense that got the biggest boost.
Josh Rosen was the 10th overall pick in the 2018 Draft by the Arizona Cardinals, but it was hardly a magical season. Rosen started 13 games, going 3–10 for the Cardinals. He finished with 2,278 yards and 11 TDs against 15 INTs, completing just 55 percent of his passes. But Rosen was hardly the only problem with the Cardinals, who finished as the worst team in the NFL, brought in a new coach and drafted Kyler Murray at No. 1 overall. That made Rosen expendable, and the Dolphins were able to bring him in and will get a chance to see if he can be a franchise QB.
But Rosen wasn’t the only passer the Dolphins added. Before Rosen came to the Dolphins during the draft, they signed Ryan Fitzpatrick, the journeyman who most recently played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Fitzpatrick signed a two year, $11 million deal and will either be a veteran starter or backup in tandem with Rosen, giving the Dolphins a couple of options. Starting seven games for the Bucs last year, Fitzpatrick went 2–5 while throwing for 2,366 yards, 17 TDs and 12 INTs. If nothing else, he’s frequently shown he’s been fun to watch.
But it wasn’t all coaches and quarterbacks brought in by the Dolphins. They signed cornerback Eric Rowe and tight end Dwayne Allen from the Patriots, and spent their top draft pick on Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins. They also have a core of returning receivers, tight ends and running backs that the team hopes will break out in 2019.
The Dolphins don’t figure to be a team rich in fantasy goodness. But the task of making the most of this offense falls to new offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea, who served as Patriots’ wide receiver coach from 2009 to 2018. And his first task will be to decide on a quarterback. No matter which is chosen, it’s hard to see them as anything but a low-end back up in deep leagues. In a 10 or 12 team non-dynasty league, it wouldn’t be surprising to find both Rosen and Fitzpatrick on the waiver wire.
If there is a group that could produce moderate fantasy interest for the Dolphins, it’s their wide receivers. The team is still led by Kenny Stills and enigmatic fifth-year pro DeVante Parker. And among the other receivers is last year’s free agent signee, Albert Wilson. If Fitzpatrick is behind center, his gunslinger mentality could pay dividends for Stills or Parker, if he can establish himself. Parker started seven games last year, grabbing 24 passes for 309 yards and a TD. For a deeper look at Parker’s prospects, check out this Player Profile. Stills, meanwhile, started 15 games last year but managed just 37 receptions for 553 yards and six TDs, while Wilson started only three games in an injury shortened season but grabbed 26 passes for 391 yards and four TDs. The possible deep sleeper is Jakeem Grant, who was limited to two starts and 10 games, but flashed at times with 21 receptions for 268 yards and two TDs. It will be worth watching pre-season to get a better feel for which Dolphin receiver could hold value, as none of them really sparked last year. If Fitzpatrick starts the season, I feel like Stills could benefit the most.
At tight end, the Dolphins will be hoping for a big second year from Mike Gesicki, who was a trendy sleeper in 2018. He finished the season with 22 receptions for 202 yards, playing in 16 games and starting seven. He’ll have increased competition from Allen, who didn’t play a meaningful role in New England last year but flashed at times as a member of the Colts. Over an eight-year career, Allen has 139 receptions for 1,564 yards and 20 TDs. Gesicki remains a potential sleeper in deep leagues, but neither is likely reliable.
The biggest questions for the Dolphins might come in the backfield. Kenyan Drake seemed set to be the man in 2018, but ended up sharing time with Gore. Still, he managed 535 yards and four TDs rushing, grabbing 53 passes for 477 yards and five more TDs. Gore is gone, but his biggest competition for touches figures to be second year man Kallen Ballage, who rushed 36 times for 191 yards and a TD as a rookie, and rookie Myles Gaskin, taken in the seventh round. The only one that offers potential value is Drake, but it’s hard to have faith in him as more than a low-end RB2 or Flex until we see some consistency.
Many foresee a rough season for the Dolphins, one that could end with them getting a top pick, if not the top pick, in the 2020 draft. That seems about right. It’s hard to see any place where this team might have a good advantage, which is also why it’s hard to see much reason for fantasy optimism here. Someone on the Dolphins will likely break out, but it’s hard to see who or how solid that breakout might be. I expect the Dolphins to be among the worst teams in the NFL this season.
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