The Dolphins were one of the most aggressive teams this offseason in an effort to improve on last year's 7-9 finish. They made headlines by adding Brandon Marshall via trade, Karlos Dansby via free agency and brought in new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
Now we'll see if all those moves pay off.
The defense should definitely improve based on Nolan's track record and Dansby's play-making ability, but the biggest acquisition for Fantasy owners is the addition of Marshall, who was a star wide receiver in Denver. He is coming off three consecutive years of at least 100 catches and has become a Fantasy star.
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Marshall has had success with two different quarterbacks (Jay Cutler and Kyle Orton) while playing in two different offensive systems under Mike Shanahan and Josh McDaniels. The transition to Miami and playing with new quarterback Chad Henne should be an easy one.
Marshall also should be fine coming off hip surgery this offseason. He had hip surgery last year before finishing with 101 catches for 1,120 yards and a career-high 10 touchdowns.
We still view Marshall as a No. 1 Fantasy wide receiver, and he's worth drafting toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3 in all leagues. His presence should improve the offense in Miami, allowing Henne to be a potential starting Fantasy quarterback and creating opportunities for Brian Hartline, Davone Bess and Anthony Fasano.
The running game will also benefit because Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams won't see as many defenders near the line of scrimmage. This should be a big year on offense for the Dolphins, and many Fantasy owners will reap the benefits.
Late-round flier ... Brian Hartline, WR
Hartline had some quality moments as a rookie in 2009 when he finished with 31 catches for 506 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown. He had two games with at least 94 receiving yards, and all three receiving touchdowns were scored in division matchups. He is projected to start opposite Marshall this year after he likely beats out Greg Camarillo in training camp and with Davone Bess playing in the slot, it could mean even more big plays in 2010. We think Hartline is worth a late-round pick on Draft Day.
The second-best receiver in Denver the past three years -- when Marshall was racking up at least 100 catches -- has performed well. Last year, Jabar Gaffney finished with 54 catches for 732 yards and two touchdowns. In 2008, Eddie Royal had 91 catches for 980 yards and five touchdowns. And in 2007, Brandon Stokley had 40 catches for 635 yards and five touchdowns. If Hartline reached the average of those three receivers he would finish 2010 with 62 catches for 782 yards and four touchdowns. That's excellent production if you're talking about your No. 4 or 5 Fantasy receiver.
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Breakout ... Chad Henne, QB
Henne took over for the injured Chad Pennington in Week 3 last year and played well at times and looked lost at others. He had three 300-yard outings and two games with multiple touchdown passes, but he also finished the season with only 12 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions. But Henne's outlook changed dramatically this offseason when the Dolphins traded for Marshall. Henne now has a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver and should develop into a solid Fantasy quarterback. He should be drafted as a No. 2 Fantasy option with a late-round pick, but don't be surprised if he ends up starting for you during the season, especially if your regular starter struggles. He could also be trade bait if he plays as expected.
Marshall helped Kyle Orton become a productive quarterback last year with the Broncos when Orton finished with 3,802 passing yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Orton had seven games with multiple touchdown passes and five games with at least 250 passing yards. Henne is capable of those stats and more, and he's someone to target on Draft Day.
Bust ... Ricky Williams, RB
Williams is someone you want to have on your Fantasy team. But if you're expecting the production you got a year ago you will be disappointed. He was a marvel at 32 when he had 241 carries for 1,121 yards and 11 touchdowns with 35 catches for 264 yards and two more scores. The majority of that production came after Brown (foot) was hurt in Week 10, but Brown is expected to be healthy this year and motivated to earn a new contract. Williams is also looking for a new deal since, despite earlier proclamations he would retire at 34, he wants to keep playing. But with Brown back, Williams will return to a secondary role.
The Dolphins will still rely on Williams a lot, but you have to consider him a No. 3 Fantasy running back at best. If you can get him as your No. 4 option that's even better, but don't draft Williams as a starting option. He will likely finish closer to his 2008 stats (659 rushing yards and four touchdowns and 219 receiving yards and a touchdown), which isn't bad at all but half of his production from last year. And that's what you can expect in 2010.
If the Dolphins believe they are playoff contenders they will be put to the test right away. Miami plays four teams that made the playoffs in 2009 in its first five games, including road games at Minnesota and Green Bay. The Dolphins also play at Cincinnati and Baltimore on top of two games at the Jets and Patriots, but they still get to play Buffalo twice, Cleveland, Oakland and Detroit. Those are great matchups for both Brown and Williams.
Training camp topics
The biggest thing for the Dolphins in training camp is making sure their two biggest stars on offense -- Marshall and Brown -- are 100 percent healthy. Both are dealing with injuries that limited their work in the offseason. Marshall had minor hip surgery, although he is expected to be ready for the start of training camp. The same goes for Brown, who suffered the foot injury last year.
If everyone is healthy, the Dolphins will have a wealth of talent for offensive coordinator Dan Henning to work with. Henne has plenty of potential as a first-year starting quarterback, the running game is sound and the passing game should develop with the addition of Marshall to go with Hartline, Bess and Camarillo. Miami also has one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and tight end Anthony Fasano is looking for a bounce-back year.
On defense, the Dolphins should improve under Nolan, who did a great job in Denver last season. The Dolphins missed the playoffs last year after winning the division in 2008, but a playoff run is possible this year with the moves made this offseason.
Brandon Marshall (hip; probable for the start of training camp) ... Ronnie Brown (foot; probable for the start of training camp) ... Patrick Cobbs (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Patrick Turner (undisclosed; probable for the start of training camp) ... Chad Pennington (shoulder; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Jason Ferguson (suspended; out until at least Week 9) ... Channing Crowder (foot; probable for the start of training camp) ... Will Allen (knee; probable for the start of training camp)
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