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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Miami Dolphins

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Dolphins have the most unexciting team for Fantasy purposes heading into 2012. But that's what happens when an organization bereft of a franchise quarterback changes coaches and philosophy, trades its top receiver and basically becomes an unappealing place to play football.

Just look at their quarterback mess: Incumbent Matt Moore will battle veteran David Garrard and rookie Ryan Tannehill for the starting job. This lovely scenario came to pass after Peyton Manning, Alex Smith and Matt Flynn all declined the chance to play for the Dolphins in the span of a few weeks. And while Tannehill has some built-in advantages like already knowing the playbook as it's the same from his days at Texas A&M, several reports out of Dolphins camp say he's decidedly behind Moore and Garrard for the starter's gig.

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It's a good thing the Dolphins don't have any strong receivers that might struggle because of the suspect quarterback corps. After the team dealt wide receiver Brandon Marshall to Chicago for a pair of third-round draft picks, it was left with the likes of Davone Bess and Brian Hartline as the top receivers. That changed when the Dolphins signed Chad Ochocinco following his release from the Patriots, but there's some serious skepticism that he can regain his form from 2009 after bombing out with the Bengals in 2010 and New England last year. Sadly, he represents Miami's No. 1 threat.

The only believable playmaker on the roster right now is Reggie Bush, who was a very pleasant surprise last season. After years of working in a hybrid role in New Orleans, the Dolphins leaned on Bush as their primary running back and he set personal-bests in carries (216) and rush yards (1,086). He also finished the season healthy, which had been a problem for him in the past. New head coach Joe Philbin is bringing his up-tempo West Coast offense with him from Green Bay, and that could mean more of Bush as a receiver and a little less as a rusher. Either way, he's as safe as they get among the Dolphins for Fantasy because he'll stay involved so long as his knees let him.

The rest of the team is a huge question mark, and that extends to the defense. True, the Dolphins gave pass rusher Cameron Wake a huge contract extension and signed cornerback Richard Marshall. But after years of working in the 3-4 formation they're going back to the 4-3 shift. We've seen defenses in Green Bay and Houston move seamlessly from the 4-3 to the 3-4 but it's been a while since a defense made the switch the other way with success (the Patriots and Broncos both tried last year and had their struggles). Giving up on veteran safety Yeremiah Bell, who signed with the Jets, and spending four of their top five draft picks on the offense also hurts.

Here's the reality: The Dolphins know they're entering a rebuilding year. They hope they have their quarterback of the future in Tannehill and expect the defense to eventually turn itself around under the eye of coordinator Kevin Coyle. It would probably be considered a successful season if they finished 8-8.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Matt Moore ND
David Garrard ND
Ryan Tannehill ND
Running Backs
Reggie Bush 6
Daniel Thomas 12
Lamar Miller ND
Wide Receivers
Chad Ochocinco ND
Davone Bess ND
Brian Hartline ND
Tight Ends
Anthony Fasano ND
Michael Egnew ND
Kickers/Defense
Dan Carpenter 14
Dolphins DST ND
ND - not expected to get drafted

Bust ... Chad Ochocinco, wide receiver
A year ago, a good percentage of Fantasy owners drooled at the prospects of Ochocinco aligning with Tom Brady. Even our 2011 projections were respectable. What ended up happening was the further deterioration of a football player who had more entertaining Tweets than receptions (just 15 in 2011). Even after reportedly taking a pay cut this offseason the Patriots set Ochocinco free, and the Dolphins scooped him up. Given their lack of receiving talent, why not take the shot? Ochocinco has looked good in offseason workouts and claims he's learning the Dolphins playbook after reports surfaced that he didn't know what he was doing in New England. But in our game, stats are king, and Ochocinco has posted good stats once in the last four years -- 2009. If he couldn't bounce back with Brady in New England, what makes you think he'll bounce back with Moore/Garrard/Tannehill in Miami? Don't draft him.

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Bounce-back candidate ... Daniel Thomas, running back
We know Thomas has it in him -- just look at his Week 2 totals from 2011 when he ran for 107 yards on 18 carries, several of them nice gains, against a Texans defense that finished the year ranked fourth against the run. But hamstring issues combined with a lack of regular opportunities crushed Thomas' hopes of a breakout rookie season. Reggie Bush is coming off a big season and the Dolphins drafted Lamar Miller in April, but there's still hope for Thomas this season. He's entering camp healthy and with some added muscle, and the new zone blocking system the Dolphins will use is familiar to him from his days at Kansas State. And if Miami's passing game is going to be as weak as we imagine, they'll have to run a lot and as a result use more than one back. Thomas is a decent late-round pick as a handcuff to Bush, who is no stranger to the injury report.

Keeper-league target ... Michael Egnew, tight end
Promise. Potential. The Dolphins don't have a ton of players who can be described with these words, but Egnew is one of them. Egnew is a 6-foot-5, 250-pound behemoth in the Antonio Gates mold who terrorized defenses with his effective seam routes in college. He caught 50 passes last year and 90 the year before, and while his career receiving average at Mizzou wasn't very impressive (9.06 yards per catch), his size and hands are what everyone looking for the next matchup-nightmare tight end is looking for. There's a chance that Egnew could morph into someone worth using this season if he can assimilate himself with the first-team offense in training camp. Miami's lack of receiving threats greatly helps his cause.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
@HOU OAK NYJ @ARI @CIN STL bye @NYJ @IND TEN @BUF SEA NE @SF JAC BUF @NE

It might not matter who the Dolphins face, their offense is such a mess that any defense can stuff them. Reggie Bush might not get as many touches as he did last season and he certainly won't have his receivers drawing coverage away from him. They'll also see a ton of big-play receivers in their road games, testing that boastful (but suspect) secondary.

Training camp topics

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
Reggie Bush 216 carries, 43 catches
Daniel Thomas 165 carries, 12 catches
Brandon Marshall 81 catches, 1 carry
Davone Bess 51 catches, 2 carries
Brian Hartline 35 catches, 1 carry

The big battle is at quarterback. After offseason workouts and minicamp, Matt Moore and David Garrard have seemingly boxed out rookie Ryan Tannehill from opening the season under center, though it's obvious his time will eventually come. Moore had his moments last season in Miami, posting 20 Fantasy points (standard scoring) in four starts and throwing 16 touchdowns versus nine interceptions. Garrard didn't play in 2011, citing a back injury. He wasn't so bad in 2010 -- his last season of game action -- completing 64.5 pct. of his passes for a 7.47 yards per attempt average and a career-high 23 touchdowns. Whichever passer has the better camp will start the season as Miami's quarterback, though there's absolutely no guarantee that he'll finish as such, which crushes any potential value on Draft Day.

The other interesting pool of talent to check on is at wide receiver, and by interesting we really mean tragic. Ochocinco, Davone Bess and Brian Hartline headline the wideouts in Miami with the likes of Legedu Naanee, Roberto Wallace and Clyde Gates also battling for playing time. It's a list of names that wouldn't get into a South Beach hot spot much less a Fantasy Football roster. Three rookies -- B.J. Cunningham, Rishard Matthews and Jeff Fuller -- could push for some decent reps given the lack of impressive receivers in Miami.

And if their receiving corps lives up to its low expectations, the Dolphins will be forced to use their running backs plenty. How they choose to split up the work will be interesting to watch starting in training camp. Bush should be the featured guy and Thomas will be in the mix, but so might rookie Lamar Miller. A capable, versatile runner from the University of Miami, Miller's hands were on display in offseason workouts and the team has been toying with the idea of using him as a part-time receiver. Miller doesn't quite stack up like Darren Sproles or Bush physically but with the team desperate for help he could be used from time to time this season. A really good camp could put him neck and neck with Thomas as the No. 2 running back.

Injury update

David Garrard (back; probable for the start of training camp) ... Lamar Miller (shoulder; probable for the start of training camp) ... Davone Bess (knee; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Brian Hartline (appendectomy; probable for the start of training camp).

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