The staff members at Footballguys are full of opinions. In a Faceoff, we allow two members to voice their opinions on a specific player. One picked the high side, and the other took the low side.
High Side by Stephen Holloway
Lamar Miller has an excellent opportunity to provide value above his draft position this year, primarily based on his expected increase in touches with Houston.
Miller was a dynamic player with Miami, but was limited by the offense. He was a part time player in his rookie season, so let's consider only his last three seasons there. Miller averaged only 196 carries and 48 targets per season. In those same three seasons, he managed only two games with over 20 carries. Even though he caught 77% of the passes he was targeted on, he had only five games with more than five targets.
Now, let's look at the Houston Texans running back usage. In each of the past three seasons, Arian Foster has been their best running back by far and he has missed 23 of their 48 regular season contests. Their running backs when he was out were pedestrian at best and the Texans still had at least 100 more carries in each year than Miami.
Miller has averaged 4.59 YPC over his career and 4.80 YPC the past two seasons. He like Arian Foster is easily the Texan's best running back. Despite his limited carries in Miami, he garnered 65.7% of the rushes by running backs. He has been durable thus far in the NFL missing only three games in four years and all of those came in his rookie season.
Low Side by Mark Wimer
Lamar Miller certainly has the statistics of a starting running back - as I'm sure Mr. Holloway has highlighted in his high side analysis of this faceoff. The Texans attempted the fifth-most rushes last season (472) - which looks very hopeful for Miller's outlook, even if he is platooned, to an extent, with Alfred Blue and/or Jonathan Grimes.
However, look a little deeper into the statistics put up by Houston last season, and the picture gets cloudier. The Texans were 28th in the NFL last year averaging 3.7 yards per carry. They had all of seven rushing touchdowns, which was 24th in the NFL. Footballguy Matt Bitonti, our offensive line guru, ranks the 2016 version of the Houston offensive line as 19th overall in the NFL (sub-par) with a B- overall grade and a B- rush blocking grade - and a C+ pass blocking grade for new starter Brock Osweiler. What those grades say to me is that Miller will need to stay in on third downs to assist with blocking assignments, lowering his PPR/passing game potential. Also, he will need to skinny through some smallish holes this year as Houston's line doesn't remind anyone of in-state rival Dallas' steamrollers up front.
In addition to the above concerns, Miller is going to learn a new offensive system this year. We all saw how well such a transition worked out for DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in Philadelphia - or C.J. Spiller in New Orleans - last season. Sure there are counter-examples with LeSean McCoy managing 1,187 combined yards and five touchdowns for the Bills in his first season there - but he had his share of struggles making the transition out of Philadelphia as well. The point is, free agents switching from one team to another are far from a sure bet to land among the top ten at their position (McCoy finished 2015 as the 17th-ranked fantasy running back in standard scoring leagues; Murray was 18th; Ryan Mathews was 33rd. Spiller turned in an awful 74th-place finish, behind Mike Gillislee and Marcel Reece). Currently, Miller is ranked on the Footballguys.com running back boards (standard scoring leagues as of 7/19/16) as a consensus sixth running back in the league. This is a wildly optimistic consensus, friends.
Miller will be integral to what the Texans' offense does this year, there is no doubt about this - but, he will be less successful than most observers currently expect. I view him as a borderline fantasy #1/#2 running back, rather than a sure-fire top-ten prospect. As such, I expect to see him on other teams' rosters this year as he'll be long gone before I think about drafting him for my redraft squads.
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