The Footballguys staff was asked to mention their most significant veteran running back who changed teams over the offseason. Most significant can have a lot of meaning, so - in this case - it means we just asked our guys to pick the running back they most wanted to write about. Here are the results.
Player Receiving 14 Votes
Lamar Miller, Houson
Alexander: Miller has a realistic chance to lead all running backs in fantasy scoring in his first season with the Texans, but if he doesn't, it won't be for lack of opportunity. Houston led the league in offensive plays per game last season and finished ninth in the category in 2014 (Bill O'Brien's first year as head coach). In addition to being fast-paced, O'Brien's offense is decidedly run-heavy. The Texans finished first in rush play percentage in 2014 before dropping to 12th last season, due largely to the early-season struggles of their defense forcing the offense into hurry-up mode. If Houston's defense plays anything like they did in the second half of 2015 (five of their last eight opponents scored 10 points or less), the Texans will find themselves in more positive game scripts that call for keeping the ball on the ground late in games. Miller has a three-down skill set, lacks competition for carries (rookie Tyler Ervin is interesting, but profiles as more of a scatback), and tied for the league lead in PPR fantasy points per touch last season (minimum 200 touches). What's not to love?
Bloom: We have been wondering what Lamar Miller could do with a full starter's workload for years. In 2016, we will get our answer. The Texans signed him to a four year, 26 million dollar deal, one that says starter money and starter touches. Miller will likely be featured as a receiver out of the backfield and be among the league leaders in touches, in addition to being in one of the run-heaviest offenses in the league. Miller is 25 and just entering the prime of his career. He will cost a second-round pick, but he could still represent profit there if he finishes in the top five running backs.
Fahey: Lamar Miller combines explosiveness, balance and vision to be one of the most dangerous running backs in the NFL. The Dolphins could never realize it when he was in Miami, which was a big reason for Joe Philbin's firing. Bill O'Brien has proven that he is willing to commit to running the ball and Miller is by far the most talented back on the roster. If he can even get close to 300 touches he should have a massive season.
Feery: Lamar Miller has taken his talents from Miami to Houston to assume lead back duties for the Texans. Perhaps it was Miller’s output in last season’s matchup between the two clubs that placed Miller on the Texans radar. In Week 7, Miller exploded to the tune of 14/175/1 and added on three receptions for 61 yards and another score for good measure. The Texans will have a new signal caller at the helm in Brock Osweiler, and bring an intriguing group of pass catching targets to the table, led by DeAndre Hopkins and new addition Will Fuller V. Miller is also expected to have a big role in the passing game in 2016, and he may have just scratched the surface of his actual potential during his time in Miami.
Harmon: It feels pretty easy to call this one for Miller. The still young talent is a dynamic player, forcing 28 missed tackles last season and averaging 9.3 yards after the catch per reception—third most of any running back to play at least 75 percent of his team’s snaps. Miami never seemed inclined to feed him like a feature back, but volume won’t be an issue in Houston. Bill O’Brien’s offenses ranked first and fifth in rushing attempts over his two seasons as the Texans head coach. As long as Miller proves able to hold up to that full workload, he’ll produce like a first-round fantasy back.
Haseley: The offseason acquisition of Lamar Miller gives Houston an offensive weapon similar to the mold of Arian Foster. Miller is a versatile back with the ability to take over a game as a rusher but also be a key component in the passing game. Like Foster, Miller possesses the ability to stay on the field for all three downs and be a fantasy threat every week. Miller is coming off two Top 10 seasons, despite being underutilized in Miami. The outlook is bright for Miller to fit right into Houston's offensive plans and be a key fantasy contributor with the potential for a Top 6 finish.
Holloway: Lamar Miller signed a four-year free agent contract with the Texans for $26 Million, including $14 Million guaranteed. Miller played effectively in his four years with the Dolphins, but was never heavily utilized. He averaged just over 10 carries per game there and had only two games with over 20 rushing attempts. Miller also is an effective receiver (117 catches) and should be featured in the Texans’ offense this season. Even with the limited usage at Miami, Miller has finished among the top ten fantasy running backs in each of the past two seasons.
Howe: Of the many running back jumps we saw this offseason, only two were guaranteed $14 million, and only one walks into an unquestioned three-down role. Lamar Miller was a moderate fantasy letdown last year after his breakout 2014, but his dynamic dual-threat ability still looked plain as day. Despite a massive drop-off in red zone usage, Miller still managed to boost his touchdown rate while also increasing his receiving production for a third straight year. And it’s hard to dislike his landing spot – Bill O’Brien’s Texans ran more plays than anyone in 2015, and they use a workhorse approach at RB. Arian Foster averaged 25 touches per full game last year, even as an extremely inefficient runner. A versatile, athletic semi-phenom, the sheer upside for the Miller with volume even close to that is nothing short of extraordinary.
Magaw: Among the 2016 free agent running backs that signed with new teams, Matt Forte (NYJ) is aging, Chris Ivory (JAX) will split carries with 2015 rookie T.J. Yeldon, and Alfred Morris (DAL) has sunk to third on the Cowboys depth chart with the drafting of coveted fourth overall rookie RB sensation Ezekiel Elliot. DeMarcus Murray (TEN), who came from a trade swapping 2016 fourth round picks between the Titans and Eagles, is also expected to be spelled frequently in a RBBC with Heisman winning rookie second rounder Derrick Henry, and possibly cede some goal line carries to the 6'3", 250 lb., bigger, faster and more explosive iteration of fellow Buckeye alumni Eddie George. The 2016 season should provide the long awaited answer to the question, what could Miller do if given a feature RB's carries and work load? In his previous three seasons since 2013, playing in 47 of a possible 48 games, his carries have ranged from 177-216 carries. With an exceptional career average of over 4.5 yards per rushing attempt, an uptick in Miller's carries could facilitate an increase in big plays (97 and 85 yard runs in 2014 and 2015, respectively). While new starting QB Brock Osweiler is a fifth year player, he only has seven career starts on his resume (all in 2015), so the ex-Dolphin starter should figure prominently in 2016 schedule game plans to take pressure off the promising but still inexperienced signal caller.
Miglio: Is it cheating to talk about two players defecting to the Texans right off the bat? Lamar Miller is, again, the easy answer here, going from misused in Miami to horse in Houston. He gets a shot at all-around success behind a superior offensive line, and he is liable to crack the top five in fantasy scoring as a result.
Pasquino: I could have gone with Matt Forte with the Jets here, but I am sticking with my Texans theme (along with Osweiler at quarterback). Houston is revamping their woeful offense from last year to get younger and more talent at both running back and quarterback, which should help them to challenge for the division this season. Miller inked a four-year, $26M deal to be the starting tailback for the Texans in 2016 and beyond, replacing the oft-injured Arian Foster. The fate of both Osweiler and Miller are closely tied, because if both perform well, both will have high fantasy value with defenses unable to favor the running or passing attack. Miller found the end zone 10 times last year for Miami (eight on the ground) along with over 1,150 total yards in what had to be considered a challenging season. With a better defense in Houston and a bigger commitment to Miller as a feature tailback, Miller has a solid upside this year for the Texans as a likely Top 10 running back.
Simpkins: Most fantasy owners have been frustrated by Miller's usage (or lack thereof) in Miami. Those days are over with Arian Foster’s departure opening the door for Lamar Miller to land with the Texans. In Houston, we can be confident that he will get a full workload on a team that likes to play bully ball and win games with their defense. We can also rest assured that they will have even more incentive to run the ball with a deficient Brock Osweiler throwing passes.
Wimer: Miller was not utilized as well as he should have been in Miami, as he has featured-running-back level skills. Houston runs the ball A LOT and he'll be able to fulfill his full, fantasy running back number one potential as a Texan. I see him as challenging for top-ten status this year, and then moving on to top-five contention in year two (2017) as a Texan. I really like the makeover the Texans have performed on their offense this past offseason, and Miller edges out Matt Forte (another high-profile free agent this year) on my running back board as a result.
Wood: There were quite a few fantasy-relevant running back moves this offseason including Matt Forte to New York, Chris Ivory to Jacksonville and DeMarco Murray to Tennessee. But they all pale in comparison to Lamar Miller’s jump from Miami to the Houston Texans. Miller managed to put up fantasy RB1 numbers in Miami despite his coaches’ unwillingness to make him the bellcow. He’ll have no such concerns in Houston where Miller is set to be the focal point of an offense that will look to control the clock and let the stifling defense help them win games. Miller has a rare combination of size and speed and should flourish under Bill O’Brien’s scheme. He’s easily one of the top fantasy players at the position this year and worthy of a first round pick.
Player Receiving 2 Votes
Matt Forte, NY Jets
Hicks: Aging running backs often carry more risk than reward, but Matt Forte is a different beast altogether. With even a poor year he will still move into the top 10 all time for pass catching backs and has always been a better than average runner. He has been durable missing less than a game a year on average and apart from Forte, the Jets really only have backups at the position. He shouldn’t threaten the elite fantasy backs this year, but will be a more than adequate bottom end RB1.
Waldman: The subtitle for this change could be "The subtraction of Forte from the Bears," because the Chicago running game becomes a committee of players with a lot to prove and I'm skeptical the three candidates for playing time can give the Bears what Forte offers by himself. Forte is one of the most versatile backs in the league. There's an upside to Forte's age that should help fantasy owners: His experience combined with an experienced offensive line should hasten his transition to a new team. Forte should pick up the offense fast and because he's played as long as he has, the prospect of working with a different line won't be a difficult switch. Forte is only two years removed from a 102-reception, 1846-(total)yard, 10-touchdown season and he's joining a Chan Gailey-led offense that will use him as a receiver--even moving him around to find mismatches. Lamar Miller may be younger, DeMarco Murray may have equal upside, but Forte has quietly been one of the best backs of the decade and I don't believe he'll slow down in 2016.
Situation Receiving 1 Vote
Parsons: Doug Martin resigning in Tampa Bay was the most impactful veteran running back move in free agency for fantasy football. Martin’s upside was capped by the dominant pass-catching skills of Charles Sims, the 1B to Martin’s 1A a season ago. If Martin had moved on, both Martin – landing in a lead role – and Charles Sims remaining with the Buccaneers would have mid-RB2 or better upside this year. Now, both have minimized upside without an injury to the other. Instead of two high-upside running backs for fantasy, we are left with a murky committee needing an injury to ultimately cash in.
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