RB Daniel Thomas, Free agent
HT: 6-0, WT: 230, Born: 10-29-1987, College: Kansas State, Drafted: Round 2
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Daniel Thomas looked like a guy on the way out, until Lamar Miller stumbled when he got his shot. Thomas doesn't do anything particularly special, is a plodding runner an is likely to be overshadowed by both Miller and second-year back Mike Gillislee. If Thomas makes the roster, he will be no better than a bench warmer barring a spate of injuries, and not worth a roster spot in any but the deepest fantasy leagues.
2013 Game Summaries
Week 1 - While the numbers aren’t nearly as bad as Miller’s, they might as well be. Thomas, left a few more yards on the field than his teammate. While Miller was often swallowed up by the front seven, there were a few more creases for Thomas, but he couldn’t do anything with them. It’s easy to overreact when you see the final line; the Dolphins averaged less than 1 yard per carry. However, there’s a distinct possibility that Ray Horton might have put together a top-5 run defense this season. Even without Ahtyba Rubin, they were constantly in the backfield, wreaking havoc against the Dolphins’ backs. Although Daniel Thomas is a very mediocre talent, many running backs would have struggled running behind this offensive line against the Browns’ front. Even though the Dolphins’ running back situation is fluid, with a possible timeshare of 60-40 leaning to Miller, I still do not want any part of Daniel Thomas in fantasy.
Week 2 - Thomas didn’t see his first action until about midway through the second quarter, coming on as Lamar Miller’s deputy. Thomas just doesn’t have the same wheels and burst as Miller. He will usually pick up whatever’s blocked, but not much more. There were naturally more holes for Thomas against the Colts than against the Browns in the previous week, so he picked up some yardage, but definitely left some yards on the field. It looks like Philbin and Sherman may just favor Thomas in pass protection, and with their run/pass ratio at 50 to 72 through two games, it’s something that they value. However, Thomas did blow one particular protection, which caused one of the five sacks of Ryan Tannehill. If pass protection is what’s keeping Thomas in the running back rotation, he has to do a better job of it, or he’ll see the field less and less.
Week 3 - On the other hand, Daniel Thomas chipped in with 37 total yards on 6 touches, including a 5-yard touchdown run. No, Thomas is not as talented as Miller. That much is clear. But, he’s running hard and when there is room to run, he’ll usually pick up some yardage. On the drive where Miller busted out his 49-yarder, Thomas finished off the drive with two impressive runs. He made a nifty spin move to get down to the five-yard line. Then, on his touchdown plunge, he was stopped at about the three, but made a nice second effort to hit pay dirt. On his one catch, Thomas absolutely embarrassed cornerback Robert McClain with an upfield cut, allowing him to pickup an extra 10 yards on the play. It will be interesting to see how the backfield snaps are allocated going forward, but Thomas still likely has a role for the near future.
Week 4 - Thomas ran as the clear second stringer again on Monday night, and did very little with his opportunities. On his first snap of the game, on a crucial third and short just inside the Saints’ 10-yard line, the Dolphins inexplicably ran a stretch play to the plodding Thomas, resulting in a loss of yards and a field goal. Although defensive tackle John Jenkins made a great play, shedding his block and getting into the backfield, the play was doomed from the start. Running Thomas to the edge is the worst poosible way to use him. His other high leverage touch came from inside the 5-yard line with the Dolphins down 35-10 early in the fourth quarter. This time, on a straight handoff up the middle, Thomas was stuffed again. The Dolphins then elected to throw the ball from a few yards out to score. Slowly but surely, the Dolphins are finding out that Thomas is a very pedestrian talent, and with that, his touches and snaps should be getting few and far between. It shouldn’t be long before the third-year bust is strictly a special teamer.
Week 5 - Thomas worked exclusively as the change of pace back to Lamar Miller against the Ravens. He saw his most catches, two, all season, but his carries dropped to a season low of 2. Although Joe Philbin said during the week he didn’t see a clear separation between Miller and Thomas, but their usage this week is a clear indication that the backfield is now Miller’s to lose. Perhaps the Dolphins are finally admitting their error in drafting the Kansas State product. Miller also received two of the Dolphins’ short yardage carries in the game yesterday, so Thomas’ one job that seemed secure is now apparently gone. What little value Thomas had is surely all gone now.
Week 7 - Thomas started the game and played the majority of the first couple of series before splitting time with Lamar Miller over the rest of the game. He was marginally out-snapped by Miller, but ultimately finished with 13 touches to Miller’s 10. The Dolphins were clearly looking to establish the run, and did so pretty well early on. The offensive line was getting some push and Thomas was doing well to find some creases. He even shed a few tackles enroute to one of his best days in terms of yards per carry he’s had as a pro. He did get a carry inside the Bills’ 5-yard-line, but was unable to convert, mostly because the play called tried to get him around left tackle and Thomas is just too slow to get around the edge. Joe Philbin and Mike Sherman seem pretty unflinching in their backfield split, but maybe they want to get Miller and Thomas up to 10+ touches a game each, as something of a thunder and lightning duo. At this point, it’s one of the cloudier backfields in the league.
Week 8 - Thomas continues to work as the number two back in Miami’s offense, but finally seems be excelling in the role. It looks like he’s realizing that he has to get upfield as soon as possible because he doesn’t have the speed to dance around in the backfield. Thomas’ most impressive run of the day came on a key 4th and 1 in New England territory in the second quarter. The run called to go off tackle, but after seeing a hole up the middle, Thomas actually burst through the crease well, picking up 15 yards. 3 plays later, Thomas scored on his TD catch. It’s interesting that Miller was on the field for most of the drive, but Thomas came in for the fourth down play, and stayed in for the rest of the drive. That indicates that the coaches don’t really have a go-to back in the red zone. Whoever’s on the field when the team enters the scoring area is likely to stay on the field. That certainly affects Lamar Miller’s fantasy value negatively for the rest of the season.
Week 9 - Thomas worked as the #2 running back again on Thursday night, and with the Dolphins using a run-heavy approach, he picked up 13 total touches. One thing Thomas is good at in the run game is running up the middle. When the Dolphins run their dives to Thomas, he can usually get 3-5 yards. However, the Dolphins continue to use Thomas as their short-yardage back. Those short-yardage runs tend to be stretches and powers, which is something that’s often telegraphed and something that the third-year back struggles with. Thursday was no different, as Thomas failed in multiple short yardage situations. After Miller fumbled the ball, the Dolphins’ coaches didn’t bench their second-year back, but the backfield became more of a split. With Miller looking like a lock for about 20 touches each week, Thomas’ role looks like it will be diminishing going forward. The Dolphins are looking to run the ball though, so Thomas may see around 10 touches in the next few weeks. But, he’s very likely not to do anything with those touches. The Dolphins have used Marcus Thigpen for a few snaps here and there over the past few weeks, so maybe he comes in and steals a few looks. The only fantasy value Thomas holds is as a possible goal-line vulture to Lamar Miller.
Week 10 - Daniel Thomas ran as the clear backup to Lamar Miller on Monday night in Tampa Bay. Entering the game on the third series of the game, Thomas found zero room to run just like Miller and somehow managed a long run of 1 yard on his four carries. Thomas was tackled in the end zone for Tampa’s safety, as offensive coordinator Mike Sherman inexplicably ran a stretch play from his own 1-yard-line. With Lamar Miller clearly entrenched as the starter, and still struggling to maintain consistent value, Thomas belongs on the waiver wire in nearly every single fantasy league.
Week 11 - Daniel Thomas had one of his best days of the year on Sunday against the Chargers. Despite playing just 26 snaps, Thomas saw a touch on 11 of those plays, excelling in the “power-back” role the Dolphins could punish the Chargers with. There were gaping holes for the plodding third-year back, allowing him to pickup chunks of yardage relatively easy. After failing numerous times this season in short yardage situations, Thomas finally plunged in from the one-yard line. However, he didn’t come in to replace Miller at the goal-line. Thomas was in for the entire series, as he and Miller often swapped drives throughout the entire game, with Miller being the preferred hurry up offense back. Even if Miller were to go down with an injury, Thomas’ ceiling is still probably 60 yards and a TD. Outside of super deep leagues, Thomas has to be off the radar as a fantasy asset.
Week 12 - Daniel Thomas served as his usual #2 back/power back role and touched the ball 5 times before leaving the game with a lower leg injury. Thomas had no better luck against the Carolina defensive front than Lamar Miller, but his injury is noteworthy because it should now hand Lamar Miller the keys to the Dolphins’ backfield. Thomas wasn’t ownable in nearly every fantasy league before this week, and this injury could realistically end his season.
Week 14 - Daniel Thomas status for Sunday’s game was undetermined as late as Wednesday. It seems miraculous that Thomas was even considered questionable after sustaining what looked to be, at best, a really bad ankle sprain. But he started the game as Lamar Miller’s backup, and came on to replace Miller when he was concussed. Thomas then played all but one offensive snap for the Dolphins for the rest of the game, leaving after his big 55-yard run to grab a breather. It was an impressive performance for someone who was carrying an injury into the game, and usually doesn’t have the best quicks as it is. However, Thomas produced 100 yards on 14 touches after Miller’s injury, as opposed to the 9 yards on 3 carries he had before the Miami starter went down. Thomas benefitted from the tough footing, as he was able to get downhill and through the defense easier than they could come stop him. And undoubtedly, he profited from the defensive line issues the Steelers were having themselves. Cameron Hayward and Ziggy Hood were forced to play nearly the entire game without a breather because Steve McClendon and some of the other Pittsburgh lineman picked up injuries. But, credit to Thomas for gutting out his ankle woes and showing more burst than he’s really ever had before on the 55-yard run that set up the go-ahead score. If Miller has to sit out due to his concussion, Thomas would probably be a flex starter just based on volume in a matchup against a depleted, but still strong Patriots front.
Week 15 - Daniel Thomas remained the #2 running back in Miami, despite coming up with a big game against the Steelers the prior week. New England’s above average linebackers were able to slow down Thomas in the run game, with Thomas’ long gain being 4. While he was able to show decisiveness in hitting the hole similar to the Steelers game, Thomas had nowhere to go. Thomas did find the end zone on a nifty playcall early in the fourth quarter. Tannehill faked a handoff to Thomas and an end-around to Wallace while Thomas leaked out of the backfield. Tannehill had an easy pitch and catch to Thomas for the six. The third year pro has turned into a decent role player for the Dolphins, but that has made for an inconsistent and usually unstartable player. Although he’s scored a touchdown in two straight games, fantasy owners cannot count on him in championship week.
Week 16 - Daniel Thomas received the majority of the touches out of the backfield for the Dolphins on Sunday, but that didn’t amount to much as Miami struggled to do anything on offense all day. Thomas was the clear lead back, but still rushed for two fewer yards than Lamar Miller, on six more carries. Thomas’ long gain was two, but he usually picked up 0 or negative yards, as Mike Sherman stubbornly continues to run Thomas on stretch plays. In tough conditions, Thomas’ lack of game-breaking moves and wiggle was apparent as he often ran into a brick wall, led by Kyle Williams, Marcell Dareus, and company. Like Miller, Thomas struggled to pickup the blitzing corner or safety on a routine basis, hastening Ryan Tannehill’s demise. For a back who looked about as good as he’s looked in his career against the Steelers a few weeks ago, it was back to the status quo for Thomas this week. Miami’s backfield has succeeded this season when the coaches have picked one back, or injuries have forced them to ride one guy. Miller played well in Thomas’ absence, and then Thomas played well in Miller’s absence, but they’ve struggled to form a “Thunder and Lightning” type duo when both are healthy. Thomas isn’t a lock to even be on the team next season, but whichever team he ends up on, he should likely be avoided in fantasy leagues.
Week 17 - Daniel Thomas barely saw the field on Sunday against the Jets, capping off an inconsistent 2013 season for the former second round pick. Thomas was swallowed up by New York’s front on his only two carries, and really only worked into the mix when Lamar Miller needed a breather, or on a few short yardage situations. It’s odd after seeing a much more substantial workload than Miller the previous week in Buffalo, but it’s likely Mike Sherman was impressed with what Miller did in the Dolphins’ first game against the Jets. Thomas has one more year on his rookie deal, so it remains to be seen if he’ll be back with the Dolphins next season. Miami could just trim some dead weight and look to roll with Miller, Marcus Thigpen and Mike Gillislee next season.