Un·der·u·ti·lize (verb) past tense: underutilized; past participle: underutilized: to under use (something).
Many of us feel underutilized, whether it’s at work where Jerry just got his 2nd promotion in 6 months while you’ve found dozens of ways to cut expenses out of your past budgets resulting in larger than expected profit gains, there’s a surprise chilling in your lunch Jerry. Or it will be at home, where your wife still questions your skills on the grill and kicks you off when you’ve had one too many drinks. Sorry babe didn’t realize I set your favorite shrub on fire.
But none of that matters here. Let’s head over to South Beach, home of the Miami Dolphins, where nobody felt underutilized more than Lamar Miller. Miller was a fantasy darling last offseason with fairly high hopes within Twitter-based Fantasy Football community. Now only if this played completely to fruition. Instead, we were left scratching our heads week after week towards the beginning of the season as we questioned every play call Philbin made. At last after a 1-3 start, Philbin was fired and replaced by Dan Campbell. Rejoice Lamar Miller owners, we were finally going to see the real Lamar Miller. The next two games Miller went off, amassing 354 yards on 38 touches. It was Miller Time.
Lamar Miller played 630 offensive snaps for the Dolphins last year, 61.05% of their plays. Miller had 194 carries for 872 yards and hauled in 47 receptions for 397 yards. Finishing the year as RB6 overall in PPR leagues with 231.9 Points, 2.5 points behind RB4. Out of the Top 12 finishers, Miller averaged the lowest touches per snap rate of them all at .38. In comparison, the top back was Todd Gurley at .55 touches per snap. Underutilized.
I’m a numbers guy through and through. If you like numbers, then I’m the guy for you. I recently charted a number of different fantasy related material on running backs. Some of which include, FPpC (Fantasy Points per Carry), FPpR (Fantasy Points per Reception), and FPpT (Fantasy Point per Touch), just to name a few. The purpose of all this data I’ve charted is to find out which running backs were more effective with each opportunity they got. As well as charting how often a specific team uses a specific player and what kind of role they were specifically used for.
I’m going to pull data from these results to tell you why Lamar Miller will finish as RB1 this year in Fantasy Football, a stretch at the finest. I mention number 1 running back in fantasy football and the first guy that comes to mind is Le’Veon Bell but hear me out.
Last year Houston employed a RBBC (Running Back by Community; not a committee, but a community) backfield, with the majority of snaps going to Alfred Blue. The backfield split was so: Alfred Blue (368 snaps), Jonathon Grimes (281 snaps), Arian Foster (190 snaps) and lastly Chris Polk with 266 snaps. The community toted the rock 401 times and were targeted in the passing game exactly 100 times hauling in 79 of those passes. Now, what if I told you, Alfred Blue averaged .54 touches per snap. Only .01 behind the bell cow Gurley. Remember that Miller only averaged .38 touches per snap in Miami. In this first set of data, I’m referencing touches per snap. A touch is a carry and a reception charted together. And is mathematically set up as so.
(Number of Carries + the number of receptions) divided by total snaps played
[table id=35 /]
Now on a per carry basis the data shifts quite a bit, see chart below. Todd Gurley averaged .50 carries per snap, Lamar Miller .31 and Alfred Blue .50 as well. When comparing both sets of data you’ll see that Lamar Miller was favored more in the passing game compared to the other two.
[table id=36 /]
The Texans fed Alfred Blue. If we want to talk about another player that was underutilized, Alfred Blue is that guy. When he was on the field the Texans made it an emphasis to give him the rock, although, he wasn’t the most effective back in that backfield. It kind of makes you wonder how many carries and yards he would have had if he shared Gurley like snap percentages. That’s where Lamar Miller comes in.
Now According to the Houston Chronicle, Lamar Miller will have a “versatile role as an inside and outside running presence” with the Texans, and “figures to be a healthy part of the passing game.” So let’s take what data I’ve shown to you and mix and match it to show you how and why Lamar Miller will finish as 2016’s top Fantasy Running Back. Last year Arian Foster accounted for 16.03% of the snaps, now gone. Chris Polk accounted for 22.45% of the snaps, where did he go? Jonathon Grimes accounted for 23.71% of the snaps and lastly Blue took the main work at 31.05% of the snaps. Miller only had 11 carries and 32 receptions (43 touches) more than Blue but played over 262 more snaps than Blue. The way I see this backfield sorting out is so, Lamar Miller rakes in 60% of the snaps, Blue follows with 25%, Ervin gets 10% and the last 5% is split evenly with the core. This is where everything starts to get interesting, this is what you came here for. For the data, the analytics, the cream of the crop. Miller Time is about to unleash.
First we’ll take Blue’s .50 carries per snap and correlate it to Miller’s snap count of 630 snaps played, which isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility seeing as the Texans ran 145 more plays than the Dolphins. If Miller had half a carry per snap he played, he’d be looking at 315 carries. That’s the first part of this data. From here we look at what I’ve charted previously, FPpC (Fantasy Points per Carry) to get a general idea of how many yards he’ll be looking at. Millers FPpC was .44. 315 carries at .44 FPpC equals 138.6 Fantasy Points or 1386 yards. 138.6 Fantasy Points from carries alone is the largest amount of points charted from the 2015 data.
[table id=37 /]
Now onto the receiving portion of the data. I have Miller projected for 80 targets and 65 completions, right in line with his previous catch percentages. Miller averaged 1.84 FPpR (Fantasy Points per Reception). 65 completions at 1.84 FPpR equates to 119.6 Fantasy Points.
[table id=38 /]
Bringing his total Fantasy Points (without touchdowns) to 258.2 Fantasy Points, highest of the 2015 data charted. All it would take for Miller to amass Devonta Freeman like Fantasy Points from 2015 is 10 total touchdowns. Which isn’t all too out of the equation. Sitting currently ADP (Average Draft Position) wise as the 14th pick off the board, the 8th running back selected. Just remember when you’re out there drafting and you’re on the clock, don’t under-utilize your draft pick, it’s Miller Time. For those still tuning in saying “What about Hopkins?!” I’ll explain later.