While I don’t believe coaches necessarily can make players better, they can put them in better positions to succeed. Conversely, some coaching can be so bad as to render even good players useless. Adam Gase is the embodiment of a coach who gets the absolute least out of his players. Now that Gase is a New York Jets problem, I wanted to highlight two Dolphins players that I believe will have tremendous 2019 seasons. Kenyan Drake and Albert Wilson.
The Gase Era
Fantasy success under Gase was hard to come by during his time in Miami. When looking at the various offensive rankings for the Dolphins that seems logical. The pace of play under Gase was snail-like in its speed. The Dolphins ranked 22nd in plays per game in 2017 and last in 2016. They ranked last yet again in 2018 only running 54.9 offensive plays per game. New Dolphins’ offensive coordinator, Chad O’Shea’s previous employer, the New England Patriots, ranked second in the league last season with 69.1 plays per game and ranked in the top three in plays per game each of the past three seasons.
Taking a look at the Dolphins rankings in various offensive categories over the previous three seasons is enough to make a grown man cry. Twice, Gase “led” offenses to 30th or worst finishes in pass attempts. The best finish for passing yards was 2017 when they finished 18th. Sandwiching that high-water mark were seasons that saw the Dolphins passing for the seventh-fewest yards (2016) and third-fewest yards (2018) in the league. Rushing attempts ranked 17th, 28th, and 26th during those three seasons. Outside of putting up the ninth-most rushing yards in 2016, there’s not one offensive stat that Gase can be proud of.
You may have already deduced this based on how poorly his offenses moved the ball, but the Dolphins also were not very good in scoring points. They ranked 19th, 28th and 26th in offensives points per game during Gase’s reign of terror. I can not fathom why the Jets hired this man as their new head coach.
Success In Spite of Gase
Kenyan Drake is one of the few players to will his way to fantasy success despite Gase’s best efforts. Once Jay Ajayi was traded away, and Damien Williams went down to injury the decks were cleared for Drake in 2017. He did not disappoint. The final five games of the season saw him breakout to the tune of 17.68 fantasy points per game.
Coming off such a strong run, much was expected of Drake entering the 2018 season. He was able to put up an RB19 season (average scoring among running backs who played at least 10 games) last season. But if given the oppurtunity, he could have done so much more. Drake averaged 1.19 fantasy points per touch in 2018, per NFL.com, ranking seventh-highest for running backs.
Having a running back that is so efficient would inspire many a head coach to feature them more often. Not Adam Gase. Drake’s 120 rushing attempts ranked 41st at the running back position. He was at least targeted in the passing attack frequently, ranking 16th with 4.6 targets per game. With just 12.06 Rushing Attempts+Targets per game, Drake ranked 42nd at the running back position. Drake barely out-touched Frank Gore 173 to 168 during the 2018 season, but only did so because he played 16 games vs. Gore’s 14 played.
Frank Gore was allowed to move on to Buffalo after last season. The only running back of note added to the roster is Myles Gaskin, drafted in the seventh round as the 234th player off the board. Before the NFL Draft, I liked Gaskin as a sleeper, but that was assuming he would be selected closer to the fourth round of the draft. Nearly going undrafted it’s difficult to envision Gaskin coming in and taking on a significant role in the Dolphins backfield. Kalen Ballage is another player I like as a lottery ticket. But outside of a 75-yard touchdown run, his 3.3 Yards Per Carry last year doesn’t impress me.
Dating back to his days at Alabama, Drake has never been a workhorse back. I don’t expect him to suddenly morph into one just because O’Shea is now calling plays. Something closer to 150-160 rushing attempts than the 120 he was given last year is feasible though. Where Drake should see a marked increase in usage is in the passing attack.
Running back James White was targeted on 22% of New England’s pass attempts compared to the 16.7% share that Drake received. With a higher percentage of targets, and on an offense that ran almost 15 more plays per game than the Dolphins, White was targeted 50 more times than Drake in 2018. Even if Drake doesn’t approach the 123 targets White saw last year a modest increase of 25 targets seems plausible. If Drake puts up a top 12 season in 2019, don’t be shocked. He has produced in the past under a terrible offensive mind. If O’Shea brings along anything he’s learned during his time in New England, he’ll be sure not to make the same mistake(s) as Adam Gase.
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This Time We Mean It
Touting Kenyan Drake for 2019 based on the addition of Chad O’Shea admittedly does involve some mental gymnastics. Since O’Shea never called plays in New England, it’s not guaranteed he’ll follow the same blueprint as the Patriots. Though by him just not being Adam Gase, it gives me confidence that O’Shea will use Drake correctly. I also believe that O’Shea witnessing first-hand how successful New England’s offense was will lead him to at least steal some of the concepts he learned in his decade as a Patriot coach. O’Shea was the wide receiver coach his entire time in New England, so believing he’d feature the slot receiver takes less brain exercising than my Drake take.
Calling Albert Wilson, a sleeper isn’t precisely accurate. He’s a player that many in the community have touted the last two offseasons. Wilson averaged 8.9 fantasy points per game in his final season in Kansas City, and 2018 was looked at as a prime oppurtunity for Wilson to breakout. The Dolphins gave Wilson a three year $24 million contract last offseason. For a player that started his career as an undrafted free agent whose career-high in receiving yards, coming in 2017 was just 554 yards, this contract showed how much the Dolphins thought of him.
Wilson showed his explosiveness in a small sample in his first year as a Dolphin. His 348 yards after catch ranked 43rd in the league. This was despite playing in just seven games and ranking 174th (tied) in targets and 159th (tied) in receptions. His 9.5 Yards After Catch per Reception would have ranked second in the league if he played enough games to qualify.
On a per-game basis, Wilson finished last season just outside of having a WR2 season. His 13.8 points per game good enough for 25th highest at the wide receiver position. Not too shabby considering that Wilson’s five targets per game would have ranked 60th at the wide receiver position. In eight of the ten seasons that O’Shea coached wide receivers for the Patriots Wes Welker, or Julian Edelman played at least 12 games. Their average stat line during those seasons? An average line of 14 games played, 148 targets (10.57 per game), 105 receptions, 1,138 receiving yards and a tad over five touchdowns. Not bad at all. The targets per game of 10.57 would more than double Wilson’s targets per game from 2018. It’s not reasonable to assume 10+ targets per game for Wilson. Unless O’Shea finds a way to get Tom Brady down to South Beach.
Wilson does have Ryan Fitzpatrick, who loves to target his slot receiver. Over the past 10 seasons, no quarterback has targeted their slot receivers at a higher clip than Fitzpatricks 26.4%, per PFF. In that same PFF article, Henry Buggy also notes that Josh Rosen targeted the slot on 28% of his pass attempts in 2018. This leaves Wilson in the perfect position no matter which quarterback is under center. Wilson’s ADP takes none of these positive indicators into account. He is the WR76 and the 225th player overall off the board. Pass on defense or a kicker and draft Wilson instead. A hip strain ended his year after seven games last year, so watch camp reports. If Wilson is healthy in 2019, you’ll own a player with WR2 upside that you drafted in the final rounds of your draft.
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