Lamar Out, Duke In

The NFL Preseason is cause for both excitement and anxiety in the fantasy football community. We all love getting a peek at the incoming rookies and our favorite players before the regular season grind is in full tilt. But there’s also plenty to worry about. Mainly the needless injuries that come with full contact in games that don’t really matter. Well, our fears have once again been realized. Houston Texans starting running back Lamar Miller tore his ACL Saturday night against the Dallas Cowboys. Miller will now miss the entire 2019 season. 

Here’s the play where Miller was injured. This is just further evidence that the number of preseason games should be reduced.

Of course, this is terrible news, and we wish Miller the best and hope for a quick recovery. That said, what’s next and what are the fantasy implications? 

The former fantasy darling himself, Duke Johnson, instantly goes from virtually undraftable in redraft leagues a couple of months ago, to the sure-fire starter for the Texans. UM’s all-time leading rusher has been quite successful in the NFL when given the opportunity. Prior to 2018, when he was severely underutilized with Hue Jackson at the helm, he averaged 80 targets and 50+ catches a year. He’s a more efficient rusher than most recognize, averaging 4.3 yards per carry for his career.

In 2017, when he was given the most opportunity of his career, he maintained a higher success rate than the league average, per Sharp Football Stats. He also finished as the number 11 fantasy running back in PPR formats according to FantasyPros. If given the chance, Duke Johnson has massive upside in an offense with injury-riddled receivers and few other options in the backfield. 

It’s fair to say Duke is a lock to be a low-end RB1/high end RB2 aside from a blockbuster acquisition. About three weeks ago, reports indicated Houston may be interested in trading for Melvin Gordon, and Miller’s ACL injury could push the Texans to make an impulsive decision. Obtaining Gordon isn’t out of the realm of possibility considering Houston has the second-most cap space in the league. That said, Texans reporter John McClain noted they had no interest in trading for a lead back. This is likely due to Duke Johnson being signed to a three year $15 million deal. That’s a great value and they may not want to pay as much as Gordon’s asking. 

Lamar Miller received almost 60 percent of the teams rushing attempts last year. The primary backup to Johnson is rookie Damarea Crockett. If Houston doesn’t add another piece to the backfield, Johnson is in line for a ton of work in both the running and passing game. At 25 years old, his three-year contract makes him a valuable dynasty asset, especially with the PPR upside his skill set offers. Miller had been going in the late sixth/early seventh round of fantasy drafts according to Fantasy Football Calculator ADP. Duke has been going closer to the eighth round. If you’ve already drafted, you’ve acquired an extremely valuable fantasy asset for next to nothing. 

Even if the Texans make an addition, Duke maintains PPR value. It looks like he could be getting the opportunity he’s been hoping for since he entered the league, though. His ADP will be on the rise in coming weeks as owners adjust to the news. But keep an eye out for him in your drafts as he could be a sneaky target to far outperform where he’s being selected. He’s a great sell-high candidate as well; his value will probably never be as high as it is now. If you have a loaded backfield, he could be worth shopping around for future picks or to fill other positional needs. 

Thank you for reading. If you have any thoughts or would like to discuss, you can find me on Twitter @WillieBeamanDFF

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bbeaman

Writer and Analytics Specialist for @DFF_Dynasty & @DFF_Redraft. #DFFArmy #FantasyFootball

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