6 min read

Best Ball: Miami Dolphins' Crowded Backfield Offers Value

In the introductory article for this series, we laid out the framework for identifying ambiguity in best ball. If you’re unsure what we refer to, read that piece before continuing with this article.

Now that you’re back, we will discuss one of the most ambiguous situations in fantasy for the coming season – the Miami Dolphins backfield.

Other profiles: Treylon Burks | DeAndre Hopkins | Jameson Williams

All data discussed is from Sports Info Solutions.

Dolphins' RB Best Ball Outlook

Coaching, Personnel Changes

The team re-signed Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. to two-year contracts before drafting rookie RB Devon Achane in the third round, further muddying the proverbial waters regarding the backfield’s expected usage.

Tight end Mike Gesicki signed with the New England Patriots, leaving blocking-focused tight ends Durham Smythe and Eric Saubert atop the depth chart. 

The team brought in Robbie Chosen (or Chosen Anderson, or simply Chosen?) and Braxton Berrios as depth wide receivers. It made a change at defensive coordinator, enlisting the services of veteran Vic Fangio.

Coach and offensive play caller Mike McDaniel enjoys getting his best players on the field together. He is a master at designing an offense around those pieces. That’s an important realization, considering the new personnel at his disposal.

Team Volume, Efficiency

The Dolphins take a bit more nuance to dissect because injuries introduced innumerable inconsistencies. Plus they had many personnel changes and ineffective defensive play.

Last season, QB Tua Tagovailoa played 90 percent or more of the offensive snaps in 11 games. He dealt with multiple concussions and a back/neck injury. In those games, Miami averaged just 55.4 plays per game (the fewest in the league) but managed to lead the league in yards per play at 6.72. 

Their 62.7 percent pass rate in the Tagovailoa’s 11 healthy games would have finished sixth in the league if extrapolated to the whole season.

Assuming a slight increase to their volume per game yields a range of 962 to 1,018 offensive plays in 2023, which should produce a range of 382 to 417 rush attempts. Miami’s backs finished 11th in total targets in 2022 (113), or 6.65 targets per game. That yields an expected range of running back opportunities of 29.2 to 32.2 per game.

Finally, in those 11 weeks, the top two running backs on the roster — Mostert and Chase Edmonds to start the season, and then Mostert and Wilson — combined for five RB1 weeks and three RB2 weeks.

Miami Dolphins Raheem Mostert

Raheem Mostert

Individual Projections

Important Metrics (2022: Mostert, Wilson)

Achane is omitted since he's a rookie

Opportunity Share: 56.3%, 55.2%

Red Zone Touches: 27, 32

True Yards per Carry: 4.6, 4.6

Breakaway Run Rate: 5.5%, 7.4%

Mostert and Wilson were healthy and active in the same game only four times last season. In those contests, the snap rate splits between the two was 47 percent/49 percent, 61 percent/37 percent, 42 percent/65 percent and 37 percent/65 percent. 

The Dolphins acquired Wilson at the trade deadline. He had missed part of Week 14 and all of Week 15 because of an injury. Mostert started the season in a timeshare with Edmonds, was injured in Week 10 and Week 18, and missed Week 12 and Week 19.

The Dolphins utilized 21 personnel (two RBs, one TE and two WRs) on more than 35 percent of their offensive snaps in 2022. They rotated between heavy fullback usage through Alec Ingold and stretches with increased rates of using multiple running backs.

The third-round selection of Achane hints at the potential for the team to increase its 21 personnel rates further in 2023 through the utilization of multiple running back sets. I expect Achane to operate as the primary third-down and situational back, considering his 5-foot-9 188-pound frame. The early downs will likely be split between Mostert (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) and Wilson (6 foot, 210 pounds).

All three should be involved in the offense when healthy. A standard 40/40/20 split in expectation for rushing work is a solid starting point for projections. That yields nine to 10 rush attempts and one to two targets per game for Mostert and Wilson and four to five carries and three to four targets per game for Achane.

Miami Dolphins Jeff Wilson Jr.

Jeff Wilson Jr.

Variance-Induced Upside, Downside

The ceiling outcome for Mostert and Wilson results from one or the other taking the primary early-down role, likely yielding a 65-70 percent snap rate and opportunity share. That likely only happens through injuries to either Mostert or Wilson. We did see the Dolphins utilize a “lead back” (65-75 percent snap rate) in 13 of 18 total games in 2022.

Again, the team played only four games in which Mostert and Wilson were healthy, three of which were games Tagovailoa also played at least 90 percent of the offensive snaps. 

That doesn’t give us a massive sample from which to work but indicates the team will likely utilize a loose 65/35 percent split in early down work.

That is important as it pertains to weekly volume because week-to-week expectations will be more robust for the two backs filling the primary roles. Also, weekly upside is introduced through the robust injury histories of Wilson and Mostert. Plus, Achane is an undersized back that runs a blistering 4.32 40.

Said another way, the 29.2 to 32.2 weekly expectation for running back opportunities bears significant weekly upside should the three-man backfield devolve into a two-man split, which is likely to occur at some point this season. 

The 19 to 21 running back opportunities available to the lead back — for an offense expected to finish top-five in scoring this season — provide immense upside considering the current RB36 price tag on Achane, RB48 price tag on Mostert and silly RB54 price tag on Wilson.

When the ambiguity carries an extensive range of outcomes for individual players, but the players project extremely well as a team, I typically like to gain exposure to the cheaper pieces. 

That has led to an overweight approach for both Mostert and Wilson and a slightly underweight approach on Achane. That said, Miami’s backfield deserves our attention in best ball, particularly considering the relatively to extremely low ADP for all parties.

Follow The 33rd Team Podcast Network on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.