In the marvelous song by the Black Eyed Peas, they can be heard singing… “Makin’ wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends. Not respectin’ each other, deny thy brother. A war is goin’ on, but the reason’s undercover; The truth is kept secret, it’s swept under the rug. If you never know truth, then you never know love. Where’s the love, y’all?”
Now the song’s message is obviously much larger and more global than fantasy football, but you can’t read those lyrics and not think Lamar Miller. Let me break it down for you. Lamar Miller isn’t getting any respect and this is going to lead to a lot of fantasy football owners making wrong decisions. No one really knows why Lamar Miller is ranked so low. If we don’t have the right facts, then we can’t know the truth. Without the knowing the truth we end up missing a chance to love you some Lamar Miller. He’s not Le’Veon Bell or Alvin Kamara, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t deserve some love and here’s why.
Where Is The Hate For Texans RB Lamar Miller Coming From?
First things first though. If we’re asking ourselves where is the love for a specific player then it must mean there are some pretty negative rankings out there involving said player. In this case Lamar Miller. Matthew Berry of ESPN has him ranked as his 28th best running back in PPR leagues. Jamey Eisenberg over at CBSSports has Miller as his 27th best running back in PPR leagues. Yahoo has Lamar Miller ranked as the 26th best running in PPR leagues. The guys over at Fantasy Pros are the nicest to Miller, sliding him in as the 23rd best running back. Adam Rank of NFL.com has him as the 52nd best running back; that is not a typo. #52. Alex Gelhar, also of NFL.com has him at #27 among running backs.
Let’s eliminate Adam Rank’s 52nd ranking of Lamar Miller just because it is so far off the others. Between the other five rankings we used that leaves Miller with an average ranking between the 26th and 27th best fantasy running back in 2018. The 26th best PPR fantasy running back in 2017 was Theo Riddick. The 27th best PPR fantasy running back in 2017 was Giovani Bernard. They scored 154 and 152 points respectively. Lamar Miller on the other hand finished as the 16th best running back and came in with 193.5 points.
Hate Reason No. 1: Inefficiency
So we need to ask ourselves why is this happening? First and foremost, the number one reason is this belief that Lamar Miller has not been very efficient since signing with the Houston Texans in 2016. That can and cannot be argued. Let me explain… In 2016 Lamar Miller had over 1,000 yards and finished with a four yard per carry average. That’s not great, but teams aren’t going to fret too much about that. He stayed healthy and while four yards isn’t great, it’s hardly the end of the world. And look he rushed for 1,073 yards so he was still pretty effective.
That was also the whole Brock Osweiler year in Houston. You remember that year, don’t you? It was the year where DeAndre Hopkins, the number one receiver last year in fantasy didn’t even have 1,000 yards. When you consider that, Lamar Miller’s four yard per carry average certainly doesn’t look so bad. Teams were able to stack the box early in games because Osweiler couldn’t throw the ball. Once they got out ahead of the Texans, which they did enough Houston had to abandon the run. Lamar Miller was never able to find a rhythm because most of the time they were in comeback mode for the majority of the game.
The Truth About Lamar Miller’s “Inefficiency”
Last year, Lamar Miller finished with only 888 yards on 238 yards, a disappointing 3.7 yard per carry average. That, when you’re looking at it on the surface is pretty bad, but things are rarely ever that simple. According to ProFootballFocus.com the Houston Texans’ offensive line graded out as the 32nd best offensive line in the NFL. The 32nd best offensive line out of 32 teams. They were the absolute worst. Worse than the Cleveland Browns, the Bengals and every other team in the NFL.
The Texans running backs averaged 1.59 yards after contact. This was better than the league average and Miller accounted for 53% of the Texans’ total rush attempts. Duane Brown was their best offensive lineman. He’s a former Pro Bowler; that’s good. He held-out for a new contract, missed the first six games and was promptly traded to the Seattle Seahawks; that’s bad. You see, as bad as Miller’s rushing efficiency stats suggest that he was the truth is that he didn’t receive any help from his offensive line. The Texans haven’t done any drastic updates to their offensive line, but they have brought in some additional help and since their entire line in 2017 consisted of young players, the extra year of experience will surely help.
The really odd thing about all of this is that Joe Mixon, a rookie last year for the Bengals averaged 3.5 yards per carry. He is constantly finding his name in the 14-18 range for all fantasy running backs. There are a large number of experts that are pegging Mixon as a breakout candidate. Where are the concerns around his even worse than Miller’s yard per carry average?
Prior to signing with the Texans, Lamar Miller was a member of the Miami Dolphins. Neither franchise has been very good during Miller’s tenure there and yet he only has one season out of six where his yards per carry were under four. His career average is a healthy 4.3 yards per carry. That’s a far shot from being so terribly inefficient that he should lose his job completely.
Hate Reason No. 2: D’Onta Foreman
Everyone remembers DeShaun Watson and just how explosive he made the Houston offense for the first six games of the 2017 season. During those six games when Watson was lighting up scoreboards and helping lead the Texans to the #1 scoring offense in the NFL, Lamar Miller averaged 13.6 points per game. Had Watson not gotten hurt and Miller finished with that 13.6 average he would’ve finished as the eighth best fantasy running back in the NFL. Number eight. DeShaun Watson is now completely healthy again and is on schedule to start the season opener for the Texans in 2018.
You know who is not scheduled to be able to start the season opener? None other than D’Onta Foreman. He’s the second reason why Lamar Miller is ranked so low on so many other expert rankings. Foreman was a third round draft pick in 2017. He showed some promise as a rookie, but late in the season he tore his Achilles tendon and missed the final couple of weeks of the season. Foreman is young and should recover just fine. Still, a torn Achilles is a significant injury. It’s not crazy to think that Foreman may suffer some long-term effects from the injury.
The Truth is Miller Was Money With Watson In the Lineup
The fact that he won’t be ready for the season opener means that Lamar Miller will be running main man for the Texans’ offense until Foreman is healthy again. Most expert’s believe that Foreman will come back and completely took over the job from Miller. But that’s not reasonable; the Texans will surely want to ease Foreman back into the mix he’s the future of their backfield. You know why he’s the future? Because Lamar Miller is in a contract year! Another reason to love this guy.
Lamar Miller knows that if he wants any chance at a starting job next season he needs to perform well this year. He surely knows the market for running backs is not very good right now, but next off-season he’ll still only be 28 years old and he’s only had over 200 carries in three seasons so there will still be plenty left in the tank. Everyone knows the NFL is a what have you done lately for me kind of league.
Look no further than Odell Beckham Jr’s contract talks with the Giants. He’s one of the wide receivers in the league; certainly the best receiver under the age of 26. Yet, Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, two receivers in his draft class who he has greatly out-performed have gotten big-time contracts before him. That’s because he spent the majority of last season on injury reserve and this past off-season getting into the wrong kind of headlines. The point is that Lamar Miller’s contract negotiations next off-season will be largely based on what he does this year. When you’re talking about millions of dollars, I’d imagine that’s enough to highly motivate someone.
Back to D’Onta Foreman for a second though because he is such a big reason why Lamar Miller is not getting the love that he deserves. He ran well last year as a rookie, so well he ended up with a 4.2 yard per carry average. Better than Miller’s, but not drastically so. The primary reason that Foreman won’t end up taking over this backfield in 2018 is simply because he’s not a threat in the passing game. In three years in college he caught a total of 13 balls. This is important because the Texans’ offense with Watson at the helm was at it’s best when they put the ball in his hands. They’re going to want their best pass catching running back on the field and that’s unquestionably Lamar Miller. He caught 36 balls last year for 327 yards and three touchdowns.
In review let’s go over what we know. We know that many expert rankings are valuing Miller as a high-end RB3. Their primary concern for this low ranking is based off of his inefficiency in 2017 and D’Onta Foreman’s emergence. Lamar Miller averaged 3.7 yards per carry in 2017 behind the worst offensive line in the NFL according to ProFootballFocus. Foreman’s yard per carry average, while better than Miller’s, was not drastically so. He also did not have as many as attempts. We know that Lamar Miller has a four yard per carry average on his career and rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2016. With Watson starting at quarterback Lamar Miller was the eighth best fantasy football running back in the league.
We also know that D’Onta Foreman suffered a torn Achilles tendon and will likely not be ready to play in week one of the 2018 NFL season. Right now it is unknown when Foreman will be ready to play. Despite Foreman’s promise as a rookie he lacks the ability to be a threat in the passing game. He had only 13 total receptions in three years in college. Lamar Miller will continue to be involved in the passing game. We’ve witnessed, both Christian McCaffrey and Duke Johnson finish as Top 20 running backs despite getting less than 125 carries because of their work in the passing game. Even if Miller loses some carries to Foreman, his ability to stay involved in the passing game gives him a very reasonable floor to bank on.
Some very early mock drafts are having Lamar Miller go in the fifth and sixth rounds. That is an absolute steal. How many times can you say that you may have the chance to draft a starting running back on a Top 5 offense in the 5th round? The answer is never. And as of right now, Lamar Miller is very much the starting running back in Houston and they very much have the potential to be a Top 5 offense.
I view Miller finishing the 2018 fantasy football season somewhere between 14 and 18 among running backs. The upside is that of a low-end RB1 if Foreman isn’t able to come back as soon or as strong as the Texans would like. The DeShaun Watson effect also cannot be talked about enough because he makes the Texans’ offense scary good. Just how good? They scored 23 of their 40 total touchdowns in the seven games Watson started. That’s an average of 3.2 touchdowns per game. The final nine games of the season, they averaged 1.8 touchdowns. What that means is that the Texans scored 12 less touchdowns the final nine games of the season. It’s safe to say that some of extra touchdowns will go Lamar Miller.
Where is the love for Texans RB Lamar Miller? Don’t worry, I got some for him and if you want to help yourself to an excellent 2018 fantasy football season, you’ll be sure to send some love Miller’s way as well.
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