We all know how it starts… it’s the off season. You haven’t given football much thought since after the draft over a month ago. The Super Bowl is a distant memory. You’re hanging out with friends, relaxing, drinking a few beers maybe barbequing as the weather begins to warm. That familiar smell of the grill, the soothing scent of freshly cut grass is almost enough to lull you into a false sense that you might be fine with football starting four months from now… Then someone brings up their sleeper, the guy they think will explode this year… and all of a sudden you find yourself in a heated debate, a fray… you banter, deny, argue, and more often than not scream as you attempt to hammer out points on which player/s you think will break out in the upcoming season. And just like that you ignite the fantasy flame extinguished on that fateful night your fantasy championship game concluded. If you are as much of a fantasy junkie as I am, you love touting “your” player. Hell, you may even get carried away and make a few bets. That’s what makes fantasy football such a beautiful thing. Even in the dregs of the off season we still have exciting topics to throw around. I, like you, have a few breakout players for 2013. Let’s add a little fuel to your offseason fire.
Recently in my fantasy circles, the debate has been bubbling around David Wilson and Lamar Miller. These two young players flashed last year and hold incredible promise for this upcoming season as they are set to assume a larger role for their respective teams. As a Miami Dolphins fan I will attempt to put my bias aside and look only at the subjective data. This may prove to be especially hard for me as I have been banging the Miller drum in my own leagues for the past year.
According to Fantasypros.com Wilson is being drafted at 35 overall, Miller at 40. In 12 owner leagues, this means Wilson is coming off the board at 2.09 and Miller at the 3.03 respectively! Is this madness? In order to find out let’s delve into the numbers. Both players had very similar combine / pro day statistics, so I won’t bore you by listing them all out.
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Take a look at David Wilson. Wilson is 22 years old, and was a late first round pick of the New York Giants out of Virginia Tech in 2012. He played three seasons for the Hokies from 2009 through 2011. Each year he increased both his carries and receptions. Over his college career he had 462 attempts for 2,662 yards, averaging a 5.8 ypc and scoring 18 TD’s. He was proficient in the passing game hauling in 37 receptions for 363 yards, a 9.8 yard average to go along with 5 receiving TD’s. Simply put, he was a highly productive, efficient work horse back in the ACC. Those characteristics translated smoothly to the NFL. His explosion and game breaking speed were evident last year when he took over for an injured Ahmad Bradshaw and started two games. In very limited action, Wilson had 71 attempts for 358 yds, a 5.0 ypc and 4 receptions for 34 yds, 8.4 ypr. He also scored 5 total TD’s.
While those stats are great, Wilson is not without his warts. What kept him off the field last year was his lack of pass protection skills and proficiency for fumbling. Should he improve in those areas he will get the majority of first and second down work in 2013 with Andre Brown spelling him. Greater evidence for the ascension of Wilson is that the Giants let Bradshaw walk in free agency and have not yet brought in competition.
In comparison, Lamar Miller, also 22, was a fourth round pick out of the University of Miami by the Miami Dolphins. He played two seasons at the U from 2010 through 2011. Miller carried 355 attempts for 1,918 yards, equaling a 5.7 ypc, and rushing for 15 TD’s. He caught a total of 28 receptions for 181 yds, a 6.5 ypr and 1 TD. His game did not translate directly to the NFL as he sat for much of the season. However Miller is a big back who possesses blazing straight line speed, and later in the season he spelled Reggie Bush and it became hard to tell the two apart. Miller mirrored the elusiveness and explosion into the second level that Bush has made highlights out of his two years in MIA. Miller, also in limited action attempted 51 rushes for 250 yds, a 4.9 ypc with 1 TD. He also caught 6 passes for 45 yds, a 7.5 ypr.
Miller, akin to Wilson, struggled in pass protection, while also possessing a disappointing problem of struggling to grasp the playbook. With all the hype Miller has been receiving from GM Jeff Ireland, coupled with the departure of Bush to Detroit, it would seem on the surface as if the starting RB job is all but Miller’s to lose. Unfortunately the Dolphins also have Daniel Thomas as a goal line and short yardage back, and used a 2013 draft pick on Mike Gillislee. In all honesty I can see Miller grabbing a stranglehold on the starting job; and yet I can just as easily envision a messy time share between the three where the Fins play the hot hand.
I wanted so badly to come out of this article affirming my belief that Lamar Miller possessed the intangibles to be a better fantasy RB this year than David Wilson, but after reading that last paragraph on Miller a few times, and pondering the offensive situations of both the Fins and G-men I think I have to begrudgingly give the edge to Wilson. He showed exquisite speed in games last year and brought a tantalizing element reminiscent of C.J Spiller to the NYG offense. He has an “elite” qb and passing game to really open up the running lanes for him. While the offense in MIA has promise, it lacks a proven track record. In Wilson we know exactly what we are getting in both him and that offense. If he can stand up to the pass rush, he has the chance to be a stud RB2 with RB1 upside. In my personal opinion, I feel that if you are one of the fantasy owners buying into the hype, Wilson offers both the higher ceiling and floor between the two. Based on where you’re being forced to draft these two players Wilson presents the less risky pick.
So what do you think? Which of these guys do you want on your team? And who are the guys you and your friends have already thrown a few wagers on this off season?