by Hayden Gibson

Lamar Miller| RB | #26 | Houston Texans

Height: 5'10"

Weight: 225

Bye Week: 9

2015 Stats:

Attempts: 194

Rusing Yards: 871

Rushing Touchdowns: 8

2016 Standard Rank:  3rd

A Look At Lamar Miller

Lamar Miller has become one of my favorite running backs during the offseason.  This is evident by my rankings where I have him at 3rd among RBs.  So it is only right that I go in depth and explain my man crush of 2016.  So buckle up and enjoy the ride.

College & Combine
So let us go back to where it all started.  Miller played his college ball at the University of Miami in 2010 and 2011.  Miller was a fantastic college football running back as he average 5.7 yards per carry and scored 17 total touchdowns.  He posted the best 40 time among RBs at the 2012 NFL combine with a time of 4.40.  In his college film you can see that his 4.40 forty time translates very well as he has the speed to hit a homerun from anywhere on the field.  I want to say that the feeling around the league when Miller was coming out was he would strictly be a speed back likely to be a in a committee.  Another concern was his size.  At 5 foot 10 weighing 212 coming out of college he would have been a slightly undersized back and how he would hold up in the NFL was unknown.  The Dolphins seen enough in him to invest a 4th round pick but as you will see soon they did not use him like many fans wanted them to. 

Playing Style
Miller has made some adjustments to his playing style since entering the league.  While in college Miller was a very exciting back to watch for some of the reasons mentioned above.  However, the one thing I did notice about his running style in college was he liked to run with his body straight up and down.  This is fine when you are in open space but he did this frequently when approaching the line of scrimmage.  When running straight up and down a back cannot use his pads to protect himself.  I am sure you have heard the phrase of a running back running behind his pads.  This just refers to a ball carrier getting pad level which give defenders a smaller target to hit while giving the ball carrier more power to break through arm tackles.  This also helps protect the ball carrier from potential injuries.  A running back that is strictly an upright runner typically doesn’t last very long in the league and this was a big concern among scouts when Miller was coming out.  Looking at Miller play today you can tell he has improved a ton and is on the verge of becoming one of the more complete backs in the league.  He has bulked up to 225 pounds and still has that track speed that translates to him being a threat to score from anywhere on the field.  The more opportunities he has gotten in the passing game the past few years the more apparent it is that he is a natural pass catcher.  He looks very comfortable catching the football on screen plays, on check downs, and on arguably the most difficult route a RB will run a wheel route.  He is protecting the ball more and is showing more willingness to run behind his pads, but he still has plenty of runs in between the tackles where is still running more upright for my liking.  In my opinion Miller has grown enough and has the ability to be a great three down back in this league.  I could see him becoming a back that plays the game like Jamaal Charles.  If I had to choose a player to compare Miller to Charles would be the guy without a doubt.

Since entering the league Lamar Miller has had no injuries that have caused him to miss time on the field.  In fact he has played in all 16 games each of the last three seasons.  He does have the occasional nagging injuries but that comes with playing the running back position.  Sometimes having a running back that you can rely on playing each week could give you all the value you need at that position.  Just last season if you were able to withstand the brutal injuries we had at running back then you likely were a contender in your league.  Miller’s durability has to hold a lot of value and cannot be over looked.

Miller’s usage in Miami
I stated previously that Miller was not used how football fans would have liked during his time in Miami.  We have been teased by the previous coaching staff in Miami that Miller would be a workhorse back for the Dolphins.  Fans and especially people in the fantasy football community have been dying to see this since Miller is recognized as one of the most explosive backs in the league.  Despite the Dolphins telling us Lamar Miller was their guy in the backfield they continued to underutilize him each of the past two seasons.  If a team comes out and states they plan on using a guy as their feature back I expect to see him get around 20 touches per game.  Miller averaged 15 touches over the past two season which in my opinion better describes a lead back in a committee or a running back on a team that doesn't look to utilize the running back as a key piece of the offense but more of a complimentary piece.  Just to make a comparison, last season Chris Ivory averaged 18 touches per game and Jonathan Stewart averaged nearly 20 touches per game.  I think we can all agree that Miller is a better talent than both of those backs.  Players that had a similar workload to Miller last year included Rashard Jennings and Ronnie Hillman who were both stuck in a running back by committee system.  Even Giovani Bernard averaged 13 touches per game despite playing second fiddle behind Jeremy Hill.  If I was running the offense in Miami Miller would have played a very key role in my plans.  In 2015 Miller was not consistently used for example he reached 20 touches in a game 5 times and had 10 or less touches in 4 games.  There is no reason that arguably your best weapon on your offense should get 10 or less touches in 25% of the games you play.  Miller was able to average 0.71 fantasy points per touch in standard last year.  Freeman and Peterson the top two running backs in fantasy averaged 0.68 and 0.61 fantasy points per touch respectively.  Two notable guys that had a higher average than Miller were David Johnson with 1.08 points per touch and DeAngelo Williams with 0.75 points per touch.  Numbers show that on a per touch basis Lamar Miller was outperforming Adrian Peterson one of the most elite options in the league but thanks to Miami’s poor usage of him we will never know what Miller could have been in the 2015 season. 

How RBs are used in Houston
Now that Lamar Miller is in Houston let's take a look at how they have used their running backs the past couple of season to get some expectations for Lamar Miller's workload this year.  Bill O'Brien has been the head coach in Houston since 2014 and the offense under him has been very run heavy.  In 2014 they ranked 1st in the league in rushing attempts with 551 attempts and ranked 5th in 2015 with 472.  It is important to note that they did not have a very good running back situation last year especially after Foster was lost for the season.  Foster basically was a full go in three games last season as they eased him back in the first game he was active, but in those three games he had no restrictions he touched the ball 74 times.  Despite being largely ineffective with his touches the offense continued to lean heavily on Foster when he was healthy even though they have one of the best WRs in the game with DeAndre Hopkins.  After Foster went down they were leaning on a committee of Alfred Blue, Chris Polk, and Johnathan Grimes to lead the backfield.  Which are not the most talented guys around but they continued to use the RB position as all these guys combined for 338 rushing attempts and accumulated 57 receptions in 2015.  O'Brien seems to be a coach that is going to get his running back involved no matter who is back there and with Miller being the top RB in Houston I think we will finally see him get the big workload we were all calling for in Miami. 

What to expect
I obviously have high expectations for Lamar Miller this year as I have him locked in as my third ranked running back.  I think Houston will continue to heavily use their running backs since they are still lacking a proven signal caller.  Hopkins will still get his and will be one of the most valuable WRs in the league but with Miller entering the prime of his career I could see him getting an Arian Foster type of workload this season.  I think a fair number of touches to expect would be 18-20 per game and if that is the case we will be talking about Lamar Miller entering the elite category in fantasy this time next year.  If he does in fact get that kind of workload 10 total touchdowns and 1,500-1,600 total yards will be very obtainable and he will finish as one of the top RBs in fantasy.  In my opinion owners should be considering Miller in the late first round of drafts this year. So if you are able to land him in the second round consider it a steal because I am a firm believer Miller can and will finish as a top 10 player this year.  Miller finished last season as the 6th ranked running back in fantasy with a workload of a committee back.  Now that he is in Houston he will get that big and will emerge as a star.  So hop on the bandwagon while there is still room.