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First Down: Miller/Thomas could be headed for dreaded timeshare

Brad Evans
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Thomas is becoming a thorn in the side of Miller enthusiasts. (USAT)

Pulled from the ‘Are you (expletive) serious?’ file, the Miami Herald and Palm Beach Post are reporting the Dolphins are indeed locked in a RB controversy.

Face meet palm.

As most in Fantasyland salivated over the prospects of presumed starter Lamar Miller, ‘Fins GM Jeff Ireland has repeatedly talked up third-year plodder Daniel Thomas this summer, predicting a ‘large role’ and ‘breakout season’ for the running back just last week. His statements, thought to be nothing more than outlandish bluster, was as much dumb as it was dumbfounding, but it appears the competition is indeed undecided. From Armando Salguero of the Hearald:

Ask coach Joe Philbin if the starting job is open, and he interrupts the query before it reaches the question mark.

“Absolutely,” Philbin said Tuesday.

That answer came only minutes after the Dolphins finished their first regular-season-style practice in preparation for Saturday night’s dress rehearsal game in which starters will play into the second half against Tampa Bay at Sun Life Stadium.

And in this important practice leading up to this important exhibition game, running backs Lamar Miller and Daniel Thomas shared first-team snaps in 11-on-11 drills…

“If you have a No. 1 running back and a No. 2 that’s a distant 2 it’s probably not as good as a 1 and a 1A,” offensive coordinator Mike Sherman said. “I think we have a 1 and 1A so we have two really good ones, or have a chance to be.”

Sigh.

Thomas has proven very little in his un-illustrious NFL career. He’s sloughed his way to numerous three-yard gains (3.5 career YPC), gotten stonewalled often at the goal-line (27 career atts inside 10, four TDs), been saddled with a nasty case of fumblitis and has made few tacklers miss (7.9 career missed-tackle percentage). Granted, he looked much improved in Miami’s last preseason game, but compared to Miller, he’s a hamburger sans toppings – very plain.

The sophomore back, conversely, has the look of a beaming fantasy star. He’s elusive, fast through the hole, more versatile and a better cut-back runner. His 4.9 yards per carry and respectable 11.2 missed tackle rate from last year are evidence of what he brings to the table. Unfortunately, uncharacteristic mistakes made this preseason (fumbles, poor reads and sketchy pass protection) have tarnished his image in the eyes of Philbin. As stated above, the organization still thinks highly of him, but through two exhibition games he's failed to take advantage of the opportunity.

Until the fog on South Beach lifts, it’s wise to knock Miller (31.6 ADP, RB19) down a few spots in your rankings. Again, the talent is there, but he simply can’t afford a marginal effort in the Fins’ dress rehearsal Saturday vs. Tampa. If he stumbles, a full-blown timeshare of unsavory distribution would likely be in the offing. Even if Miller does gain some distance this weekend, Thomas (151.6 ADP, RB56) will likely be thrown to the wolves near the goal-line, limiting the buzzy RB’s chances of reaching double-digit scores.

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In other devastating news, Jay Glazer reports Le'Veon Bell has suffered a Lisfranc sprain. Yesterday, reports surfaced suggesting the projected top rookie RB had dodged the potential season-ending injury, but now his status is very much in doubt. If he can avoid surgery, a return in six weeks is the best case scenario. He's expected to receive a second opinion on his foot imminently.

With Bell likely toast, the Steelers RB situation has gone from promising to dire. Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman were root canal-exciting last year averaging well-under 7.0 fantasy points per game in standard formats. Best guess: Dwyer/Redman will split early down work with LaRod Stephens-Howling sprinkled in on third downs. In other words, it's an avoidable backfield situation.

If there's any silver lining in light of Bell's loss, Ben Roethlisberger will be leaned on heavily, possibly exceeding 550 pass attempts this year. That happens, Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown should emerge as reliable fantasy starters in 12-team leagues.

Finally, a bit of positive news. As first reported by Adam Schefter, prized rusher Arian Foster was activated from the PUP list early Wednesday. Sidelined with calf/back injuries, he is expected to return to the practice field in short order. Ben Tate is slated to start Houston's preseason clash against New Orleans this week, but if all goes smoothly, Foster should be ready to shoulder the load Week 1.

It's time for the skittishness to cease. In a run-first system tailored perfectly to his skills, the multi-time Pro Bowler still deserves top-five recognition. Tate will ease the burden, but another 22-25 touches per game for Foster are on the menu.

Want to bull rush Brad? Find him on Twitter. Also, check out the Yahoo! Fantasy and Rotoworld crew every Thursday (FYI, we're off this week) on 'Fantasy Football Live' starting at 6:30 PM ET on NBC Sports Network (Find channel here) and online at Yahoo! Sports (Watch here)

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