July 07, 2008
The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here. No, here we just care about imaginary winning. If an NFL team gains lots of yardage, limits turnovers, and scores when they reach the red zone, then you'll want to own their skill position players in fantasy leagues. You'll find those teams at the top of the Juggernaut Index. We began at No. 32, the worst of the worst, and we're working our way to the elite fantasy offenses.
These rankings rely on hard, incontrovertible math. There are algorithms at work. This stuff is peer-reviewed. Seasons are simulated. You can't argue with science, so don't even try...
29. Miami Dolphins
Ronnie Brown was a top 25 fantasy running back last season.
Under normal circumstances, that's not too impressive...but it's pretty good for a guy who only played six and a half games.
Brown was leading the NFL in yards from scrimmage when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 7. He was leading all RBs in fantasy points, too. Brown entered the Dolphins' October 21 game against the Patriots with four consecutive 100-yard rushing efforts to his credit, and he was on pace for a fifth (76 yards, 17 carries). He left Week 7 in the third quarter, and had season-ending surgery on November 1.
If Brown had remained healthy last year, he would be a mid-first round pick in 2008 drafts. But since he enters the season recovering from the injury, and there's a job-share with Ricky Williams looming, he's falling in early drafts. His current ADP at Mock Draft Central is only 32.7, which makes him the No. 19 running back.
We know, of course, that running backs can fully recover from ACL injuries. In fact, the first two rounds of your draft will feature a few backs who've had work done on various ACLs (Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, Jamal Lewis). Brown is aiming for a remarkably quick comeback to full strength, though. When the Dolphins open the regular season, it will have been just over ten months since his surgery. Brown says he'll be 100 percent by Week 1, but we'd all like to see evidence of his 100 percentedness before spending a top 20 draft pick.
The 31-year-old Williams is draft-worthy right now, and he's a necessary handcuff. His current ADP is 157.1, squarely in the Derrick Ward/Ladell Betts range. Williams at least sounds determined, and he's impressed a few observers this summer:
During inside run drills Ricky Williams continued to run hard ... I suspect he's going to have a really good year this season because he appears fast, and has been beating everyone to the outside corner on the sweeps.
Miami's offensive line was unexpectedly effective last season, thanks at least in part to the play of rookie center Samson Satele. The Dolphins were hammered over the Wes Welker trade, but Satele is the result (and it's not like Lemon, Beck and Green were going to get Welker the ball 112 times). Miami also added 6-7 tackle Jake Long, the top overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.
There's going to be room for Williams and Brown to run, which should please new head coach Tony Sparano. With the Cowboys in 2006, Sparano called plays for an offense that produced a 1,000 yard season for Julius Jones and 16 TDs for Marion Barber.
Of course, there's no point making any Dolphins-Cowboys comparisons. We're a long way from discussing Dallas here in the Juggernaut Index, and we've got Miami at 29 because their RBs are the only draftable players, at least in public leagues.
There's an ongoing quarterback battle between John Beck and Josh McCown, and rookie Chad Henne could be Miami's starter by the end of the season. They've all been described as somebody's "favorite to start" at some point. The battle won't be settled until Miami has played a few games that don't count.
McCown won fantasy titles for some of us back in 2004, not that you asked. He offers the greatest potential value boost to second-year burner Ted Ginn Jr., but you're still not starting any Miami receivers in Week 1 in a 10- or 12-team league. Ernest Wilford does basically nothing after the catch (2.3 YAC in '07), but at 6-4, he's a credible red zone target. Third-year receiver Derek Hagan is a final-round flier in the deepest leagues. Neither David Martin nor Anthony Fasano, the tight ends atop Miami's depth chart, enter the season with fantasy relevance. They're nowhere to be found in our TE rankings.
You didn't expect a team coming off a 1-15 season to be ranked any higher than 29, right? Good. Then please express your obvious satisfaction in comments.
2007 Miami Dolphins team stats
Rushing: 98.1 Y/G
Passing: 189.4 Y/G
Points per game: 16.7
Red Zone possessions and TDs: 39, 20
'08 Schedule strength: .465
The rest of the Index...