The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. We're interested in yards and points here. We began at No. 32, the NFL's least useful franchise (Oakland), and we're working our way toward the elite teams. These ranks are astonishingly accurate and highly collectible. Please enjoy them responsibly.
29. Miami Dolphins
No, we don't normally use cheerleader photos here on the fantasy blog -- even tasteful, artistic photos like the one above. But would you really be drawn to a fantasy preview of the Dolphins if it featured a shot of, say...Anthony Fasano(notes)?
Or Tony Sparano?
It's doubtful. And thus the issue with the 'Fins from a fantasy perspective begins to reveal itself. Recall that the Juggernaut Index is not about wins and losses. Miami may have been an 11-win team in '08, but they were not exactly loaded with high-end fantasy talent. The Dolphins had neither a 1,000-yard rusher nor a 1,000-yard receiver last year (or even an 800-yard receiver), and their quarterback finished 16th in per-game scoring. There simply aren't many pieces of the offense that you'll want to regularly start in your league in 2009, regardless of the scoring system.
Please keep reading, though. There's a second photo of the Miami cheer squad below!
(Please note T.D.'s prominent dorsal fin. It distinguishes him from lesser mascots).
Ronnie Brown(notes) will be the first Dolphin selected in your fantasy draft. He could also be the last if it's a smaller two-receiver format. Brown is currently the 15th running back taken overall in an average Yahoo! league, with an ADP of 41.1. At that price he carries little risk -- recall that Brown was the leading scoring at his position in '07, prior to the ACL injury -- and all the offseason reports have been positive. Check the Daily Dolphin's mini-camp wrap, for example:
Heading into a contract year, Brown looked fit, faster than ever and like he should be the team’s featured back, instead of splitting carries again.
Brown consistently beat the defense to the outside corner, split out wide and caught a long TD pass Saturday and handled most of the snaps out of the Wildcat. At 27, he looks poised for his best year yet.
Brown didn't have a 20-carry game after Week 9 last year, but it would be a surprise (and a mistake) if he didn't poach more carries from Ricky Williams(notes). Keep in mind, however, that Brown hasn't topped 274 touches in any NFL season -- not carries, but touches -- and he shared the rushing workload with Carnell Williams(notes) at Auburn. It hardly seems reasonable to forecast a 300-carry season for a back who hasn't hit 245 at any level over the past nine years.
It would also be a mild surprise if rookie QB Pat White(notes) didn't take over a significant share of the Wildcat responsibilities for Miami in '09. There's no obvious reason to draft White in non-dynasty leagues, but he could certainly prove entertaining. He had a terrific collegiate career at West Virginia, rushing for an absurd 4,480 yards while passing for 6,049, and he appears to be a natural fit for the Wildcat. He's not the most polished, NFL-ready passer you'll ever encounter, though. Let's return to the Daily Dolphin:
White put on passing display straight out of “Football Follies.” He threw one pass over the fence around the practice field, hit the cross bar with another and Bill Parcells’ golf cart too. He didn’t find many receivers.
So he's an unfinished product. The Dolphins will have the NFL's career leader in completion percentage under center in Week 1, so neither White nor second-year quarterback Chad Henne(notes) will be pressed into immediate service.
It's difficult to imagine Pennington ever having a better year than the one he just completed. He played all 16 games for just the second time in his career (there's a history of shoulder issues) and he averaged a personal-best 228.3 passing yards per game. Still, Pennington finished with a relatively modest TD total (19), and he's not expected to quarterback the team in 2010.
The 6-3, 230-pound Henne is perhaps the most interesting long-term QB option on the roster. Coach Sparano seems to think so, at any rate. This from the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero:
Sparano confirmed my report in today's Miami Herald that Chad Henne will be getting a lot of playing time in the coming preseason and, is in fact, the future of the franchise at QB. ... You might ask why all this love for Henne one year after Pennington had a stellar season? Why this eagerness to get him ready? Here's the most telling quote that should make you drool at the possibilities of a Miami passing game with Henne at the helm: "With him you see the ball jump off his hand," Sparano said.
While few of us are literally driven to drool by thoughts of a Henne-led offense, don't get so crazy with WildPat Fever that you completely ignore "the future of the franchise at QB."
Miami's wide receivers are an interesting group, though the team is without a marquee fantasy name. Three players caught at least 50 passes last year -- Greg Camarillo(notes), Ted Ginn Jr.(notes) and Davone Bess(notes) -- but no one caught 60. (Camarillo clearly would have were it not for the Week 12 knee injury; his recovery has reportedly gone well). Ginn has made pretty much everyone's preseason sleeper/breakout list because
fantasy experts travel in a herd he's entering the magical third year and he's been impressive without pads. The Yahoo! experts are actually split on Ginn; we can all agree that he does not have the ideal quarterback to maximize his deep-threat ability, though.
Bess became a sneaky PPR play following Camarillo's injury, catching at least six passes in four of the 'Fins final five games. He didn't drop a thing, either. Bess caught 72 percent of the passes intended for him, the fourth-best rate among wide receivers. Miami's third-round pick, 6-5 Patrick Turner(notes), is a future red zone target, but you can't reasonably expect much in '09.
Tight end Anthony Fasano found the end zone seven times last year despite catching just 34 passes. He peaked in Week 1, hauling in eight receptions for 84 yards and one TD, but he didn't catch more than three balls in any other week. David Martin(notes) was nearly as useful (31-450-3). Fasano is 17th in the preseason TE ranks. If no fewer than 17 tight ends need to be owned in your league, then he's clearly in play.
Other Dolphins notes: Be careful not to oversell strength of schedule -- the league can change dramatically from year to year, as the Dolphins proved in '08. But still, check out where Miami ranks. (.594!) It won't be a cakewalk. ... Gibril Wilson(notes) (134 tackles in '08) and Yeremiah Bell(notes) (120) project as useful IDPs; linebacker Channing Crowder(notes) (113) is a low-end option. Take a pass on Jason Taylor(notes). Joey Porter(notes) is an absolute delight. ... Let's not simply write-off the Wildcat as a one-year phenomenon. Yeah, the league has had a full offseason to prepare for it, but Miami has had a full offseason to scheme. It's a little surprising that defenses have generally allowed QBs to split wide and not suffer, though.... Center Jake Grove(notes) was a very nice add. If you're bullish on Ronnie Brown, Grove should be one of your talking points.
OK, admit it, you love this ranking. None of you would rate the Dolphins even one tick higher than No. 29. Let's hear some total agreement, commenters...
Photos via Getty Images