by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There were high hopes for Lamar Miller, after he signed a 4 year, $26 million contract to leave Miami and head to Houston. Finally he was set to be utilized as a lead back, something we never truly saw while he was playing for the Dolphins.
In that regard the move was successful, as Miller set a career high with 268 carries in just 14 games. However the production wasn’t there, as he managed 1,073 yards. The number may seem solid, but he averaged 4.0 yards per carry so he was hardly efficient with the ball in hands and was instead a product of a heavy workload and a lack of alternatives (Alfred Blue was the second most utilized runner, with 100 carries, but he too struggled with 4.2 yards per carry).
Miller, who caught 47 passes in his final season in Miami, turned 40 targets into 31 receptions and 188 yards (6.1 yards per reception. Throw in 6 total touchdowns, and it’s hard to label it as anything but a disappointment.
The Texans did take a step in the right direction this offseason, jettisoning Brock Osweiler and freeing up the quarterback spot. You could argue that the poor production there (Houston QBs totaled just a 59.5% completion rate and 5.9 yards/attempt) played a large role in the struggles of the running game. Opposing defenses could focus on stopping Miller and company, because they knew that the quarterbacks weren’t going to be able to beat them.
Selecting Deshaun Watson with the 12th pick should provide an improvement, though is it a guarantee? Regardless of how successful he was over his college career Watson is still a rookie, and one who many questioned whether or not could immediately step in and take the reigns of an NFL offense. If he’s not ready to hit the ground running, that would mean Tom Savage would likely be penciled in as the Week 1 starter. Is that really an improvement?
Then you have the Texans’ addition of D’Onta Freeman in the draft, giving them another viable option at running back. Listed at 6’1” and 249 lbs., he’s coming off a 2,028 yard, 15 TD season at Texas (averaging 6.3 yards per carry). Maybe his presence will help to keep Miller healthy, but with his size and strength it’s also easy to imagine Freeman emerging as a touchdown vulture. At the end of the day, that’s going to help to limit Miller’s upside.
Maybe Miller bounces back and emerges as a top running back, but there are significant questions facing him:
- Can the quarterback play keep defenses honest?
- How many carries per game will he receive?
- Will he lose TD to his new rookie compliment?
Those things help keep Miller as an upside RB2, and one that it’s fair to be skeptical about.
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com
Make sure to check out our early 2017 Rookie Rankings: