Summer Sleeper: Miami Dolphins

James Simpson


With training camps open around the NFL, we’re continuing our annual series focusing on a few sleepers from all 32 teams in the NFL. You can find all of the Summer Sleeper articles here.

These sleepers all have varying levels of “sleeperness,” but all merit a little more talking about here in the Premium Content section. Some of these players are deep dynasty sleepers who could merit a spot on your bench in a deep league, while others are players who may contribute a little faster than the deep prospects, but deserve more attention than they may be getting. By definition, a sleeper could mean something a little different to everyone, but we’re simply doing the best job we can to unearth one player from each team who fits the category in some way, shape or form.

We’ll never insult you with a comprehensive list of “sleepers” which include such such dynasty mainstay names as Toby Gerhart, Christine Michael or Cordarrelle Patterson. You’re all too good for that.

While many of these players will undoubtedly fizzle, there’s more value in looking more closely at these deeper prospects and players. We invite you to keep an open mind and either or re-assess your value on those who may be rostered in your league or consider adding a few of these deeper prospects we focus on this Summer who are free agents in your league – after all, some are destined to pan out, too.

Feel free to add your own comments about our choice for the designated sleeper, or nominate one of your own!

If you are looking for an undervalued rookie in Miami who is a great football player and will contribute early, then Jarvis Landry is your guy. I expect him to easily outperform his ADP (WR62) and was an obvious choice for this series. However, I am going a little deeper with this summer sleeper. The undrafted rookie I would like to bring to your attention hasn’t appeared in any of DLF’s ADP Data and may not even be owned in any of your leagues, but is still a talented runner with a chance to prove he is NFL-worthy in the coming months.

Damien Williams, RB (not to be confused with Damian Williams, WR,also of the Dolphins)

As we begin this journey, Mr/Mrs. Reader, I have two questions for you:

1. Will you be drafting or acquiring Knowshon Moreno this offseason?

2. Are you truly convinced that Lamar Miller can be ‘the guy’ in Miami?

If you answered no to either/both, then read on…

Before I get into what Williams can do, I want to be clear that situation and volume can be the biggest drivers of a running back’s fantasy success. How often a team runs the ball, how well they run it and whether or not they commit to a lead back essentially dictate the amount of points a back will score. Of course, more talented players do better with what they are given, but it is not always a case of the best backs scoring the most points. Given the right opportunity, many running backs can thrive; whether they are drafted in the first round or not at all.

With that in mind, the situation in the Miami backfield is extremely unclear. Who will get the carries? Miller will certainly start the season as the number one but was far from convincing last year, and Moreno hasn’t exactly enjoyed the best start to his Dolphins career. 2013’s second-stringer Daniel Thomas certainly doesn’t seem to be equipped to start in this league and I believe there is a space for a new talent to emerge as part of a new system.

We don’t yet know how new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor will run his offense given his mixed coaching background, but history suggest the Dolphins will shift to more of a run-centric offense than they have had in recent years and pick up the pace while they are at it. If that is indeed the case and the offense comes close to what we saw from Chip Kelly in Philadelphia last season, Lazor will require a running back who can stay on the field to run, block and catch. Can Williams be that guy?

Williams’ stats at Oklahoma:


A smooth runner with a fantastic burst of pace, he has a knack for big runs. He was the only FBS player to have four runs of 65 yards or more in 2012, including a 95-yard run against Texas – the longest run in the history of the Red River Rivalry (featuring a great block by former Sooner Kenny Stills). You may say “but James, Lamar Miller is really fast as well!” which is true, however Williams shows some things Miller hasn’t – great balance and toughness to grind out yards in short yardage situations. With 18 touchdowns in 22 college games, he also has a nose for the end zone.

Pass-catching ability is also a strength of Williams’ game that will be beneficial in his fight to make the roster and compete for playing time. He fits naturally into today’s pass-happy NFL, catching the ball well on screen passes, flares and wheel routes. The Eagles offense last year allowed LeSean McCoy to thrive in the passing game (his yards per reception average was 7.2 before 2013 but jumped to 10.4 last year) and Lazor will want to replicate that improvement in Miami, where Miller averaged just 6.5 yards per reception last year.

Damien Williams could quite easily be another talented player with off-the-field issues who doesn’t put it all together, but any backfield with uncertainty means there is an opportunity. Lamar Miller will be given every opportunity to prove he can be a lead back, but in deep drafts, I love Williams as a late flier. If you can’t find a space for him, be sure to keep an eye on the Dolphins throughout the preseason for any signs of Williams ascending up the depth chart.


james simpson