In the NFL, it’s a dangerous thing to count out any player or team. An offseason of training and scheming can turn any scrub into a Pro Bowler, any cellar-dweller into a champion (ok, maybe not the Bears). The same is true in fantasy; preconceived notions of who is “good” and who is “bad” can leave us surprised when players break out or regress.
A few confessions about the 2022 Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa is legit. Tyreek Hill is a star without Patrick Mahomes. Jaylen Waddle is still a threat. Mike McDaniel isn’t a Kyle Shannahan copycat. Miami’s offense is legit, and Sunday’s epic 42-38 win over the Ravens could represent their coronation as one of the NFL’s most dangerous units.
It’s Tua Time!
Part of the hesitancy to buy into the Dolphins, despite the high-profile additions of Hill and offensive tackle Terron Armstead, was how mediocre they’ve been in the past. The franchise hasn’t had a top ten finish in total points since 2001. Offense has simply been non-existent in South Beach since the days of Dan Marino. Last year’s Dolphins were certainly no exception: Miami was 22nd in scoring, with just two game finishes of over 30 points.
One of the biggest critiques of the Dolphins, their lack of a consistent passing game, is now one of their greatest strengths. Tua Tagovailoa, former top prospect out of Alabama, had gone from hero to zero during two disappointing, injury-plagued seasons to start his career. 2022 was (and still is) a make-or-break year to determine if he can be a future NFL starter. It’s safe to say that any concerns have been eased after Sunday’s performance.
Tagovailoa threw for 469 yards to go along with six touchdowns and two interceptions, leading the ‘Fins to a 21-point comeback victory in the fourth quarter. More impressive than anything this season has been Tua’s willingness to air it out. Having earned a reputation as a “dink and dunker,” the lefty has become a bonafide gunslinger in year three, going from 23rd in average yards per pass attempt to third in just one season. That kind of jump puts the Dolphins’ signal caller in elite company, right behind Josh Allen and just above Patrick Mahomes.
Is the new Tua here to stay? Expecting an all-time great passing season is generous, but the talent that once made headlines in college has finally shown at the professional level. Fantasy managers should feel confident enough to start Tua on a weekly basis, especially since the Dolphins don’t seem very committed to the run game (fifth fewest rushing attempts). With two dangerous weapons to throw to and a coach that puts his players in a position to succeed, the sky is the limit.
The McDaniel Method
An essential part of what makes Mike McDaniel one of football’s greatest offensive minds is quite simple: speed. Deebo Samuel‘s 365 rushing yards last season are a prime example of how offensive weapons are utilized in the McDaniel scheme. As 49ers offensive coordinator, McDaniel prioritized getting a strong horizontal push from the offensive line to make sure playmakers were getting the ball in open space. Whether it’s via an outside zone run or a West Coast-style slant, elite quickness to get to the edge of the field is paramount.
Luckily for McDaniel, there may be no faster team in football than Miami, and it starts on the outside. The dynamic duo of Hill and Waddle was on full display Sunday, with each putting up a 40-point performance in PPR leagues. Still, that number doesn’t do the pair justice; the two became the first pair of teammates to each record over 170 receiving yards and two touchdowns in the same game. To put it plainly, this is a once-in-a-generation duo as far as athleticism is concerned. With the kind of speed at wide receiver only seen in Madden, it’s also no wonder Tua has had so much success throwing the ball deep. While Hill and Waddle won’t both enjoy the massive amount of targets they each had last season, there’s enough touchdown upside for both of them to feast on a weekly basis.
As for the rushing game, what was once seen as Chase Edmonds‘ backfield now appears to be a committee after Raheem Mostert garnered 11 carries and three catches for 79 total yards. Should you count out Edmonds already? No, if only for Mostert’s injury history alone. It is strange that the front office rewarded Chase with a two-year, $12-million deal not to give him the full-time job, but McDaniel spent years as San Francisco’s running game coordinator. If anyone can get the best out of Mostert, it’s him. Having Edmonds occupy a similar role to the one he had in Arizona could work on this high-powered offense, but this is still a committee in flux.
While analysts like myself spent an entire summer worrying about target share and game script, it should have been apparent that the Miami offense was poised for a breakout. Will there be stumbles along the way? Probably. For all his knowledge, McDaniel is still a rookie head coach in the same division as the Super Bowl favorite Buffalo Bills. Defenses will adjust, and gameplans to neutralize Hill and Waddle will become more advanced with more tape. That doesn’t mean the ‘Fins should be doubted, especially with a much easier midseason schedule. It’s a new dawn in the Sunshine State, and these Dolphins are making a splash.