3 Week 6 Storylines to Watch: Is Regression Coming for Lamar Miller?

A fantasy football darling this offseason, Miller has yet to score a touchdown. With a soft schedule coming up, can we expect things to change?

In Week 5 we saw "Angry Tom Brady" shred the lowly Cleveland Browns' secondary for more than 400 yards, the Minnesota Vikings continue their absolute dominance against the Houston Texans, the San Diego Chargers find yet another way to lose a close game, and the Atlanta Falcons go on the road and beat the previously undefeated Denver Broncos.

Touching on last week's article, DeMarco Murray had another solid, all-purpose day (137 yards) against the Miami Dolphins, while both Jamaal Charles and Jimmy Graham were on bye.

We've got some very interesting narratives lined up for Week 6, so let's get to it.

Still Waiting for Lamar Miller

When Lamar Miller left the Miami for Houston, the expectation was that he would finally get the workload we all believed he deserved. And through five weeks, Miller has seen the fifth-most carries in the league (101). The problem is he has yet to score a touchdown on his 115 total touches.

In fact, Miller is only the eighth running back in the post-merger era to accumulate 100 or more touches in the first 8 games of a season without scoring a touchdown. This lack of scoring has relegated him to the overall RB22 in PPR scoring formats, per Fantasy Data.

Since head coach Bill O’Brien assumed play calling duties in Week 4, Miller’s share has decreased dramatically, including last week against Minnesota when Miller touched the ball just 9 times. The Texans went down 24-0 in the first half last week, which could explain Miller’s limited involvement, but the precipitous drop is still worth noting.

Miller’s sub-par efficiency should also be noted -- ranking 20th in Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) among 25 running backs with 50 or more carries.

In his four seasons with the Dolphins, Miller scored a touchdown on 2.9 percent of his carries, so positive regression could very well be coming along with the return of left tackle Duane Brown.

And with three of Houston’s next four opponents -- the Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions and Jacksonville Jaguars -- ranking in the bottom-four against the run according to our schedule-adjusted metrics, there’s hope for fantasy owners banking on a turnaround.

LeGarrette Blount With Tom Brady Back

Without Tom Brady in the first four weeks of the season, LeGarrette Blount was the unquestioned centerpiece of the New England Patriots' offense. Now with Brady back in the fold, it seems logical that the Pats will go more pass-heavy, featuring one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history.

In the Patriots’ three wins through Week 4, Blount averaged 25 carries, 99 yards rushing, and 1.3 touchdowns per game. In last week’s win against Cleveland, Brady’s return game, Blount posted a meager 18-carry, 37-yard, 1-touchdown stat line.

Despite being a relatively small sample size, over the course of 17 games since 2015, Blount has been a much better fantasy asset without Brady in the lineup:

Although Blount has seen the requisite volume to be considered a bell-cow running back and somewhat reliable fantasy starter, he has been woefully inefficient given his massive workload -- ranking 22nd in Rushing NEP per attempt among 25 running backs with 50 or more carries.

If there’s a quarterback in the league who could be considered “the tide that lifts all ships,” Brady is it. But with a capable pass-catcher like James White -- who saw a 48-percent snap share compared to 39 percent for Blount last week -- back in the mix and the impending return of Dion Lewis, it’s possible that we’ve seen the ceiling for Blount in terms of consistent upside from week to week.

Derek Carr Bordering on Elite

The evolution of Derek Carr since entering the league in 2014 -- and especially so far this season -- has been astounding to watch. His pure counting stats have consistently improved every season:

Year Games Completion % paYDS paTDS INTs AY/A
2014 16 58.1 3270 21 12 5.3
2015 16 61.1 3987 32 13 7.1
2016 5 66.8 1383 11 2 7.8

He’s also improved in terms of our NEP metrics.

Year Drop Backs Passing NEP Passing NEP/P Passing Success Rate
2014 622 -40.94 -0.07 41.0%
2015 604 38.37 0.06 44.2%
2016 198 58.53 0.30 48.5%

Carr is the only quarterback to start every game who can claim two top-12 fantasy wide receivers this season -- Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree -- and has been the top-graded quarterback when blitzed and when under pressure this season according to Pro Football Focus.

The underwhelming list of defensive backfields that Carr has faced so far this season are worth noting -- three in the bottom-half of our pass defense metrics adjusted for strength of schedule -- with three of his next four opponents ranking in the top-eight by the same measure, so things will get markedly more difficult in the short term.

But for now, Carr is making consistent strides aided by a top-end pair of wide receivers. If he navigates through a tough section of schedule over the next month, we will have to have a discussion about where he ranks in the upper-echelon of NFL quarterbacks.