Why You Can Trust Lamar Miller in Fantasy Football This Year

Lamar Miller cashed in on his opportunity in 2014. Here's why he can do it again in 2015.

It's been stated before, but the first few rounds in a fantasy draft are integral to constructing a successful fantasy team.

It becomes even more evident after reading JJ Zachariason's breakdown of running back bust rates and seeing just how often those early round "safe" bets can falter.

Understanding the inherent risk at every turn of the draft can help separate yourself from the pack as you construct your roster. Mitigating these risks with players who have high floors is a smart way to avoid such risks while investing your early draft capital.

Miami Dolphins running back Lamar Miller isn't a name that comes to mind quite often when thinking of these early fantasy "building blocks" to draft but is exactly one of these high floor-type players who can help your team with a consistent, effective output.

Opportunity on the Horizon

Finally, for the first time in his career, Miller enters 2015 as the top running back on the depth chart. After sitting behind Reggie Bush while simultaneously trying to keep Knowshon Moreno and Daniel Thomas at bay, Miller now finds himself comfortably in his role running with the first-team offense.

Off the heels of rushing for 1,099 yards and 8 touchdowns, Miller is in line to receive once again the lion's share of the carries as he rushed with purpose last year, picking up 5.1 yard per carry.

In fact, Miller has reportedly added weight to bulk up as he prepares to better himself for a feature role in offensive coordinator Bill Lazor's offense.

Last year, the Dolphins ranked in the bottom-10 in rushing percentage, running the ball only 38.37% of the time, yet Miami had the second highest yards per rush mark at 4.7. This low-volume but effective rushing attack could see a sizable change in 2015.

With the offseason additions the Dolphins have made to their new-look offense -- adding Kenny Stills, Greg Jennings, Jordan Cameron, and first-round pick DeVante Parker -- things could change in a hurry. If Ryan Tannehill is able to progress after another year in Lazor's offense and give the Dolphins an early lead in games, Miller could be called upon late to ice the games away, pounding the rock as they alter from 2014's game scripts.

Even with the addition of rookie Jay Ajayi, the offensive rushing attack will still flow through Lamar Miller. Out of all Miami running backs last year, Miller consisted of 64.7% of the team's market share in rushing attempts, a healthy gap over their second leading rusher, Daniel Thomas, at 13.2%.

While Ajayi has every-down running back potential, Lamar Miller should keep the rookie at bay after his impressive 2014 season that earned him the coaching staff's trust.

Lazor's offense didn't necessarily feature the running back in a prominent receiving role, but Miller was still able to have 52 targets thrown his way, hauling in 38 in the process. Displaying his versatility in that facet as well, Miller was able to see 15.88 touches per game -- a number that may rise if the hype around Miller in the feature role proves to be true.

Production Balanced with Efficiency

Miller was able to get the best of both worlds last year, as he capitalized on his opportunities with productivity and efficiency.

Out of the 43 running backs that had at least 100 carries last year, Miller ranked near the top in almost all of numberFire's metrics.

NEP -- or Net Expected Points -- is numberFire's signature metric that quantifies a player's production versus what is expected of them on a given play. These numbers can provide a sense of efficiency of just how well a player is performing against his peers.

RushesRushing YardsRushing NEPRushing NEP/CarrySuccess RateTotal NEP
Lamar Miller216109913.69 (7th)0.06 (6th)47.44% (4th)24.95 (10th)

Ranking in the top 10 among running backs in all our rushing metrics, Miller was an incredibly efficient rusher last year. His Rushing NEP and Rushing NEP per carry were impressive, but his Success Rate -- plays that went for positive NEP -- was near the top of all 100-plus carry backs.

Miller was efficient and effective and even contributed to the passing game, picking up 38 receptions for 275 yards and a score.

There's a common misconception the Dolphins drafted Ajayi to supplement Miller in the red zone and on short conversions, where they could better utilize Ajayi's violent, purposeful rushing style to convert in these opportunities. These assumptions, however, are misled.

Taking a look at Miller's red zone statistics from last year, he proved to be quite adept at finding paydirt. From the opponent's 5-yard line or closer, Miller converted six of 14 rushing attempts for scores, punching in nearly half his carries for touchdowns. Tannehill was also 6 of 8 targeting him in the red zone picking up an additional touchdown through the air.

Miller was also an extremely competent runner when the money was on the line. When facing 3rd and 1, Miller had a success rate of 83%, tops among all running backs with at least 10 attempts according to Pro Football Focus.

Miller also had a knack for the long ball, as he led the league in rushes that gained five or more yards. 43.1% of his 216 rushes fell into this category, well above the league average of 32.9%.

2015 Fantasy Outlook

Last year, only Le'Veon Bell, DeMarco Murray, and Matt Forte had more top-24 (RB2) outings than Lamar Miller in PPR scoring. Miller had 12 such weeks, providing a safe floor for fantasy owners consistently throughout the season, but was also able to provide higher scoring weeks quite frequently.

Miller tied C.J. Anderson for the eighth-most top-12 (RB1) performances, as they each had seven such weeks. Miller was also able to provide fantasy owners a high ceiling -- not just the aforementioned high floor -- as he had finished last year as the ninth-best running back in both PPR and standard formats.

The Dolphins rarely played with a lead last year, subsequently leading to Miami turning to the passing game and limiting Miller's production. After an offensive facelift this summer, Miller could be in line for an even better finish than last year from a fantasy perspective.

Don't be fooled by his current ADP near the Round 3 to Round 4 turn. Taking Lamar Miller is a safe bet for a player with a high floor who has already shown he is capable of becoming a valuable fantasy asset.

Taking Miller before his current ADP is a low-risk gamble, as he can provide your fantasy team another "building block" to provide you a successful foundation in 2015.