Should You Draft David Wilson or Lamar Miller?

Is David Wilson ready to be the starter in New York?

I’m hoping no one remembers, but there was once a show on MTV called Yo Momma. Wilmer Valderrama hosted it, traveling from city to city each season in order to find the best ‘yo momma’ jokester. Contestants would battle head-to-head, advancing in a tournament-style playoff. I’m almost certain the only reason people tuned in was to hear Valderrama say, “1,000 dollars cash-money” to the winner, simply because people quoted it to death as the show was airing in 2006.

The show somehow lasted more seasons than Glen Coffee’s NFL career, opening the country to some of the worst jokes mankind has ever heard. You’d hear a gem every once and a while, sure, but listening to the show was more painful than three hours of John Madden on Monday Night Football.

It may appear that this has nothing to do with fantasy football, but the head-to-head battling between contestants often reminds me of the thousands of “Player X vs. Player Y” debates we see all over the Internet prior to the fantasy football season. Sure, I could’ve made an 8 Mile reference, but I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to talk about Yo Momma.

The unfortunate part to many mano-a-mano contests is that the outcomes are incredibly subjective. We see cooking contests and singing competitions all over our televisions at night, but the winners are picked on opinion. I know it’s tough to put an objective number to a seared salmon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t.

We like analytics here at numberFire. I guess that’s obvious, but it really does help us determine outcomes of the typical “this or that” scenario. In fake football, those types of situations happen all the time.

So to help, I’ll be taking a look at some of the bigger debates in our pretend sport up until the season starts. Not sure if you want Jordy Nelson or Marques Colston? I’ll get to it. Roddy White or Julio Jones? I’ll dig far into that, too.

But first things first, let’s look at one of the biggest debates we’ve seen over the fantasy football offseason: David Wilson or Lamar Miller?

Rookie Season Production

We could look at yardage, receptions and touchdowns to judge how well Miller and Wilson performed during their rookie seasons, but that’s too easy. And, of course, that doesn’t tell us the entire story.

Neither back got to see a whole lot of action during their rookie seasons, as Miller carried the ball just 51 times to Wilson’s 71. But if you take a look at the chart below, you can see how much of an impact these players had for their teams given their limited duties.

PlayerRush NEPRush NEP / AttemptRec NEPRec NEP / TargetTotal NEP
L. Miller4.
D. Wilson-2.06-.032.86.320.81

All in all, the two backs performed pretty similarly last season. You can argue that Miller bested the Giants runner, but the difference – especially considering our overall sample – is fairly minimal. Essentially, both Miller and Wilson contributed positively to their team’s point output (though Wilson’s net expected points per rush was negative), which is a good sign for both in 2013.

It’s a New Era in New York and Miami

Out with the old (Ahmad Bradshaw and Reggie Bush), in with the new (David Wilson and Lamar Miller). Before taking a look at how the Giants and Dolphins performed via the ground last season, let’s first take a look at how the lead backs in New York and Miami did a year ago.

PlayerRush NEPRush NEP / AttemptRec NEPRec NEP / TargetTotal NEP
R. Bush-9.47-.0421.828.5212.35
A. Bradshaw6.43.0312.358.3618.78

Bush wasn't awful on the ground last year, but in terms of rushing net expected points, the former Heisman winner turned non-Heisman winner was worse than an average runner. Much of that could be because of the offensive line, but keep in mind that Lamar Miller will be playing for the same squad in Miami. And sure, he was good through the air, but that’s what Reggie Bush does, right?

Compare that to Bradshaw, and you see a big difference. Bradshaw contributed over six points to the Giants point output last season, gaining .03 points to their score per attempt. Through the air, he didn’t see the volume Bush did, but on a per target basis he was just as effective.

From a team perspective, Miami ranked 23rd in adjusted rushing net expected points per play last year, while New York ranked 10th. The stat Adj. Rush NEP/P may not mean much to you, but it tells us how many points were added to a team’s output via the ground on a per play basis. And don’t worry, competition is part of this equation. Quite simply, Miami was losing points each time they carried the ball, while New York was gaining them. New York, in other words, is a much better team to run the ball with.

Andre Brown’s Impact

Though David Wilson may not have scored as well as Lamar Miller last season, the numbers were close. What puts Wilson over the edge is the fact that the Giants are much more efficient on the ground, and Ahmad Bradshaw, who Wilson will be replacing, performed at a high level last season than Reggie Bush.

So what’s the knock on Wilson’s draft value this year? Andre Brown.

Among relevant running backs last season, Andre Brown scored the best. His rushing net expected points total was a whopping 19.14, equating to .26 per attempt. That’s much better than David Wilson’s last season. He was pretty good through the air, too, snagging a 5.27 receiving NEP value.

Those are fantastic numbers, and perhaps it would be smarter for the Giants to give Brown the bulk in 2013. As of now though, that doesn’t look to be the case. Brown will be involved, but we have him getting 82 attempts in 2013 as opposed to Wilson’s 218.

Potential David Wilson owners should be a little fearful. If he slips up, there’s little doubt head coach Tom Coughlin will have no problem sidelining him. After all, he did it last year. And given Brown’s metrics, there’s a chance Wilson could have a hard time seeing the field consistently after that happens.

Who Should You Draft?

As noted, Lamar Miller and David Wilson ran and caught the ball similarly in year one of their careers. An argument could be made for Miller, but even if you give him the edge, it’s not significant.

Compared to Miller, Wilson’s upside comes in the form of team effectiveness on the ground. The Giants were better (and probably will be in 2013) running the football, and that showed; Ahmad Bradshaw blew Reggie Bush’s efficiency numbers away last year.

The downside for Wilson is Andre Brown. If Brown gets an opportunity – which is very possible given Coughlin’s attitude – Wilson could have a hard time seeing the field. Lamar Miller, on the other hand, has the unimpressive Daniel Thomas sitting behind him on the depth chart. Though Thomas may get touches, Miller looks to be the superior talent. Mike Gillislee is there too, but there’s no reason to bank on a huge rookie impact at this point.

Both of these runners have some pretty big question marks. Neither has carried the load in the NFL, and that’s not necessarily something to put a lot of stock in as your RB2 in fantasy.

As of now, we have David Wilson ranked as our 24th-best running back in standard leagues with Lamar Miller just four spots behind. Since it’s July and we’re not entirely certain on usage, it doesn’t appear as though you shouldn't have incredible confidence in either as the number two back on your team. That, of course, can become clearer as the season approaches.

In essence, if you believe Coughlin will have a short leash with Wilson, then I think your target should be Miller. The projections between Wilson and Miller are close enough to go with the option that doesn’t have as much talent behind him on the depth chart. As I’ve said, if Wilson performs poorly, it could easily be the year of Andre Brown.

But buyer beware: I’m just not sure either player will be cash money this season.