By Sean Tenerelli (@Phinphan54)
This article is part of TopTeamFantasy’s preseason team preview series. Leading up to the season, the football staff at TopTeamFantasy will help you get ready for fantasy football by answering tough questions about each team. Each article will delve into a specific topic in-depth and explore what its effects will be on your fantasy fortunes for 2014.
There are more questions regarding my beloved Dolphins then could possibly be answered in this article. However, the one question that fans, fantasy football junkies, analysts, and Dolphins teammates seem to be asking the most. Is this Ryan Tannehill‘s year to shine? The simple answer is that it is a make or break year for him, so he has to. My more defined answer is based around the fact that the team has made some serious upgrades to personnel and coaching staff to ensure that this my friends, is the year you will see a new QB for the Dolphins. Here’s why:
Bill Lazor will redefine the QB position for Ryan Tannehill
Comfort breeds complacency. Frankly, one of the worst things that the Dolphins may have done to Tannehill coming into the starting role was hire his previous Head Coach from Texas A&M, Mike Sherman. Whether it was the play calling, the cadence, or the talent on offense, it never seemed to evolve into an NFL caliber. It seemed slow, plotting, and predictable. Frankly, most of the time while watching the games, I could call what play was going to be run next. If I can do that, and I’m not an NFL caliber DC, other teams must have been salivating watching them. And it showed in their efficiency, ranking 28th for 2 years in a row under Sherman’s control. Enter in Bill Lazor, an OC that couldn’t be more opposite then Mike Sherman. His offense is up-tempo, and lead the league in yards per reception and TD percentage. He also made Nick Foles damn near unstoppable, and a fantasy god within a short amount of time. Tannehill has all the skills that Nick Foles has in him plus a side of speed and versatility that Foles simply doesn’t posses. That’s a great combination for Tannehill and Lazor alike.
A significantly improved OL = No more throwing from his back
There are a lot of jokes that I could throw in here, but with Bully Gate, I think the Dolphins already have their hands full and don’t need any more bad PR without a rousing number of Kumbaya being sung. The fact is that they needed to clean house, and they did. They brought in book end tackles with Brandon Albert and Ja’Wuan James, and Shelley Smith is a verified young stud to replace the Bonehead otherwise known as Richie Incognito. They already have a pro-bowl Center (assuming he can keep his nose clean) in Mike Pouncey. I think they lean on Albert for leadership, and the rest should follow suit. David Carr may disagree, but the fact is you can’t get much worse than letting your QB get sacked 58 times in one season. If they can improve their blocking scheme with these additions, Tannehill will be sure to succeed.
Knowshon Moreno will be a key factor to Tannehill’s success
Did you know that Knowshon Moreno had the 5th most receptions for any RB in the NFL in 2013? With 60 Receptions, he topped notable talent like LeSean McCoy, Andre Ellington, and Giovanni Bernard. While this not may seem like a big deal, this is EXACTLY what the Dolphins have needed in their screen game. Moreno is the perfect fit behind the new look OL to get over his 60 receptions from last year due to their already installed zone blocking scheme. Plus, it gives Tannehill a much needed safety valve since Daniel Thomas and Lamar Miller have not earned Tannehill’s respect at this point. I’m trying my best not to be a complete homer here, but I really believe that Moreno is a sleeper stud this year for fantasy, with low end RB1 potential. Tannehill may not be Peyton Manning, but Moreno certainly could be looked at even more so then he was in Denver.
The Mike Wallace Effect
Prima Donna or not, Mike Wallace is poised for a brilliant year with Tannehill. One of the things most people may not know is that the QB and WR are working not only on their communication, but their friendship. This may seem like a great “awwww cute” moment, bu think about it. For every Peyton there’s a Reggie Wayne. For every Montana, there’s a Rice. The fact is that just about every great QB needs their go to WR. But to become a go-to, you need to develop trust in one another. Not only are Mike and Ryan working a lot together during practice, but they are staying late and coming in early. Keep in mind that they already started meshing at the end of last season. Over his last six games, Wallace averaged just under 5 receptions for 66 yards and totaled 4 TDs after only having one in his first 10 games. If they can continue building that rapport, the results will be even better. Not only that, but Wallace needs to put his haters to rest. He has to earn that big contract he got, otherwise he will be traded or cut by next season, as the Phins drafted a few WRs to develop. With a 4.3 40 time, and the ability to juke defenders out of their shoes, I think he has all the tools necessary to be a WR1 in not only the NFL, but for Fantasy Football as well. Hell, he did it two years in a row with Big Ben (2010-11). People will be sleeping on him, so don’t be afraid to take him if the value is there.
So, the fact of the matter is that Ryan Tannehill has the unique combination of skills, surrounding talent, and explosive offense that could make him a star this year. He damn near had 4k yards last year, so he’s not that far off the mark as it stands. However, Dolphins fans have been waiting since Dan Marino for their savior to finally get here. I believe the time is now for Tannehill, and he will not only step up to the plate, but I have him slated as a top 10 QB finisher this year.