The Miami Dolphins upgraded their offense this offseason probably more than any team that didn’t add a quarterback. The acquisition of wide receiver Tyreek Hill, offensive tackle Terron Armstead, and guard Connor Williams were the biggest moves made by general manager Chris Grier. But with additions that include Raheem Mostert and Chase Edmonds, no position group received more attention in free agency than running back.
New coach Mike McDaniel is determined to run the football. And he was determined to add players who are also weapons out of the backfield. Accordingly, the Dolphins also signed Sony Michel and Alec Ingold to free agent contracts.
To understand the moves’ impact on the franchise, fantasy football, NFL betting odds, and more, we turned to our Pro Football Network experts for our weekly PFN Roundtable discussion.
How Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert can help Tua Tagovailoa, Tyreek Hill, and more in the Dolphins’ passing game
During the Brian Flores era, the Dolphins had arguably the worst collection of running backs in football. In 2019, the team was led in rushing by none other than QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The team’s leading rusher in 2021 — Myles Gaskin — averaged a dreadful 3.5 yards per carry.
Edmonds (with a career 5.7 yards-per-carry average) and Mostert (4.7) will instantly improve that. But we’re not here to talk about their impact on the ground. We’re here to talk about their impact through the air. And under McDaniel — who learned most everything he knows about football from the Shanahan family — they can expect plenty of exercise.
Of the Dolphins’ 599 passing targets in 2021, just 96 went to running backs (16%). By way of comparison, roughly one in every five passes thrown by Niners quarterbacks went to running backs in 2021.
And that rate probably would have been higher had Mostert not gotten hurt. Mostert is a YAC god, averaging 7.3, 11.1, and 8.5 yards after the catch per reception in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively.
How about Edmonds, whose 43 catches in 2021 led all Cardinals running backs? He hasn’t been quite as dynamic, but 6.9 YAC for his career is nothing to sneeze about.
This is all great news for Tua Tagovailoa, whose 2021 intended air yards average (7.0) and average yards after catch (4.6) both ranked 30th out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks. – Adam Beasley, PFN NFL Director
How Edmonds and Mostert impact Tua Tagovailoa in fantasy football
While most of the conversation surrounding the Dolphins’ recent acquisitions has centered around Hill, the hiring of McDaniel as HC is even more important. This holds especially true for the running backs, as Miami struggled mightily in this area last year.
As a team, the Dolphins were abysmal running the ball. They were 31st in yards per rush, 30th in rushing yards, tied for 24th in rushing TDs, 26th in yards against stacked boxes (8+ defenders), and 30th in explosive runs (12+ yards). Miami was also bottom 10 in both yards per rush before contact and yards per rush after contact.
In contrast, the 49ers’ run game flourished. Since 2017 (when McDaniel came over), they were 11th in yards per rush, seventh in TDs, fourth against stacked boxes, and sixth in explosive runs.
The former run game coordinator will now try to maximize the touches for Edmonds, Mostert, Michel, and Gaskin. Fantasy managers will likely become somewhat annoyed at times with this backfield, as barring injuries, it’s unlikely one back takes over the touches. Rather than a true workhorse, this will be a committee approach, forcing managers to buy into weekly game scripts or paths for opportunity.
If a Miami RB breaks out in 2022, the likeliest candidate is Edmonds. With most of the attention last season on James Conner and his 18 touchdowns, it becomes easy to overlook the solid season Edmonds put together.
Chase Edmonds is Dolphins’ favorite to break out in RB room
Playing in 12 games, Edmonds averaged over 75 yards per game and was eighth in targets per game with 4.4 (minimum 60 touches). Edmonds is one of the more efficient backs in the NFL, averaging over one point per touch. This is shockingly efficient for an RB who has just 51% of the red-zone carries since 2020, with six coming inside the 5-yard line.
In the 14 career games when Edmonds has commanded at least 11 touches, he has an average weekly finish as the RB18. Yet, he enters 2022 with likely the best opportunity of his career to be the lead back in a brand new offense. Although Mostert is familiar with the scheme, Edmonds has the skill set to maximize it. In goal-to-go situations, Edmonds will lose red-zone work to other backs, particularly Michel.
Still, given his success in the passing game and the likelihood of Miami trying to open things up, Edmonds brings the most upside for 2022. Add in the revamped offensive line, and Edmonds could shock fantasy managers in 2022. Currently, being drafted around the RB30-35 range, Edmonds brings low-end RB2 upside with spike weeks inside the top 10. – Tommy Garrett, PFN Senior Fantasy Analyst
How Edmonds and Mostert impact the Dolphins’ betting odds
Sometimes, I’m able to sit here and give you all sorts of great analyses as to how a roster move impacts betting odds. Unfortunately, this is not one of those times.
Edmonds and Mostert both provide upgrades on the carousel of running backs the Dolphins had last season. However, they still play running back and the RB position does not move the needle.
When the Panthers lost Christian McCaffrey or when the Titans lost Derrick Henry, sportsbooks didn’t adjust the weekly lines more than a half point, if at all. The status of running backs simply doesn’t impact the odds.
It’s always good to have more talented players at any position, but from a betting standpoint, there’s no edge to be gained here. Running backs just don’t have enough of an impact on the outcome of games. – Jason Katz, PFN Fantasy and Betting Analyst
How the Dolphins’ current running back group could impact their 2023 NFL Draft plans
The running back cravings experienced by members of the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree are just different. Shanahan’s 49ers drafted both Trey Sermon and breakout star Elijah Mitchell in the 2021 NFL Draft, and yet, they still used a third-rounder on Tyrion Davis-Price in 2022.
We haven’t seen an offseason where McDaniel has the influence of a head coach in the draft room. But seeing the moves the Dolphins have made already, it’s clear McDaniel wants a deep and dynamic rotation at RB.
It’s important to note that scheming and support are large factors regarding RB success in these systems. And that’s one thing that should allow McDaniel to be successful with the group of Edmonds, Mostert, Michel, Gaskin, and Salvon Ahmed in 2022.
Running back is not only a draft luxury but also a relatively replaceable position. Conversely, the shorter shelf life of RBs on average demands that teams frequently re-stock on young talent. Edmonds and Michel are both over 26. Furthermore, Michel has battled injuries, and Mostert is 30 with an injury history as well. Even with the additions made this previous offseason, that need for young RB talent will persist for McDaniel in 2023.
Dolphins have 5 picks in Top 80 of the 2023 NFL Draft
With a strong RB class on the horizon for the 2023 NFL Draft and the Dolphins projected to have five selections within the first 80 picks, it’s almost a guarantee that one of those picks will go toward a running back. It’s just a matter of which pick that is — and that depends on where the Dolphins see themselves as a franchise.
They could feasibly use one of their first-rounders on an RB if a blue-chip talent like Bijan Robinson is there — as was the case in our recent 2-round mock draft. But at the same time, while the roster is improving, there might still be a couple more important positions that need upgrades.
Robinson is in a class of his own in the 2023 NFL Draft class. However, while McDaniel was with the 49ers, San Francisco made a living out of getting maximum production from Day 2 and Day 3 picks. And in those ranges, the 2023 NFL Draft should still offer plenty of appeal.
Backs like Tank Bigsby, Jahmyr Gibbs, Sean Tucker, and Zach Evans all might be viable options in the Top 100 range. Even later, prospects like Lew Nichols, Ulysses Bentley IV, and Tavion Thomas might be potential steals. And Devon Achane and Deuce Vaughn, in particular, might be able to mirror Mostert’s skill set when the latter fades away.
There’s still a ways to go before the 2023 RB class settles. But the bottom line is there’s plenty of talent on deck, and a coach like McDaniel knows how to identify talent he can maximize at optimum value. Even with their offseason additions, the Dolphins are a sure bet to add more young RB talent in 2023. – Ian Cummings, PFN NFL Draft Analyst