A Closer Look: Lamar Miller vs. David Wilson
Two of the more interesting players to consider in the 3rd round of fantasy drafts are Lamar Miller and David Wilson. Both players are entering their second season, and both players have seemingly been promoted to "feature" (or at least "lead") running back on their respective teams. They should both see a big jump in touches, which is why they're going early in fantasy drafts.
Since they didn't get a ton of work in 2012, I thought I'd go back to the film and take a look at their touches to get a feel for their upside this year.
Let's start with Miller…
I focused on games in which Miller got a decent workload, so I saw him play the Raiders (10 carries, 65 yards, TD), Jets (nine carries, 48 yards), and Bills (10 carries, 73 yards). Granted, these teams were all in the bottom half of the league is YPC allowed, but Miller still outperformed expectations. When multiplying his workload against each team by their defensive YPC, the average running back would have gained 132 yards on 29 carries (4.6 YPC). Miller actually gained 186 yards (6.4 YPC), so he was significantly better than average against these three teams.
What about the so-called "eye test"? Watching Miller run, it's obvious that he has great speed. He ran a 4.40 40-yard dash last spring and that speed shows up on tape, as he shows terrific burst through the hole. What was surprising was the wiggle and elusiveness he showed to evade would-be tacklers at the line of scrimmage and at the linebacker level. He also ran stronger than advertised and did a good job of getting 2-3 yards even when there was no hole to be found.
In the passing game, Miller possesses adequate hands. He's no Darren Sproles, but he should be able to catch what's thrown to him with limited drops. The Dolphins didn't use Reggie Bush much in the passing game (78 receptions over the last two seasons), so I doubt they feature Miller in this role, though he's perfectly capable of turning dump-offs or screens into nice gains.
While watching his carries, he showed a nice spin move, good patience, good vision and a nifty cutback move. Provided he stays healthy, he should produce nice numbers in an increased role.
The video below shows all of his 2012 runs of at least four yards. Be sure to turn down your volume because the music is awful, as is usually the case with these YouTube cut-ups.
I watched Wilson play against the Browns (two carries, 44 yards, TD), 49ers (seven carries, 35 yards), Saints (13 carries, 100 yards, two TDs), Falcons (12 carries, 55 yards) and Eagles (15 carries, 75 yards; one catch 15 yards, TD). Going through a similar exercise with Wilson's opponents, an average RB would have gained 223 yards on 49 carries (4.5 YPC) while Wilson posted 309 rushing yards (6.3 YPC), so he and Miller were similarly above average in that regard.
Wilson also impresses on film. While he doesn't have Miller's 4.40 speed, he did run a 4.49 last spring and his burst looks as good as Miller's with pads on. He broke a 40-yard run against the Browns and had a 52-yard run against the Saints.
For a smaller (5'9") back, he showed good power to break tackles and run through arm tackles. Like Miller, he was shifty at the line and also showed good patience to set up a his fullback for a block. He had no problem turning the corner and also showed adequate hands in the passing game, though the Giants only targeted him nine times on the season.
Here is a YouTube video of his 2012 highlights:
Who to Draft?
Here's a look at what each player did with the opportunity they were given:
Wilson was outstanding in the FP/touch metric, thanks in no small part to the five TDs he scored on 75 touches. When compared with the 42 running backs who had at least 100 rushing attempts, his 0.949 FP/touch would have led the league. (As it stands, C.J. Spiller led the league with 0.873 FP/touch.) As for Miller, he's no slouch. Even though he only found the endzone once, his 0.728 FP/touch would have placed 4th (ahead of DeAngelo Williams and behind Marshawn Lynch) in 2012.
Looking at this table, we can see how many fantasy points were generated in 2012 by each team at the running back position. The Giants are 9th in this category and have always had a strong running game. Meanwhile, the Dolphins finished 14th in RB fantasy points. If you think of each team's points as a pie, it looks like Wilson is working with a pie that is about 8% bigger.
He also has more competition for touches, in the form of Andre Brown. Brown actually averaged more YPC (5.3 to Wilson's 5.0) and got most of the goal line work when he was healthy. He averaged an eye-popping 1.40 FP/touch thanks to the 10 TDs he scored in 2012. However, Brown has been injury-prone throughout his career so if he were to miss time, Wilson would hold fantasy RB1 status assuming a healthy increase in touches.
After reviewing the film, and revising our projections for the Giants' running game as a whole, I'm moving Wilson up a few spots in our rankings to the #19 spot in standard formats and to #21 in PPR. I would take Wilson ahead of Miller in standard formats due to the relative dependability of the Giants' running game as well as the possibility that Brown goes down with an injury. Miller and Wilson are neck and neck in PPR formats, so I would mix it up if I had the chance to take both in multiple drafts. For the risk-averse, Miller may be the "safer" choice since he has a clearer path to a big workload.
Fantasy owners can't go wrong with either player as a RB2, however. They aren't as established as some of the other backs in the 3rd round (i.e. Frank Gore, Darren McFadden and DeMarco Murray), but they are certainly capable of besting those players if they stay healthy and get our projected workload.