Finding Cheap Targets on Bad Teams: Miami Dolphins
Bad NFL teams pass the ball, sometimes a lot.
Because, see, when a team is in the constant grip of negative game script, an offense doesn't have the luxury to do all the favorite coach stuff like establish the run and maintain a run-pass balance and run so that they can pass—all of it nonsense coachspeak that should be swept into the dustbin of pigskin history.
This isn't to say every terrible NFL team puts up a truckload of pass attempts. Some bottom-barrel squads, like John Fox's horrid 2017 Chicago Bears or Jeff Fisher's abysmal 2016 L.A. Rams, stay committed to the run despite the never-ending negative game script. You have to admire the utter determination to go down with one's preferred misguided offensive strategy.
There is value to be had among these teams that just might take to the air in the face of double-digit second half deficits in 2019. Those pass attempts, however forced or inaccurate, have to go somewhere, presumably to pass catchers we can roster on the cheap in re-draft fantasy leagues.
Just last season, we saw Jarvis Landry reap the benefits of the Browns' disastrous first half of the season, as the Browns No. 1 wideout saw 95 targets in the first eight games of 2018. Mike Evans (once again) and teammate Adam Humphries were peppered with targets while the Bucs constantly chased opponents in 2018. Dede Westbrook eclipsed 100 targets in 2018 on a conservative Jacksonville offense largely because the Jags played from behind nearly every week. And Zay Jones drew 102 targets on a Buffalo offense that threw the ball less than all but four teams while the Bills saved face with five wins in their final eight contests.
I crunched a bunch of numbers and found that truly bad NFL teams—squads that win five or fewer games—have averaged 550.7 pass attempts over the past three seasons, with 10 of those teams (47%) finishing among the top half of the league in pass attempts. For the sake of context, 550 pass attempts would have been the 16th most in 2018. Best-case scenarios in which awful teams took to the air at wild clips include the 2016 Jaguars, who threw the pigskin 626 times (fourth most), the 2017 Giants, with a league-leading 608 pass attempts, and the 2018 Bucs, who threw the ball 625 times (fourth most).
In this space over the next few weeks, we're going to examine cheap receiver targets on teams projected by Vegas to win fewer than six games in 2019. Of course, not all of these teams will rank among the most pass-heavy, but the average draft positions of most of these pass catchers isn't incorporated into their re-draft price points.
We'll start with the Dolphins.
Vegas projection: 4.5 wins
Presumed WR1-2: Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker
No team has a bleaker outlook than the ghost of a formerly proud franchise. Dan Marino must be spinning in his grave.
Figuring out who will lead the team in targets or how many targets there will be to go around isn't the easiest task, as Miami has a first-time head coach and a first-time offensive coordinator, Chad O'Shea, who has spent most of his time in the league as a wide receiver coach. With no history from which to draw, these target prospects are a little less certain than other presumably awful teams coached by those with long track records. Causing me even more consternation: only three players topped 60 targets on last year's Dolphins offense, headed by the now-departed Adam Gase.
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