The Miami Dolphins are a team on the rise. In 2019, despite some struggles, the Dolphins looked strong and played hard to end the season. After loading up in the 2020 NFL Draft, the team came out strong again, this time narrowly missing a playoff berth with a 10-6 record. They also got a look at their franchise quarterback in Tua Tagovailoa, who split time with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Tagovailoa went 6-3 in nine starts, throwing for 1,814 yards and 11 TDs with only five INTs. He added 109 yards rushing and three more TDs as the Dolphins finished with a winning record. He was coming off a devastating hip injury in his final season at Alabama, but it was also fair to wonder if he was held back by the Dolphins’ lack of weapons. So, job one this off-season seems to have involved building around Tagovailoa as the Dolphins move into the future.
The Rookie and the Free Agent
The Dolphins added two big pieces to the wide receiver group. First, the team splashed out free agent dollars on former Houston Texan Will Fuller V. Fuller signed a one-year deal worth nearly $11 million. He spent his first five years with the Texans, who drafted him in the First Round. He was a favorite target of Deshaun Watson when he was healthy, and a terrific big play weapon. In just 52 games over those five seasons, he caught 209 passes for 3,110 yards and 24 TDs, averaging 14.9 yards per reception. He is suspended for Week 1, a holdover from 2020, but when he’s back, Fuller will help the Dolphins stretch the field.
The Dolphins also spent their first pick in the draft, No. 6 overall, on a wide receiver, one with some history with Tua. The Dolphins grabbed Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle, who played with two seasons with Tua in Alabama finished up winning a National Championship in 2020 with Mac Jones. In three seasons with Alabama, he caught 106 passes for 1,999 yards and 17 TDs. He figures to give the Dolphins a true No. 1 option in the receiving corps.
The Returning Players
The Dolphins also bring back a number of receivers in 2021. The team has veterans Albert Wilson, Jakeem Grant and Allen Hurns on the roster, as well as prospects like Mack Hollins and Robert Foster. The Dolphins also have 2020 Draft Pick Lynn Bowden, Jr., who can play receiver or running back, that they acquired from the Las Vegas Raiders. But the biggest name returning is DeVante Parker.
Parker is heading into his seventh professional season. He was drafted No. 14 overall by the Dolphins in 2015 and has played all six of his professional seasons in Miami. He got off to a slow start but has been a stalwart for the Dolphins the past few seasons. He’s seen more than 100 targets each of the past two seasons and has 298 receptions for 4,212 yards and 22 TDs in his six seasons in Miami.
But perhaps the biggest question among the returning group is Preston Williams, who will be in his third professional season. The undrafted free agent receiver out of Colorado State showed flashes as a rookie in 2019. In just seven games he saw 60 targets, catching 32 for 428 yards and three TDs. But an injury ended his season early. Many, myself included, were excited about his prospects heading into 2020, but injuries again limited him to just seven games. He saw just 35 targets, catching 18 for 288 yards and four TDs. Now he returns to a much more crowded Dolphins’ pass-catching group.
Wide Receiver Muddle
While the additions and returns are great for Tua and his potential moving into a crucial 2021 season, it makes things tough for fantasy players. So, who do you put your faith in for 2021 and beyond? The easiest answer is Waddle, who is a First-Round pick in rookie drafts in all formats. I have him as WR3 behind Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith, but he figures to have a great shot at leading the Dolphins receivers in 2021. He’s the best long-term bet, too, and his history with Tua should help him adapt to the NFL quickly.
But what about the rest? Parker is in the middle of a lucrative extension and has established himself as a key piece of the Dolphins’ pass offense. That being said, his ceiling is limited. He is a WR4. Fuller is a player whose stock could have risen this off-season depending on where he landed. Miami isn’t bad, but it isn’t great. Unless Tua takes a huge step forward in 2021, Fuller is likely stuck in the WR4 range, too.
Then there’s Williams. I loved him heading into 2020 and stashed him at a good value on a number of rosters. But it didn’t pan out last season, and it’s hard to see him emerging from a crowd this season. He’s a deep stash but likely the odd man out with Waddle and Fuller joining the squad.
Matthew Fox is a die-hard NFL fan and Broncos’ homer. He’s a member of the FSWA and you can find more of his takes on the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast.