Clark: Yeah, but I will have a degree. And you’ll be servin’ my kids fries at a drive-thru on our way to a skiing trip.
Will: That may be, but at least I won’t be unoriginal.
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Lets talk about narratives
Knowshon Moreno was drafted 12th overall in the 2009 NFL Draft, and at that time the narrative was probably that he was going to be a star back in the NFL. I don’t really know what RotoViz would have thought of him but he probably would have been near the top of our rookie draft boards on opportunity alone. Then Knowshon went ahead and had a pretty good rookie year: he crested 1100 rushing+receiving yards and found the End Zone 9 times. Yeah, he only got 3.8 yards a carry but that’s not really different from what Zach Stacy or LeVeon Bell did last year and nobody is giving them a dumpster full of crap for it, nor should they, since yards/carry is a very noisy statistic. Anyway, I don’t care to look for a source, but basically over the next couple of years Moreno played pretty average, but he had some nagging injuries before tearing his ACL in 2011 and the narrative became that he was too soft and not a full time player. It’s worth noting that his yards/carry was well above 4.0 in 2010 and into early 2011. Then, injuries to other players got Knowshon on the field in late 2012, he hit the ground running (ha!) and never looked back. So…now he’s a hit again?
What’s the point?
I came into the offseason thinking Moreno was a product of Peyton Manning and that he has no shot at success in Miami. This is based on the belief I thought Moreno was a bust who then turned it around with Manning at the helm, and that therefore Manning was the sole cause of Moreno’s success. The problem is that type of thinking is lazy pattern matching. Since the narrative on Moreno has changed numerous times over a five year career, maybe we can drop our preconceptions about him and look at what we have now.
What is Knowshon Moreno athletically?
Moreno is a 217 pound back with a speed score of 105 and an agility score of 11.11. This makes him a classic Profile Two back. You may be saying, hey, he’s two pounds heavier than profile two backs and .01 seconds too slow, to which I reply: fuck off be wary of getting too caught up in arbitrary cutoffs.
What has Moreno shown in the NFL:
Over his career, Moreno has averaged 4.1 yards per carry, which is pretty much exactly average. Where he’s excelled has been as a pass catcher. Moreno has a career average of 8.9 yards per catch, which is elite. Another nice plus for Moreno is, from 2012 on, he’s been an above average runner at the goal line. Moreno has scored on 42% of his carries inside the 10 and has a YPC/YTG of 48%.
Both of these numbers are above average and significantly better than Daniel Thomas’, so whether he gets the work or not, Knowshon Moreno almost surely represents the Dolphins best option near the endzone.
The argument against Moreno is that he doesn’t excel at breaking tackles; he was bottom five in missed tackles/attempt last year among backs with at least 50% of their teams carries. Moreno’s other major knock is that in 845 career carries he’s never had a 40 yard run, so he’s about as explosive as an old sock.
We know Lamar Miller is an athletic freak and that gives us a lot to like about him. However, if the coaching staff isn’t buying into him he’s at risk to face the same fate Moreno did early in his career- being relegated to a complementary role. Daniel Thomas lacks NFL athleticism and probably doesn’t pose a real threat to anyone’s playing time at this point. The job is certainly Moreno’s for the taking, it’s just a matter of how heavily the Dolphins staff wants to invest in his skill set.
Moreno has the measurables of a good Profile Two back. Consistent with that profile, he has demonstrated above average pass catching ability. Unlike some other agility score stars, Moreno doesn’t have elite top end speed and isn’t a very explosive runner. Making up for that somewhat is the fact that Moreno is relatively big and has some skills around the goal line. If the Dolphins choose to invest in his skill-set, he could catch 50 balls, get 1300 all-purpose yards and punch in 8-10 touchdowns. He could just as easily end up in a gross timeshare and not be involved in the passing game. That would probably cap him around 800 yards with 20 catches and 4 or 5 TDs. I think his total usage will correlate pretty directly with his catches, because if the Dolphins don’t try to utilize him as a pass catcher, they will end up with an otherwise underwhelming football player. I’m waiting to see if Moreno is running as a starter in the preseason and just as importantly, if the Dolphins are making an effort to throw him the ball.