When the Dolphins traded Jay Ajayi to Philadelphia, your first thought was probably, “What will this mean for Ajayi’s 2017 value?” Your second thought was probably, “Boy, I wish I hadn’t watched all of Stranger Things in the first 24 hours.” Somewhere around your tenth or twelfth thought was probably, “Hey, who’s Miami’s running back now?” I assume you’ve solved the other issues that were plaguing your day, so let’s turn now to the Miami RBs.
Will Damien Williams Finally Turn His Athleticism into Production?
Before Miami coaches “squandered” Jay Ajayi, fantasy football owners were complaining about Lamar Miller’s usage with the Dolphins. One of the few constants over that period has been Damien Williams, the 2013 undrafted free agent who has spent most of his career on Miami’s bench.
But Williams isn’t just a plodder. He has the size and speed combination you want in an upside running back. Indeed, one of his top physical comparisons is Marshawn Lynch:
That’s why he was one of FD’s favorite deep-sleeper RBs in the 2014 draft class. But Lynch was a first-round draft pick with massive college production, while Williams was an undrafted free agent who never topped 1,000 rushing yards in college.1
And Williams has looked every bit the part of a solid, but unspectacular backup RB in the NFL. He’s never amassed more than 70 scrimmage yards in a game, and he hasn’t had double-digit carries in a game since 2014.
Is Kenyan Drake Forever a Bridesmaid?
Like Williams, Kenyan Drake didn’t amass big totals in college. But that’s not surprising, considering he was stuck behind T.J. Yeldon or Derrick Henry every season at Alabama. The Dolphins were clearly intrigued, as they made Drake the third RB drafted in 2015, behind only Henry and Ezekiel Elliott.
But Drake also brings less impressive measurables than Williams. Athletically, his closest current NFL comparison is Orleans Darkwa:
He was a capable receiver and special teams player at Alabama, which piqued our interest when Drake was drafted in 2016. But he’s done even less in the NFL than Williams, and his profile doesn’t scream “playmaker.” So unless he overtakes Williams as the lead RB, he’s probably not worth rostering in most leagues.
What Does Miami Want in a RB?
As Ben Gretch showed before the 2016 season, Adam Gase tends to use a workhorse back, at least in any given week. And that’s held true with Ajayi, who has dominated snaps, carries, and targets among Dolphins RBs since Arian Foster retired.
Snap counts suggest Damien Williams is more likely to step into the lead role. His snaps have steadily increased since the start of the season, while Drake’s have fallen each week since a high of 32 percent in Week 2.
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Putting everything together, Drake has the draft pedigree and name cache; production is a wash; and Williams has the edge in athleticism and apparent opportunity. With the difference in price likely negligible, I’ll take Williams for both floor and upside.