2018-19 Miami Dolphins: Season Outlook, Offseason Acquisitions, and Fantasy Impact

The 2017-18 Miami Dolphin campaign did not begin nor end as planned. The team started the season facing the grim reality of having to play an entire year without their franchise quarterback Ryan Tannehill. His absence was extended to 20 total games at the end of the 2017-18 season, continuing the time clock of wonder and dismay among the fan base. The team brought in seasoned vet Jay Cutler to fill these shoes, having deep ties with head coach Adam Gase. An up-and-down year left the team with a 6-7 record with a quarter of a season to play. This stance marked the chance for contention for a playoff berth, but that plan was ultimately foiled thanks to a 3-game losing streak. The end to the past season left a sour taste in the mouth of players and fans. The beginning to the off-season, free agent period, and contractual discussions would also mark for the transfer and loss of some big-time playmakers. The team was still struggling to the recover from the loss of playmaker Jay Ajayi when they moved the every down back to Philly not even a quarter through the season. Ajayi would get a ring and Miami would play running back roulette each week. The offensive talents continued to jump ship as Jarvis Landry found a new home in Cleveland. The team and ownership realized they would be up against a giant contract extension for Landry who would be looking to be one of the highest paid wide receivers in the game. This pursuit mixed with some additional instances ultimately led to the departure of a second playmaker.

Additions Via Trades and Free Agency

By losing out on Landry, the team was ultimately able to benefit the defense through the extension of Cameron Wake's contract. Wake has been tenured within the team, played for the organization his entire 10-year career, and was a veteran presence that would be lethal to lose. The decision to keep Wake and free up some cap space helped bring in an additional pass rusher to the squad. Robert Quinn was traded from the Rams to the Dolphins midway through March 2018. Quinn has finished amongst lead leaders in sacks, total pressures, and other such key defensive statistics in recent history. His numbers give Cameron Wake a run for his money, making the combination of this duo a nightmare for quarterbacks. Both players are also versatile, allowing for headaches from either side of the ball they line up on. Look for the defense to get creative with schemes and sets as they look to be strong on the defensive side of the ball. The offense looked to gain depth and experience. In the backfield, the team added long- time Miami resident Frank Gore to their roster. Gore added the University of Miami during his college days, so welcoming a return home is something that Gore really looked forward to. While the back is on the tail-end of a strong career, he provides a locker-room presence that cannot be duplicated or created. He provides a relief back that can be slotted into the early downs, saving the 3rd downs for the speedier and more agile talents. His experience also adds a sense of leadership and commitment that the offense can lean on in time of need. Making up for the loss of Landry is not quickly achieved or conquered, but the addition of Danny Amendola makes a nice dent. Amendola was a Brady and Belichick understudy, making his knowledge of the game and years of experience a valuable asset. The primary concern surrounding Amendola, and all the wide receivers, is defining their positioning. Landry was the team's deep threat and red zone go-to. Amendola possesses deep threat capabilities, which is where he shinned bright early in his career. In New England, he filled the slot receiver position, covering short comebacks and less down-the-field plays. If he can reclaim his deep threat capabilities of old, he will shine within this offense. The addition also carries a veteran presence, which is a great voice and leadership for the young crop of Dolphin receivers to fall under.

The 2018 NFL Draft

The draft also represented an opportunity for the Dolphins to shape up some of their main position needs. With their first-round pick, the team drafted safety Minkah Fitzpatrick out of Alabama. Fitzpatrick is a versatile talent that primarily filled the safety spots during his college years. The team has the safety positions filled with top talents in Reshad Jones and T.J. McDonald, but the Fitzpatrick addition will allow for some grueling training camp competition. This form of competition is good for the team because it provides them options. This will allow the team to game plan for opposing offenses, matching up coverage schemes to a more narrowed selection. Fitzpatrick can also cover the corner position if asked and will never shy away from making his presence known through his hard-hitting capabilities. The team also went heavy on the linebacker position in the draft, an area that was marked for needing improvement. Kiko Alonso was added last season, which was the lone bright spot in the core of linebackers for the Dolphins. The problem with his addition was the team's usage of their other players. They didn't possess a unique core of players and were consistently switching combinations and player positions to try to meet a mold that never took hold. Jerome Baker was drafted in the third round out of Ohio State. He finished amongst the Big Ten leaders in defensive statistics at his position, marking an important grab for the team. The Dolphins stole this talent, as he was projected an early second-rounder in pre-draft rankings. Quentin Poling was a late- draft pick up that could also make the squad, creating depth at a much-needed position. On the offensive side of the ball, the team added big-bodied tight end Mike Gesicki out of Penn State. Gesicki was a model of consistency on a Penn State squad that was a major contender in the CFB world. He brings a reliable set of hands and blocking consistency that Tannehill can lean on. He was added in the second round, termed a reach by most draft analysts. Despite the critics, this was a position that team desperately needed to fill. The team hasn't had a consistent talent slotted into this position since Charles Clay, so it was a welcomed move by ownership and management parties. The conclusion of the draft marked for a success for the team. They backed their roster with instant-impact players. They filled positional needs and did everything they needed to create an added boost to their current roster of players. The Dolphins earned high praise for their selections, finishing need the B+/A- range by most draft analysts and experts.

Ryan Tannehill: Finishing the Road to Recovery

One of the biggest questions that the team faces heading into this season is the health of Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill had a grueling knee injury that has kept him from the game for one and a half seasons. Filling this void has proven to be a difficult task for the team, but the waiting period is coming to a fast close. Tannehill has spent much of his off- season working to improve upon his pocket tendencies. His lateral movements have been improved and have become a focal point of his game. He is working on trusting the process, allowing blocks to develop, finding his footing within the pocket, and setting himself in the correct center of gravity before making downfield throws. The rehab period has come and gone, progressing his focus to areas he can improve upon rather than getting back to the basics. He is leaning on the things he does well and works daily with offensive coordinators to develop game plans that will carry the team through four quarters of competition.

Breaking Down the 2018 Schedule

The AFC East proves to once again be a division favored heavily to be won by the New England Patriots. Their roster didn't change too much, and they consistently receive heavy levels of buzz surrounding their organization. The Bills and Jets are also heavy favorites for media attention as they work through their quarterback carousels. This is great news for a Dolphins team that is quietly building their momentum levels. Differing attention to these squads allows the team to reduce distractions and prepare in peace. The team sees the AFC South for in-conference competition and the NFC North for out- of-conference competition, mixed in with a few other in-conference battles. This draw sees the Dolphins schedule as a lighter load than year's past. Much of the AFC South improved upon their play last year, but this year is a completely different storyline. The Titans and Jaguars were both playoff contenders last year, but this competition is not something the team is shying away from. The team also pulled the best division to play against in the NFC, which bodes well for games against the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, and Minnesota Vikings. Most of the teams slotted on the Dolphins schedule have a lot of attention headed their way. They are being consistently talked about, hyped on, and other such levels of build-up. The Dolphins can quietly approach their season and build on the areas they lack prior to competition. Contending within the AFC East should not be a problem for this team if they remain healthy. Picking up a couple wins within the mentioned competitions would also bode well for the 2018-19 squad. Early predictions have the team facing a 9-7 outcome, eclipsing enough wins to secure a playoff spot this season.

Madden Rankings and Expert Noise

When it comes to critics of the team, there are few people in leadership roles placing hope within this squad. The NFL experts have the team going 3-13. The players have Cameron Wake ranked outside the top 70 of 100 playmakers in the league. Madden experts have placed rankings on the team that are lower than the Cleveland Browns. So, what gives? Opportunity gives. All of these put downs and dismantling of an NFL squad often bode well for a team's success. Look at the Jaguars last year. Their Madden rankings were paltry, experts had them finishing middle-of-the-road record- wise, and the players didn't see any of their rostered players as a threat to their success. They redefined this noise and found themselves succeeding in all of the mentioned categories just a year removed. The same storyline is something the Dolphins look to follow. They will build on their weak points and work to redefine the odds that have been placed on their team.

Fantasy Impacts

When it comes to ranking fantasy talents for the team, there are a few players that could pose as steals for potential drafters. Jakeem Grant had an impressive rookie showing and his talents will be heavily leaned on within this season. Tannehill has a nice surrounding of deep threats with Grant and Amendola, which are two wide receivers you'll want to grab in the later rounds of your draft. Both players also fit swimmingly within PPR formats as their levels of targets are slated to rise this season. Mr. Reliable, Frank Gore is another player that is worthy of a roster position. Gore has been featured heavily on each team he has played for and has never spent a long-term stint on the injury list. This sense of reliability is something you can lean on in your later rounds, as he provides a back that is going to get touches one way or the other. Those 3 to 4-yard pushes add up over the course of a contest, marking for a player you can rely on to get his yards each game. He doesn't pose a sound option in PPR formats, which is a piece that is still being played out for the team. Tannehill will also make for a sneaky quarterback pick. With his deep threats, he is going to hit his yardage on a consistent basis. These homerun balls could boost your total score on a weekly basis, providing the points you need to outlast the competition in a season-long, head-to-head format. Gisecki makes for a sneaky pickup at the tight end position. The tight end position is one that historically lacks depth within fantasy football, which is something that plays into your favor in this instance. Roster him and keep him on your bench until you get a full view as to how the team is to utilize him. He makes for a big red zone target, making him a good candidate for end zone targets each week.