There is no doubting the Dolphins’ running game has been underwhelming to say the least for many years. Not since Jay Ajayi have the Dolphins had a running back that brought a degree of excitement to the fan base.
Mike McDaniel brings hope to many fans that he can be the one that restores a complementary running game to Tua and the Dolphins offense which heavily features the RPO.
The Brian Flores running back committee was hardly successful.
|Category||Dolphins’ Ranking||Mike McDaniel’s 49ers Ranking|
|Yards per Carry||31st||17th|
|20+ Yard Carries||29th||9th|
|Rushing 1st Downs||27th||8th|
Despite this production, The Dolphins enter the offseason with somewhat of a dilemma at running back. At this time, Myles Gaskin continues to be RB1 on the roster.
Many fans are also keen to bring back Duke Johnson, whose positive play towards to closing stages of last season helped the Dolphins recover from their terrible 1-7 start to finish 9-8.
Salvon Ahmed has recently been tendered, and many people also regard Phillip Lindsay as being a good fit in McDaniel’s zone rushing scheme.
The Dolphins are heavily predicted to finally select a premiere running back in this year’s draft, with Breece Hall and Kenneth Walker III predicted to be key target of Miami’s.
There is clearly a need to improve at the position, but will it be through new additions in free agency?
Miami needs to be proactive and aggressive in bolstering their running back core this offseason.
Who may those additions be and what will they cost?
Raheem Mostert- Estimated $2-3 Million P/Y
Raheem Mostert is the somewhat obvious choice given his familiarity in Mike McDaniel’s running scheme. Despite a season ending knee injury last season, Mostert is predicted to make a full recovery in time for the 2022 season.
Over the course of the 2019 and 2020 seasons, Mostert rushed for 1,293 yards averaging 5.3 YPC, 10 rush TDs, 336 receiving yards and three receiving TDs. His vision and big-play home run speed have been key factors in his success, and would complement the Dolphins current RB core.
However, Mostert is nearing 30 and coming off a significant injury, which my affect his performance and overall value on the market.
Nevertheless, Mostert has been described as a McDaniel guy, and is largely considered a natural fit for Miami to help implement McDaniel’s running system in South Florida.
Leonard Fournette – Estimated $6.1 Million P/Y
Lombardi Lenny, Playoff Lenny, whatever you want to call him, he is another name that has been heavily linked with Miami in the past. While he is the more expensive choice, the Dolphins have the cap space to make it work.
Fournette has consistently produced throughout his career. In his five years in the NFL, Fournette has rushed for nearly 4,000 yards, 31 rushing TDs, 1,696 receiving yards and eight receiving TDs. In 2021 Fournette rushed for 812 yards, averaging 4.5 YPC and eight TDs.
Unlike Mostert, Fournette has only just turned 27 years of age. However, the toll on his body should not be overstated, with nearly 1000 carries and 239 receptions, mainly attributable to being the workhorse back in Jacksonville.
In a Dolphins’ offense that is predicted to be run first, Fournette could quickly become a focal point of that offense. Nevertheless, if we want to see Playoff Lenny, Miami needs to get there first.
Melvin Gordon- Estimated $5.2 Million P/Y
When the Denver Broncos jumped the Dolphins in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Javonte Williams, it may have paved the way for the Dolphins to acquire Melvin Gordon in free agency.
In his seven years in the NFL, like Fournette, he has consistently produced with over 6,000 rushing yards, averaging over four yards per carry, and 53 rushing TDs. Gordon is also a threat in the passing game with over 2,200 receiving yards and 14 TDs.
One area of concern is that with nearly 1500 carries and approaching the age of 29, is Gordon the right man for Miami to invest in? In his seven years in the league he has missed 14 games to injury.
The Dolphins had interest in Gordon during the draft, and again in 2020 when he hit free agency, but elected to go with the cheaper option of Jordan Howard. Look how that worked out… While he clearly remains a capable starting back, the time may have passed for the Dolphins to make their move.
If there are concerns as to the age and long-term durability of the above mentioned players, then the following players may be an alternative for Miami:
Ronald Jones- Estimated $2.7 Million P/Y
Despite being largely replaced as RB1 in Tampa by Leonard Fournette, Jones has remained productive rushing for 2,130 yards over the past three seasons, returning 17 rushing TDs. Jones has averaged 4.5 YPC in his early career.
In 2020 Jones’ 978 yards on the ground were the 11th-most rushing yards among running backs in 2020. His 5.1 yards per attempt was good enough for fifth-best in the NFL among running backs with at least 137 carries.
This came to be despite Jones playing an average of just 48% of snaps through 14 games; ten percent less on average than the 10 running backs ranked above him.
Jones is coming off a nagging ankle injury that he sustained late in the season, however, the biggest upside to Jones is his age. Jones is only 24 years of age, therefore has a lot of football left in him.
In a Mike McDaniel run scheme his career could swing in a positive direction, if he can establish himself as RB1 in Miami. He has a solid skill set with an ability to break off long runs at any time. Jones represents a low risk, with potentially very high upside for the Dolphins.
Marlon Mack- Estimated $2.5 Million P/Y
With the introduction of Jonathan Taylor, an MVP caliber player, Marlon Mack is somewhat the forgotten man in Indianapolis; largely due to the amount of time missed through injury. Mack suffered a season ending Achilles tear in week one of the 2020 season, followed by only thirty touches in 2021 in six games.
Mack broke out with the Colts in his second season, rushing for 908 yards and nine touchdowns — in only 12 games. In 2019 Mack followed this up finishing with 1,091 yards and eight touchdowns across 14 games.
Mack is only 26 years of age, and for the most part has missed the last two seasons. A one-year rental where Mack can prove that he can still be a lead back may be an option for both parties. Mack has a high ceiling, but his injury history should not be overstated.
Addressing the running back position is a key focus for the Dolphins this offseason. The 2021 core was underwhelming at best, but many fans wish to re-sign Duke Johnson and Phillip Lindsay. If so, the Dolphins may not wish to improve within free agency and instead focus on the draft.
However, many thought this would be the case in the past two seasons, and look how that turned out. The direction they go remains to be seen, but it will not be long before we find out. Fins Up!
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