Lamar Miller now a fantasy RB1 after signing with Houston

Scott Barrett examines the fantasy implications of Lamar Miller signing with Houston.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Brad Penner)

(AP Photo/Brad Penner)

Lamar Miller now a fantasy RB1 after signing with Houston

After releasing Arian Foster, an oft-injured seven-year veteran, the Houston Texans have signed Lamar Miller to a four-year, $26 million contract that includes $14 million fully guaranteed.

It appears the Texans got Miller at a discount as, per Albert Breer, he was offered more money on a longer-term deal to go elsewhere. Indeed, it is surprising the 24-year-old runner with relatively low mileage (only one 200-carry season) signed for less money than what the Jacksonville Jaguars were willing to give to Chris Ivory.

Although he never settled into the bellcow role fantasy owners always envisioned, Miller has always produced at an elite level. Miller ranks first in yards per carry (4.94) among all running backs with at least 400 attempts over the past two seasons. He also has ranked among our top-six highest-graded runners in each of the past two seasons.

Last season, Miller averaged 4.5 yards per carry, but was given only 12.1 carries per game. A full 34 other running backs averaged more carries per game, including the likes of Rashad Jennings. In 2014, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry (tied for second-most), but ranked only 18th in carries per game.

Similarly, in 2015, Miller ranked fifth in fantasy points and 11th in touches among running backs. In 2014, he ranked ninth in fantasy points, but only 13th in touches. Despite the high efficiency, he recorded just one game with 20-plus attempts over the last two seasons.

Fantasy owners hoping to see Miller on a new team with a larger role should be ecstatic with this signing. Miller goes from a team that ranked last in rushing attempts per game (21.5) and 27th in plays per game (61.0), to a team that ranked fifth in rushing attempts per game (29.5) and first in plays per game (69.9) last season.

He also leaves our second-worst graded offensive line to join to our 18th-highest graded offensive line — one that should get a significant boost from the return of a healthy Duane Brown, no less. It’s also reasonable to expect the Texans to have better quarterback play in 2016 as well, as the team signed former Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler.

Houston’s head coach Bill O’Brien helped keep Arian Foster relevant in fantasy, and while Foster and Miller aren’t the same player, the fact O’Brien has coached successful fantasy running bodes well for Miller.

In 2014, Foster ranked as the No. 5 fantasy running back on a fantasy points per game. In that season, he ranked second among running backs in carries per game (20.0) and ninth in targets per game (4.3).  In 2015, Foster finished third among running backs in fantasy points per game and averaged 15.75 carries and seven targets in four games.

Although Foster was used as an every down back while he was on the field, the Texans went in a different direction following his injury. From Week 8 through Week 17, Houston’s leading rusher, Alfred Blue, received the bulk of the carries (twice as much as the next leading rusher), but averaged only 1.5 targets per game. Only two percent of his touches came on third down.

Although Miller has never graded out positively in the passing game, given the contract he signed, it’s likely the Texans expect to use him in a role that is closer to Foster than Blue, which would obviously be great for his fantasy outlook.

From a football perspective, this looks good for the Texans, who ranked fifth-worst in yards per carry despite ranking fifth in attempts last season. From a fantasy perspective, Miller gets a significant boost joining a team that will be sure to make the most of his talents. He appears set to be a top-10 fantasy running back this season.

Scott Barrett is our Senior Fantasy Analyst and one of the main hosts of our Fantasy Slant podcast.

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