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Jay Cutler as a Dolphin: Does it Matter?

Jay Cutler in Miami
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Jay Cutler Fantasy 2017

The Miami Dolphins suffered a setback when QB Ryan Tannehill was injured in practice last week. Although there still hasn’t been an official diagnosis, Miami had to figure out who would be their QB. Adam Gase and the front office decided to lure Jay Cutler out of retirement, bypassing backup QB Matt Moore. The big question is, how does it affect the offense for fantasy? Let’s break it down by position.

Quarterback

The first place to start is Cutler himself. What kind of expectations should owners have? We have the luxury of Gase and Cutler having a track record together to try and judge. In 2015, Gase was the offensive coordinator for the Bears when Cutler last played 15 games. Gase was able to get a positive season from Cutler, who only threw 11 interceptions. The flip side of that is Cutler only threw 21 touchdowns and didn’t exceed 4,00 yards. This was good for a pedestrian QB20 finish.

There is a small argument to be made that Cutler may not be that significant of an upgrade over Moore. This stat caught my eye shortly after Cutler signed with Miami.

Now, this is obviously a very small sample size and shouldn’t be taken to any extremes. The larger point is the track record of the past two seasons Gase has put up. When Gase has not had Peyton Manning as his QB, his offenses have ranked 25th(2015) and 31st(2016) in pass attempts. The only way I could advocate drafting Cutler is in a 2QB league as a backup. Odds are he will not see the volume needed to be a fantasy relevant QB unless it’s a bye week for your starter.

Running Back

The passing attempts stat brings us nicely to expectations for Jay Ajayi with his new QB. While he should expect a heavy rushing load, what is a little harder to predict is the passing volume Ajayi could get. With the Bears in 2015, the running backs received 19.6% of the total targets. This number is a bit skewed by the presence of Matt Forte. However, even Jeremy Langford saw 42 targets.

For comparison, Ajayi only saw 32 targets in 2016. Even though Ajayi himself saw just 32 targets, the backs for the Dolphins saw 18.4% of the total targets. There is room for Ajayi to grow in the passing game. My assertion is Cutler won’t have any effect on Ajayi and he’s still locked in as a low-end RB1.

 

Wide Receiver

Now we get to the hard part to project. I still think Jarvis Landry will be a strong asset for fantasy. Even though he saw 30 fewer targets in 2016, he was still a top 15 WR in PPR formats. The big question is who does Cutler favor? He has a history of peppering his top WR with targets. With the Bears in 2015, Alshon Jeffery saw a ridiculous 94 targets in 9 games. Landry will be a dynamo if he sees that kind of target percentage.

What’s interesting is Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker are some of the better complimentary WRs Cutler has worked with. Parker has yet to prove he can be a consistent force. Honestly, I’m not very interested in Parker at all. The Gase and Cutler pairing will almost certainly not support two WRs for fantasy on a week to week basis.

The interesting player to me is Stills. He scored a TD in each of the last four games in 2016. Cutler ranked in the top 10 for yards per pass thrown in 2015. Stills has the skill set to mesh with Cutler and be an interesting late round flier. Even if he’s difficult to play in season long formats, keep him in mind for a DFS play in the right matchup and a best ball candidate.

Tight End

I don’t believe Julius Thomas will be anything to write home about, but he could flirt with a top-15 finish at the TE position. That speaks more to the lack of good fantasy TEs than his talent level. Regardless, Thomas has a shot to be a red zone weapon. Now, the addition of Cutler doesn’t move the needle too much for Thomas. He’s not a bad punt option in the hope he and Cutler mesh quickly. Keep this in mind, though. Even when Martellus Bennett was in Chicago with Cutler, he finished with under 500 yards and just three touchdowns. That was good for TE26 in standard and TE22 in PPR. Don’t go crazy with Thomas.

Jay Cutler is a fine NFL level QB. However,  Fantasy players would do well to temper expectations on the Miami offense. Jay Ajayi and Jarvis Landry are the only two players that should be drafted with the expectation of helping your team every week.

 

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About the author

Adam Strangis

Adam Strangis

I'm a sports fanatic who wears it on my sleeve (seriously, I have a Pittsburgh sports tattoo). I'm just a big scruffy looking nerf-herder who somehow managed to marry an incredible and supportive woman, have a wonderful family and a sweetheart dog. When I'm not at work, odds are I'm watching sports or the latest comic book movie. Life is good, it's just much better with fantasy football in it. The sarcastic and above it all fantasy analysis is overdone, I'm here to bring it back to what you need to know with a terrible sense of humor. Let's win some fantasy titles!

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