The best part of the Dolphins' miserable 2019 season was the emergence of DeVante Parker, who rescued Fantasy managers with 90-plus yards and or at least one touchdown in 10 of his final 13 games. Parker became the go-to target of savvy veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who tends to lock on to his best downfield pass-catchers.
With three first-round picks and a clear need for a long-term solution at quarterback, the odds of the vaunted Fitzmagic-to-Parker connection sticking around for another full season seem small. But the Dolphins' hire of 68-year-old playcaller Chan Gailey to run the offense gives some hope for a successful redux, if only to start the season.
Gailey's playbook, rooted in the Erhardt-Perkins scheme, is likely similar to what the Dolphins had in 2019. It's the same kind of gameplan-specific system the Patriots have used for years, and was the playbook ex-Dolphins offensive coordinator Chad O'Shea used.
It'll be especially easy for Fitzpatrick to run since he worked with Gailey from 2015-16 with the Jets and 2010-12 with the Bills. Obviously, Fitzpatrick will be on borrowed time presuming Miami drafts a rookie quarterback in April. Then again, Fitzpatrick has fended off young guns like Trent Edwards, Brian Brohm, Tyler Thigpen, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. Crazy list, right? Nearly all of those quarterbacks were drafted or acquired by teams with Gailey on them. He might not be so good at evaluating the position.
Luckily, Gailey's only power with the Fins is calling plays, and his track record suggests some interesting wrinkles we should take into account. He's been around football for a long, long time, so the only data I'm looking at here is from his stints with the Jets and Bills — nearly all of it quarterbacked by Fitzpatrick.
This was the most consistent area of Gailey's tendencies — he was in this exact range in Buffalo and was basically there with the Jets (58% pass, 42% run). It simply suggests Gailey will be as pass-centric as most offensive commanders, but not over-the-top aggressive.
This also seems to be a good time to mention that Fitzpatrick's two best seasons came under Gailey with different teams. Fitzpatrick had 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns with the Jets in 2015 and 3,832 yards and 24 touchdowns with the Bills in 2011. He might only start a few games, but it's clear he'll have a chance to be effective.
RB rushes per game
With the Jets: 23.7 | With the Bills: 21.6
We've got some variance in terms of total per game usage, but not in terms of philosophy. Gailey didn't lean on his run game quite as much with the Bills as he did with the Jets, but at both stops he liked using multiple running backs. Much of his time in Buffalo was dotted with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller sharing the backfield duties, while with the Jets he had a two-headed monster involving Bilal Powell and either Chris Ivory or Matt Forte. These five rushers combined for 25 games of 20-plus carries out of 80 possible games. Frankly, it's surprising the number was that high given the constant sharing.
Bank on a two-headed backfield in Miami, particularly two guys who can catch the ball effectively. More on that below, as well as why you shouldn't be worried about their target share from Fitzpatrick.
With the Jets: 27.5% to RB, 68.5% to WR, 4% to TE | With the Bills: 24% to RB, 62.6% to WR, 13.3% to TE
The running back reception totals were consistent through Gailey's last four years as a play caller (his rushers had 62 catches in 2010, 82 or more every year since). It's a staple of his offense and a clear tendency. Even Ivory found a career-high 30 receptions as a backfield-committee member back in 2015. Keep a close eye on how this group shapes up.
I should probably address those tight end numbers. In my history of studying playcaller tendencies, those are the second-lowest concentration of receptions from a position I've ever seen (Kliff Kingsbury's tight ends at Texas Tech went catchless for five seasons). However, that's not Gailey's way of saying tight ends stink and shouldn't be involved: When he called the shots for the Chiefs in 2008, some guy named Tony Gonzalez led his position group to 33.2% of all catches. His best tight end in his previous five years of calling plays was Scott Chandler (remember him? He had a pair of six-score seasons).
If Gailey falls in love with Mike Gesicki's receiver-over-blocker skill-set, there's no reason to believe he won't use him in the Dolphins offense, especially as a mismatch piece.
Receivers under Gailey had some good success and great opportunities. In two of the five years in the study, wideouts accumulated over 70% of the team's total receptions. A lot of those numbers went to Fantasy heroes like Stevie Johnson, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, each of whom had at least 130 targets and 1,000 yards per healthy season.
There's no reason to believe Parker won't be that guy for Miami in 2020. Many Fantasy managers will be squeamish to draft him because he's basically a one-year wonder who just got a large contract. But the Dolphins won't be shy about passing whether it's Fitzpatrick or a rookie like Tua Tagovailoa, and Parker is best equipped to be the No. 1 guy and thus someone with 130-plus targets. Trepidation over his downside will get baked into his ADP, making him a Round 4 or 5 target. He could easily over-deliver on those expectations — but he might be the only Dolphins receiver to do so.