Going Deep: Will Lamar Miller be the next big thing?

Back in 1988, 12-year-old Josh Baskin wanted to make an impression on Cynthia Benson. Unfortunately he was told that he wasn't tall enough to get on a carnival ride, thus his chance to woo his dream girl was as out of reach as a toddler trying to get cookies from the top of the refrigerator.

Josh's answer was to drop a quarter in Zoltar's slot and wish to be big. He woke up the next morning as Tom Hanks, picked up a job at a toy company, started dating Elizabeth Perkins, got in a fist fight with John Heard and played the piano at FAO Schwarz with Robert Loggia. All in all, things worked out pretty well for Josh.

If Dolphins fans and fantasy owners are Cynthia Benson, Lamar Miller is Josh Baskin. The second-year running back dropped in on NFL Fantasy LIVE earlier this week and told Jason Smith that he was aiming for 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. That certainly qualifies as thinking big.

So we got to thinking here at Going Deep about which running backs have accomplished that feat in recent seasons and what did they do for an encore?
Dating back to 2008, the list of rushers who have gone 1,500/15 is pretty short. In fact, that list has just three names -- Arian Foster (2010), Michael Turner (2008) and DeAngelo Williams (2008). That begs the question: which back will Miller more closely resemble in 2013 and beyond?

The first thing you'll notice is that all three players who've reached this plateau were able to stay on the field for a full 16 games. Seems pretty obvious, but it's certainly worth noting. On the one hand, it's easy to say that durability is an underrated quality in fantasy running backs. But on the other hand ... Darren McFadden.

While injury concerns followed Miller into the draft (he had shoulder surgery following his final collegiate season), he showed no ill effects during his rookie season. On three occasions last year, the young runner was a healthy scratch from the Dolphins lineup, so presumably he could have played a full 16-game season.

Okay...so he's healthy. But will he get the touches? Every name on this list saw 270-plus carries, with two of the three posting more than 300 attempts. For Williams to top 1,500 yards with just 273 rushes (5.5 yards per carry average) is pretty astounding. The other remarkable thing about Williams' 2008 campaign is that he shared quite a bit of his workload. Foster and Turner were the undisputed No. 1 options in their running games, taking 78 and 68 percent of their teams' carries, respectively. By contrast, Williams took just 54 percent of Carolina's rushes with Jonathan Stewart handling 36 percent of the workload.

What does that mean for Miller? Last season, Reggie Bush was Miami's go-to rusher but he had just 227 carries -- or just 53 percent of the team's rushing attempts. Neither one of those numbers works in Miller's favor. When you factor in that the Dolphins made a splash in free agency by adding WRs Mike Wallace and Brandon Gibson and TE Dustin Keller, it's pretty likely that the Fins are going to feature the passing game a little more.

That's one more thing working against the young runner in an offense that threw the ball 55 percent of the time in 2012. Of the three rushers to hit the heights in their career, only Foster's 2010 Texans threw the ball more than they ran it. Yes...Foster was just that productive.

So we've highlighted all the reasons that it's going to be tough for Miller to reach his stated goals. But hey, we can't blame a guy for aiming high. Yet we still haven't figured out which player he'll more closely resemble.

Based on first-year production alone, Miller and Foster match up nicely -- although it took Foster far fewer games to log those numbers. But similar to Houston's lone star, Miller will have his chance to be a featured back in his second season. That's something it took Turner five seasons (and a new team) to achieve. It's also a luxury that Williams has really never enjoyed in his career -- in his first season as a full-time starter, he had to contend with Stewart as a backfield complement.

And even though it's assumed Miller will be the go-to guy on South Beach, there is still always the chance that Daniel Thomas could have a significant role in the running game this season. That would tend to align him a little closer to Williams.

Of course, in a brave new NFL world where featured backs are as rare as fat guy touchdowns, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Lamar Miller as a fantasy sleeper back -- though it's getting harder to stick that label on him as the hype continues to grow. Nonetheless, signs point to the second-year runner being a sought after commodity as the year continues.

But becoming the next dominant fantasy rusher? That seems a little more unlikely. Then again, after putting the question to our new Fantasy Genius, it appears that most of you aren't of the same mind. One thing is certain: plenty of us will be watching.

As for Josh Baskin, he certainly enjoyed his time being big, but eventually reverted. We'll see if Miller can stay big for awhile.

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