When last season ended, it appeared like the Dolphins had little chance of bringing back free agent receiver Kenny Stills. He was coming off a productive season, and Stills was expected to be too pricey for Miami to keep.
That changed late Wednesday night. The Dolphins and Stills agreed to a four-year deal worth $32 million, including $20 million guaranteed, and Stills told the Miami Herald he wanted to stay in Miami despite three “major players” being after his services.
“There’s always opportunities out there, other opportunities,” Stills said. “But I was focused on what we’re doing here in Miami and what we’re building here. That’s really all I cared about.”
Stills played well for the Dolphins in 2016 with 42 catches for 726 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns on 81 targets. He also averaged 17.3 yards-per-catch, which was third in the NFL for any receiver with at least 35 receptions (DeSean Jackson and Chris Hogan were the top two), and he was the No. 28 Fantasy receiver in standard leagues.
He should remain the No. 3 receiver in Miami behind Jarvis Landry and DeVante Parker, and Stills coming back is bad for Parker’s chances as a breakout Fantasy option in 2017, which will be his third year in the NFL. Parker can still have a breakout campaign, but his outlook was better if Stills left.
We saw the Dolphins use Stills as their primary outside receiver last year, and he had nine games with at least nine Fantasy points in a standard league, including four in a row to close the season. Now, Stills only had three games with more than four catches, but he only had seven games with more than five targets, with nine in Week 11 at the Rams his season high.
It’s hard to expect Stills to repeat his performance from 2016 this year. Parker, hopefully, will improve after he struggled with 56 catches for 744 yards and four touchdowns on 90 targets last year, and Landry remains the No. 1 option in the passing game after he had 94 catches for 1,136 yards and four touchdowns on 131 targets.
Touchdowns could be an issue for Stills after the Dolphins traded for tight end Julius Thomas from Jacksonville. The last time Thomas played for Miami coach Adam Gase was when Gase was the offensive coordinator in Denver, and Thomas had 24 touchdowns combined in 2013-14.
There’s still value with Stills as a reserve Fantasy receiver with a late-round pick. Clearly, the Dolphins wanted him back given the financial investment, especially since they’re going to have pay Landry, who is entering the final year of his contract.
Stills has a prominent role with the Dolphins, and his presence helps quarterback Ryan Tannehill because of his ability to stretch the field. But if the touchdowns decline for Stills, which is likely, and he’s unable to do more with his catches and yards, then his Fantasy production will obviously drop.
I’d rather have Landry, who is worth drafting as a No. 2 Fantasy receiver in all formats, with his value higher in PPR. And I’d rather gamble on Parker over Stills since there’s more upside with Parker if things click for him in Year 3. Like Stills, you should be able to draft Parker with a late-round pick, but he could end up as a tremendous bargain on Draft Day.
It was a good move for the Dolphins to re-sign Stills. And it appears like Stills is happy with the decision, especially given the raise. But his Fantasy value doesn’t improve with this transaction, and don’t be surprised if his production goes down in 2017.