Who is Myles Gaskin is a question fantasy football managers have been asking in increasing fashion over the first two months of this 2020 NFL season as they try to figure out how this relatively unknown second-year player has taken over the Miami Dolphins' starting running back job.
The Dolphins had a heavy flirtation with veteran running back Le'Veon Bell when he hit the market last week. Miami made a strong push to sign him, a source told ESPN, and Bell's arrival likely would have put a significant dent into Gaskin's role. But Bell chose the Kansas City Chiefs, picking a championship contender over a potentially larger role, more money and a better location.
So that meant Gaskin, who was nearly replaced ahead of Week 6, was back in the lead seat. Asked about whether the Dolphins' pursuit of Bell gave him any additional motivation, Gaskin simply replied with a "no." But he responded on the field with his best game as a pro Sunday, netting 126 total yards. Gaskin became the first Dolphins running back to eclipse that elusive 100-yard game mark since Kalen Ballage in December 2018.
Gaskin's silent message was clear: I can be the man in the backfield.
"I know the guys on our team, they're motivated to play, period, so I don't think we need any extra motivation. Myles is a motivated kid. It's important to him. I wouldn't take much stock in that," Dolphins coach Brian Flores said. "He played well. Myles is tough, he's competitive, and he's been productive. ...
"Myles is really everything we're looking for in a Dolphin. ... He's done a really nice job, especially making the Year 1 to Year 2 leap. Great teammate and he really works at his craft, so a really competitive young guy and always trying to get better."
Gaskin is a 2019 seventh-round pick who played sparingly in his rookie season only after the Dolphins' top three backs -- Ballage, Kenyan Drake and Mark Walton -- all struggled, were traded or cut. The Dolphins signed much-respected power back Jordan Howard to a two-year, $9.75 million deal in March, and then traded a fifth-round pick for Matt Breida during the 2020 NFL draft. Miami felt it had a solid one-two punch with Gaskin simply competing for a roster spot.
The trait that makes Gaskin stand out is he runs hard and has a knack for finding positive yards out of nearly every run. Not super fast or super strong, Gaskin is a bit undersized and very few scouts had him pegged as a starting running back in the NFL.
Gaskin has led the Dolphins' backfield in snaps, touches and rushing yards in every game this season. He has played at least 63% of the offensive reps in every game while averaging over 18 touches per game. He's on pace for 1,392 total yards (rushing and receiving), which would be the most for a Dolphins running back since Jay Ajayi in 2016.
"Very thankful that the coaches are putting trust in me, but I think I can do a lot better personally, for myself and for this team. I just need to keep growing, and I think I've been on that path, just kind of learning from my mistakes each week and just trying to get better each and every day, not trying to be complacent at all," Gaskin said. "I give everything I can to this team and this organization."
Gaskin and Flores give a tremendous amount of credit to running backs coach Eric Studesville for the 23-year-old's development.
Studesville has spent time building up Gaskin's confidence, his mental game and making him a complete running back rather than a situational one. It's paying off as Gaskin is showing off his talent as a runner inside the tackles, a reliable receiver out of the backfield and a much-improved pass protector.
"He hits the hole fast and makes the right read all the time," Dolphins center Ted Karras said. "I'm excited to see what he does the rest of the season."
Gaskin arrived to training camp with a body more fit for a NFL season, and he stopped worrying about where he fit on the depth chart. With Studesville's help, Gaskin made it clear he was their most effective option in the backfield and he simply earned more playing time than the Dolphins' established veterans.
"I go back to what it is, I mean he came in from Day 1 and he has a tremendous work ethic. That has given him a chance," Studesville said. "That's a skill that is developed like anything else. He brings that and he uses that, and he's doing the same thing he did last year, working to learn and prepare and be ready. What we are seeing now is the confidence that he can go in and play and perform at a high level."
The Dolphins seem to have found their lead back for the rest of the 2020 season in Gaskin, even if it's a bit of a surprise. He's a Flores-type player: overlooked and overachieving.