by Will Overton
Apparently the Tampa Bay Bucs see something in Doug Martin that they really like, because in a draft where almost everyone was staying away from running backs they traded up into the first round to get Martin. The question that really matters though is how much should you as a fantasy player like Martin?
There are a lot of questions surrounding Martin that will play a role in determining how much fantasy value he will have. The upside for Martin is being a number two, plays every week for you, fantasy back. Potentially even a back end number one guy for deeper 12 team or more leagues. The downside however is that he’s barely even a number three back and he drives owners mad with one big week here and there and a lot of other down weeks.
First let’s take a look at what had the Bucs so excited come draft time and look at Martin’s Junior and Senior season stats:
JUNIOR: 201 CAR, 1,260 YDS, 6.3 YPC, 12 TDS
SENIOR: 263 CAR, 1,299 YDS, 4.9 YPC, 16 TDS
Doug Martin was the workhorse at Boise State, despite being a team that liked to pass plenty too Martin still racked up the carries and churned out the yards, every one of them hard fought and earned. Any questions about Martin having the durability to withstand a season as a feature back have to be set aside. Yes, it’s different in the NFL, but 263 carries is still a lot and I think durability is one question that doesn’t need asked.
Some of the biggest questions lie with the team that Martin will be playing for. For starters the Bucs have a new coach and it’s never easy to know what that means. Fortunately for Martin their new coach is Greg Schiano who comes from Rutgers where he liked to have a featured back and use him as much as possible. The NFL may be shifting to a pass happy league, but Schiano is a rather old school guy and should utilize his backs plenty.
Notice I said backs there. Despite the fact that the Bucs traded up to take Martin, there are other options. The primary guy to beat is LeGarrette Blount who as a rookie topped 1,000 yards despite starting only 7 of the 13 games he played in. Blount struggled a bit more as a second year player only gaining 781 yards in 14 games, though his 4.2 YPC was respectable.
Most people think it’s just a formality that Martin overtakes Blount for the starting job, and maybe that’s the case, but the bigger thing will be who gets the carries at the goal line. Martin is a big guy at 5-9 and 225 and he has proven himself at the goal line, but Blount is pushing 250 and while he isn’t an every down back, he is a load to take down at the goal line.
The other thing that might pose a threat to Martin is that he never proved to be much of a pass catcher in college and is he doesn’t show a bit more in the NFL the Bucs could be looking for a third down specialist, possibly even there late round pick Michael Smith.
Still when you line these three guys up next to each other, and evaluate their talent and abilities, Martin is the only guy who looks like an every down back. Blount doesn’t have the consistency or speed needed, and Smith is a long shot who’s upside is third down back specialist. Martin doesn’t have top end speed, running a 4.55 at the combines, but he’s good at running inside and outside and while he might not break off big runs he should be able to average close to 4.5 yards per carry and get the 4 yards or so consistently the way Blount can’t.
The other thing with the Bucs that has to be considered is the offensive line. The majority of the O-Line rankings done by experts consider the Bucs to be a top ten line. And their anchored by their two all-pro guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph. Martin can run inside or outside, but with his size and running style he’s best suited for running the ball between the tackles and he should be helped out greatly by those two guards.
There are a lot of unanswered questions about Martin, the biggest one being whether or not he will be the guy putting the ball over the goal line. But I can see Martin clearing 1,000 yards this season and he has the makings of a number two, and a strong one at that. Because of the questions I would make sure to get a solid number three shortly after taking Martin as insurance, or handcuffing him with Blount, but I think this risk might be worth making.