Doug Martin made fantasy owners warm and fuzzy (sorta NSFW) in 2012. After being selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 31st overall pick in the NFL Draft, Martin exploded for 1,926 total yards on 319 carries and 49 receptions. He tallied 12 combined touchdowns and ended as the No. 3 running back in standard scoring. Then, 2013 Doug Martin happened. To say Martin was a disappointment is an understatement. Fantasy drafters were selecting him as the No. 2 running back off the board, right behind Adrian Peterson. Before Martin was shut down for the year due to a shoulder injury, he rushed 127 times for 456 yards. He caught 12 balls for 66 yards and only scored one combined touchdown. He ended up scoring 0.8 fantasy points more than Shonn Greene and 2.1 less than Brandon Bolden. So what happened?
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The 2013 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Starting quarterback benched… Josh Freeman was benched in favor of rookie Mike Glennon week 4. There was a ton of drama between head coach Greg Schiano and Freeman during the offseason.
- MSRA… There was an outbreak of MRSA during training camp in the Buccaneers locker room. Seriously? Even Hollywood declined to endorse that script.
- Head coach Greg Schiano lost the locker room and was subsequently fired at the end of the season.
The 2014 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- New coaches… Lovie Smith was hired to replace Schiano. Jeff Tedford was named Offensive Coordinator.
- New general manager… Jason Licht replaced Mark Dominik. RELEASED: G Davin Joseph, T Donald Penn, G Carl Nicks, and G Jamon Meredith. SIGNED: QB Josh McCown, T Anthony Collins, C/G Evan Dietrich-Smith, G Oniel Cousins, and T Matt Patchan. DRAFTED: RB Charles Sims, WR Mike Evans, TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, T Kevin Pamphile, and G Kadeem Edwards. TRADED FOR: G Logan Mankins
- As shown above, they rebuilt offensive line. That unit always takes time to gel.
- Quarterback carousel… Josh McCown started 11 games while Mike Glennon started five.
2014 Doug Martin
- 134 carries for 494 yards and two touchdowns.
- 13 receptions for 64 yards.
- Missed five games due to injury.
- Rookie Charles Sims took touches away when he was healthy.
REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
- Jameis Winston: The No. 1 overall pick of the Buccaneers will be an upgrade over Josh McCown and Mike Glennon, even though it will be his rookie season. Winston choreographed a pro-style offense at Florida State, so the transition should be a little smoother. He was receiving praise for picking up the offense back in July. Winston’s mental toughness and aptitude for the game seem to be high, as the coaching staffs on both sides of the ball haven’t been babying him in camp. He can make all the throws and will push the ball down the field, which will create pockets and seams for the offense to exploit. Improved quarterback play should provide more room for Martin to run and prevent defenses from stacking the box.
- The Triple Towers: Mike Evans (6’5″), Vincent Jackson (6’5″), and Austin Seferian-Jenkins (6’6″) are going to wreak havoc on opposing secondaries all year long. You can’t double all of them and if any are one-on-one, they should probably win those matchups. Pick your poison. The Bucs have the opportunity to dictate to defenses, rather than vice versa. The Triple Towers should also prevent defenses from stacking the box.
- Contract year: Pretty self-explanatory. Martin wouldn’t be the first and definitely won’t be the last player to post career numbers in a contract year. He lost 20 pounds over the offseason and received praise from offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
- Ability to catch passes: Martin caught 49 passes in 2012 for 472 yards. He has the ability to be a three-down running back.
- New offensive coordinator – Dirk Koetter replaces Jeff Tedford. Koetter was the OC in Atlanta for the last three years. The Falcons ranked eighth (2012), 14th (2013), and eighth (2014) in yards-per-game and seventh (2012), 20th (2013), and 12th (2014) in points-per-game. Prior to his stint in Atlanta, he was the OC in Jacksonville and was instrumental in the development of Maurice Jones-Drew.
- Improved defense: The defense should be improved in the second year under Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier. After missing games last year due to injury, the two stars, Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David, are healthy and look poised to anchor the defense. While there were no splash acquisitions, the front office filled in the holes with DE George Johnson, S Chris Conte, LB Bruce Carter, and DT Henry Melton. An improved defense could provide more opportunities for the offense and keep them from chasing points and going off script.
- Charles Sims: The 2014 third-round of the Bucs was underwhelming to say the least. He averaged 2.8 ypc in 66 attempts in 2014. Chris Wesseling of NFL.com summed up Sims as having “subpar vision, burst and tackle-breaking ability. His film called to mind a slow-motion C. J. Spiller, lacking the explosive lateral agility and breakaway speed while showing nothing between the tackles.”
- Favorable schedule: In the NFC South, the Panthers have a very good defense, but the Falcons and Saints do not. Out of division, they play the AFC South and NFC East. The Texans are stout, but the Jaguars and Colts are not. The Cowboys, Eagles, and Giants are not known as possessing elite defenses.
REASONS TO BE WARY
- Offensive line: Pro Football Focus rated the 2014 version as the No. 25 unit in the league. Donovan Smith was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft and is slated to start at left tackle. Other than that, the line remains the same.
- Jameis Winston: He’s still a rookie.
- Charles Sims: He was drafted by the current regime. Are they committed to him? Sims had a rough rookie year, especially having to undergo ankle surgery. Many players improve their second year and get comfortable with the pro game. Sims could also carve out a role as the third-down back, relegating Martin to two-down status.
- The defense could still be terrible.
- Martin just isn’t that good. There have been plenty of one-hit wonders in the history of the NFL.
FantasyPros currently has Doug Martin as the No. 34 running back off the board, No. 89 overall (Jay has him at No. 31, 83rd overall). That puts him in the seventh round range in 12-team leagues. For perspective, Chris Ivory and Isaiah Crowell are the two above Martin and Darren McFadden and Tre Mason are the two right below.
There has been recent buzz on Martin recently, that has seen his draft stock rise. Mike Mayock said on NFL Network that “apparently Doug Martin looks fantastic…they’re all excited that we’re going to see the Doug Martin of 2012.”
Even with the recent spike in Martin’s stock, the risk/reward remains favorable. There are enough question marks that will keep his value suppressed and Martin has shown that he’s able to be successful in the league. The events that followed his historic rookie year were…crazy.
I don’t think this is a “fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me” situation. I’m going to reference Trent Richardson here, which would be a perfect example. After his successful rookie year, Richardson flat out flopped. He ended up getting traded to the Colts to be the running back in a Andrew Luck-led offense (fool me once): 157 carries for 458 yards with three touchdowns. One of the main excuses was that he needed time to get acclimated to a new team and system. The following year, 159 carries for 519 yards with three touchdowns (fool me twice).
The two years after Martin’s rookie year were filled with turnover and tumult. I don’t think he’s been given a fair shake to determine if he sucks or not. Because of that, I think there is reason to be optimistic for Martin’s prospects this year. If he sucks, at least it only cost a sixth or seventh round pick. If he doesn’t, then it’s all gravy.
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