Doug Martin was a beast a year ago, and with that many fantasy rankings are showing Martin among the top in the league in terms of expected draft position. Martin ranks among the top five at his position on most boards and is supposed to be a first round pick in almost every standard league.
But, being a Buccaneers fan means you have a lot more invested in Doug Martin’s success than the fantasy owner. We need to know, will he be just as successful as a football player, rather than worry about his fantasy production.
Christopher Harris over at ESPN.com Fantasy Football wrote about his love affair with the Muscle Hamster in an article that seems to show all the signs for why Martin might not duplicate his successful rookie season.
The article shows comparisons to other second year players who had similar expectations as Martin. It also gives a few reasons why Doug could see a decline such as Josh Freeman‘s inconsistency, his “reliance” on the big play, and his struggles at short yardage.
And while these are mostly valid points (save the big games and big play reliance stuff which Leo proved inaccurate), there’s a lot more to look at to come up with a better conclusion.
When it comes to running backs, they tend to be the players on a football field that stats tell the most accurate picture about. Yardage and touchdowns can at times be misleading, but broken tackles, yards per carry, and yards after contact really don’t lie.
With Martin, these stats were all excellent a year ago. He caused 53 missed tackles, good for a tie with Alfred Morris for third (behind Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch), he averaged 4.6 yards per carry, and racked up 3.1 yards per carry after contact.
I also like ProFootballFocus’ stat “elusive rating” which is basically attempts to show the skill of a runner independent of the blocking in front of him. Martin finished 3rd in the NFL in this category behind only C.J. Spiller and Peterson.
But the concerns about short yardage are certainly there, and Josh Freeman’s season could certainly impact how Martin’s season ends up this coming year. The short yardage problem is one that should concern Buccaneers’ fans. Martin simply wasn’t good at it a year ago, and Greg Schiano’s stubborn nature and Freeman’s inconsistency led to FG’s rather than TD’s far too often. The Buccaneers did add Peyton Hillis, and may give Brian Leonard a shot, but if Martin needs to step it up in that department to help the Bucs win games this year.
Next is Josh Freeman’s impact. The ESPN article basically says, if Freeman is bad, Martin will also have a hard time. This is probably true, but there’s actually another side of the coin, which also might not be great for Martin’s numbers. If Freeman is excellent, the Bucs will likely pass more and the reliance on the run will diminish. For fantasy owners, that’s a nightmare, but for Buccaneer fans, the bounty of riches is what we dream of.
Certainly Martin wouldn’t have quite the same season statistically, but his ability to pop a big play, and catch the occasional pass, as well as his blocking prowess, will give the Buccaneers a bundle of options.
So what’s all this mean? Well, my conclusion is that based on all we saw a year ago, as well as Davin Joseph, Carl Nicks, and the rest of the offensive line returning to full health, Martin should be a damn good running back yet again. But I simply do not see the same numbers. Schiano will likely give Martin a few more chances in short yardage, but you can almost guarantee Freeman, Hillis, or Leonard will steal some of those short TD’s. Also, as I’ve said many times, I expect a big year from #5. That means more passing, and more passing touchdowns. Also should mean more running out the clock rather than needing to use the running attack to get us back into games.
I believe Buccaneer fans can count on the Dougernaut this year. I just wouldn’t go crazy over him in fantasy like a lot of people will.