Editor’s note: There is no news attached to this story. It is simply the advancement of a conversation started on Twitter. It is an opinion piece, and nothing more.
By all accounts, Doug Martin is a tremendous person with a likable personality. He’s also a fantastic athlete with breakaway speed, short stature, balance, and explosive power. This makes him a thoroughly entertaining player to watch, especially as he torched defenses during his rookie season in the NFL.
But 2013 served as a sobering reminder that even the best running backs in the league cannot carry an offense on their own. And before Martin went down with a severe shoulder injury, he was posting disappointing numbers on a per carry basis. He was also disappointing as a receiver, dropping multiple passes and not providing a real threat out of the backfield.
So what if the Buccaneers were to accept trade offers for the talented young player? Similar to what the Cleveland Browns did with Trent Richardson, what would the Buccaneers do if presented with a trade offering a first round pick for their young tailback?
I doubt that it will ever happen, but if it did, I would encourage the Buccaneers to accept the trade.
At some point on Saturday morning, a discussion broke out on Twitter about this very topic. I believe the genesis of the conversation was this Tweet.
.@SmthingAboutFtB Depends on the new coaching staff. They should seriously consider trading Doug Martin if they can get 1st rounder for him
— NFL Philosophy (@NFLosophy) November 9, 2013
From there, it became a debate that sparked a lot of interest, because Martin is seen as one of the players who provides hope for the future for the Buccaneers.
But here are two reasons why the Buccaneers should entertain trade offers for the young runner.
Running Backs Can’t Carry Offenses On Their Own Like Elite Quarterbacks
No, the Buccaneers will not be able to obtain an elite quarterback in a trade for Doug Martin. Getting a new quarterback will likely happen with or without Martin on the roster. But 2013 provides multiple examples of why “elite” running backs just aren’t valuable on their own in the same way an elite quarterback is.
Consider the running backs for the three best offenses in football, according to Football Outsiders’ DVOA rankings:
Then consider the running backs for the top five offenses in rushing DVOA:
Now finally, let’s consider the “elite” running backs who currently play for offenses ranked in the bottom half of the NFL using DVOA:
Among the list of running backs for good offenses, only one (McCoy) is truly an elite talent.
Lacy and Morris are both talented young players who benefit from very good offenses, and neither required a draft choice within the top-60 selections in the NFL draft.
Obviously having a good quarterback is important to a team’s offense, but as shown above it’s important to the running game as much as it is to the passing game. Andrew Luck and Cam Newton are able to generate rushing yards on their own, and the threat of their passing ability opens up running lanes for mediocre talents at running back, as seen in the top DVOA rushing offenses and their running backs listed above.
Schemes, blocking, and even defense factor into the productivity of running backs, and their ability to have an impact on the offense. Today’s NFL is dictated by the schemes of the coaching staff and the performance of the quarterback. Very few teams find any degree of success without good coaching and good quarterback play.
Running the ball is important, as it keeps a defense honest and it can help hold a lead and chip away at the clock. But having an elite running back is not a prerequisite to success in the NFL.
Running backs have too much to depend on from their teammates. Apart from Adrian Peterson, who is even struggling a bit this season, it’s nearly impossible for even the most talented running back to overcome poor blocking, poor quarterbacking, and a bad offense. We saw that early this season with Doug Martin, and it justifies trading Martin if the right deal is made available.
Mike James showed that he was capable of carrying the load on offense in a small sample size, because he took part in well-designed plays with good blocking and execution. If James continues to show the vision and burst he has shown so far in his brief career, he would be more than sufficient at tailback for an offense led by a top rookie passer in a new offensive scheme in 2014.
The Opportunity of Another Draft Choice
The Buccaneers don’t have many holes on their roster. But where they do have holes, they require long-term solutions. Quarterback, tight end, and pass rusher are impact positions where the Buccaneers currently lack, and having an extra first-round pick in exchange for Doug Martin would allow them the chance to select two of those positions in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Knowing that Mike James is capable of doing the basics on offense, and having the security of bringing in another veteran rusher, or possibly adding another mid-to-late round choice in the draft, the Buccaneers could spend three of the top 40 picks in the draft snagging a quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater or Marcus Mariota, a pass rusher like Vic Beasley or Khalil Mack, and a tight end like Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro.
Those three potential additions could make a world of difference on Tampa Bay’s chances in 2014, and would make life for Mike James and the other running backs that much easier.
Doug Martin will be a welcome addition to the 2014 roster if he’s not traded (and let’s face it, he’s probably not going to be traded). But it would be foolish for the Buccaneers to simply hold onto him if an offer was made. If a new GM takes over in Tampa Bay and is offered a similar deal to the one given to the Browns for Trent Richardson, he should take it immediately and start planning for what would be an epic draft class.