Sep 29, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin (22) against the Arizona Cardinals during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Arizona Cardinals defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 13-10. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

How Much Does Tampa’s RB Rotation Hurt Doug Martin?

It was only two years ago that Tampa Bay Buccaneers star running back Doug Martin finished his rookie year as fantasy football’s #2 running back. Yeah, you read that right.

Martin’s second season was marred by a slow start, bad coaching, worse quarterback play and a torn labrum, but that epic rookie year is still fresh in fantasy owner’s minds.

Perhaps that’s why few of us can understand Martin’s fantasy stock sinking to a second round ADP (Average Draft Position). Why is a guy with so much talent, so much upside and such a good role suddenly no longer a lock for the first round?

And why are more unproven guys like Montee Ball and Giovani Bernard soaring above him in fantasy football drafts?

On one hand, it makes some sense. It’s always hard to trust a guy coming off of a ruined year – especially when it has to do with his health. It’s even harder when Martin wasn’t really blowing the roof off of the fantasy realm before it happened.

Add in new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offensive philosophy, which revolves around more of a RBBC (Running Back By Committee) approach, and Martin’s formerly awesome role might be shrinking.

Shrinking, sure. Maybe. But disappearing? Not in the least.

Reports confirm that Martin is in fact still Tampa Bay’s lead back and will secure the majority of the team’s early down work. The team merely plans on using it’s other top backs to help keep Martin fresh. This could include using rookie Charles Sims on some passing downs, while also rotating Mike James or Bobby Rainey in to help spell Martin to keep his legs lively for the end of games.

But Martin is far and away their best running back. Whether or not the new regime drafted him is a moot point. Head coach Lovie Smith is a smart guy. He had an elite back in Chicago in Matt Forte, and he knew it. In Smith’s final three years with the Bears, Forte finished as a top-15 producer every time, and was even the 10th best fantasy back in 2010.

Martin is arguably better than Forte. In just two seasons he’s proven to be a more effective goal-line back, while his explosiveness and versatility is at worst on par with Forte’s – again, if not better.

The comparison really doesn’t matter, though. It’s been proven in the past that Smith loves to control the clock with the running game. Martin is going to lead the way and be a huge part of this offense.

If Tedford plans for a complete RBBC, sure it negatively impacts Martin’s fantasy value. But it has to be overblown and it still doesn’t crush his value.

It’s pretty clear Martin won’t be seeing the insane 368 touches he did as a rookie. But 300+ still isn’t out of the question. Head coach Lovie Smith has admitted Martin’s role will decrease a bit, but he also admitted he’s still an integral part of Tampa Bay’s offense.

The worry about a RBBC, which Smith deems to be “chatter” should hurt Martin’s stock a bit, but it already looks like it’s gone a bit too far. In fact, it’s forced Martin into the back end of the second round, where he can be had at insane value. He’s probably closer to the first round and has more upside than numerous players ahead of him. That doesn’t mean you need to reach for him, though, as his current ADP has him set up to be one of the best value picks of 2014 fantasy drafts.

Let everyone else sour on Martin because his team is taking it a little lighter on him. Just know that he’s still the same guy with the same upside. He just probably won’t be the #2 overall fantasy back and you can get him way later than you could a year ago.

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Tags: Bobby Rainey Charles Sims Doug Martin Fantasy Football Mike James Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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