Doug Martin owns top RB grade this season

Tampa Bay's Doug Martin earned his career-best grade in Sunday's win over Jacksonville.

| 1 year ago
(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

(AP Photo/Steve Nesius)

Doug Martin owns top RB grade this season

Doug Martin’s 2012 burst onto the scene as a rookie running back thrust one of the world’s most unfortunate nicknames—Muscle Hamster—into our collective consciousness.

Martin was a first-round pick that year, and graded well as a rookie. Despite topping 1,450 rushing yards, though, his entire season was centered around one dominant game against Oakland in which he tallied 251 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while forcing 12 missed tackles.

That game was the best of Martin, but it was a performance he has rarely come close to matching, and was never able to produce consistently. Even in that season, he had three poorly graded games and was not consistently dominant. Since then, he has looked like that year may have been a fluke entirely. In the past two seasons, he has earned just three games graded over +1.0, as injuries and poor play have mired him in mediocrity.

So far in 2015, though, we are looking at a different player. In five games he has posted five consecutive positively-graded performances, and if anything, appears to be getting better as the season progresses. The yardage totals tell a similar story, with his past two outings topping triple digits, and this most recent mark of 123 rushing yards being his best since Week 2 of the 2013 season.

Against Jacksonville, Martin’s +4.0 grade was the best mark of his entire career, actually eclipsing that epic performance against the Raiders in his rookie year.


While his rushing performance has been up and down throughout his career, pass-protection has always been an issue; but this season, he is perfect in that regard, yet to allow a single pressure in 20 snaps. When you add in the fact that he has caught all 11 of the passes sent in his direction so far this season, and added 93 receiving yards on them, you’ve got a player that is hitting his best form and finds himself sitting atop the PFF running back rankings.

Right now, only Matt Forte has more rushing yards than the Tampa Bay halfback (438 to 407), and with games like he produced on Sunday, Martin could remain at the sharp end of the rankings all season long.

| Senior Analyst

Sam is a Senior Analyst at Pro Football Focus, as well as a contributor to ESPN.

  • Joe

    251 yards, 4 TDs, and 13 missed tackles. Worse than 123 yards and 3 total TDs, excuse me sir but that is blasphemous

    • JSump804

      Grades aren’t solely based on stats, but instead on execution of responsibilities on every play. I don’t think PFF grades are meant to be the end all be all, but to instead provide a different perspective on football. But I understand the frustration, especially in a grading system dependent on human assessment as opposed to statistical fact. Hopefully their employees have a more intricate understanding of football than the average, passive fan.

      If you remember that game, he had over 260 yards, but many negative yardage runs toward the end of the game to run the clock down probably contributed to a lower score.

      The only problem I can see (from the outside) with PFF’s grading system is that the max score on any given play is a 2. Even among “perfect” plays there are discrepancies as to which is better. I think coaches, players, and fans can agree on that.

  • PFF_Admin

    Here’s the point:

    2012 (Oak) +3.6 overall = +4.6 run, -0.4 pass, -0.7 run block, +0.1 penalty

    2015 (Jax) +4.0 overall = +2.6 run, +0.8 pass, +0.3 block

    It wasn’t a better rushing performance but it was a better performance when all facets of play were included.

  • New Commenter

    pff_admin, your numbers dont add up. 2.6+0.8+0.3= 3.7, not 4.0.
    second, for the oak stat line, you gave him a -0.7 for run blocking…did you mean pass blocking??

  • Justin Blalock

    So Martin is finally learning how to pass-protect reliably? After having not shown any apparent progress on that the last two seasons, I had given up on him improving there.

    It’s interesting for his fantasy ceiling, particularly in dynasty terms. I had anticipated him settling in for good as just a 2-down back this year, regardless of any possible resurgence as a runner.

    The 50 receptions he got his rookie year were a big part of his fantasy value, but then his struggles in pass-protection years two and three seemed to lose him that work.

  • crosseyedlemon

    It’s never easy when you play for a bad team and have to overcome injuries so lets give Martin his due respect here. incidentally there are worst nicknames than Muscle Hamster out there and if you listen to the Hamster dance while watching Martin’s highlights it all seems to fit well.

  • geo2209

    Bah, just traded him for Maclin last week since he’s running behind the
    worst run blocking line. Looks like he may be able to overcome that on
    talent, e.g. BeastMode style. Impressive so far.

  • E kastren

    Yo poor description of Martin’s bad years. He was going through injuries and two shit coaches who ended up butchering the offensive line and offensive gameplay was horrendous during Schiano’s last year Martin just kept getting pounded into brick wall D-linemen it was hard to watch the play calling was terrible. Martin has always been a solid player. And probably the best I’ve ever seen with turing negative yards into positive.