Can Doug Martin be the Top Overall Fantasy Player in 2013?
My longtime readers on Bleacher Report and eDraft, among other sites, know full well just how high I was on Doug Martin last April. I had him as a top-20 prospect and just a notch below the consensus No. 1 running back in the draft, Trent Richardson.
The Boise State product proved me right. What Martin did on a consistent basis for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a rookie was nothing short of amazing. Martin put up over 1,900 total yards and 12 touchdowns. In the process, he joined Alfred Morris and Richardson as three of the most productive rookie running backs in the recent history of the National Football League.
Lets take a look at Martin’s 2012 season from a fantasy perspective and look forward to what he promises to do next year.
Martin put up the third-most fantasy points among NFL running backs in 2012, only behind the likes of Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster. That is simply stunning considering that at this time last year Martin wasn’t even a member of the league that he absolutely dominated as a rookie. While not nearly as impressive as what we saw from first-year quarterbacks in 2012, Martin stood a step above any rookie running back in the recent history of the NFL.
What made Martin’s rookie season so special was that he wasn’t a one-trick pony. The Boise State product caught the fourth-most passes of any regular running back and had a stellar 79 percent reception percentage, which ranked him ahead of the likes of Arian Foster and Ray Rice – two great receiving running backs.
All said, Martin tallied more than 100 yards or at least one score in 75 percent of his outings as a rookie. This made him one of the most consistently good fantasy running backs in the NFL. As you already know, this is huge for owners who pick running backs high (all of us) in fantasy drafts. While Chris Johnson or Rice might give you stellar production when all is said and done, they’re not as consistent as Martin.
What Makes a True Top Fantasy Football Talent?
This is a question that many have attempted to answer since the initial rules for fantasy football were founded in New York City back in 1962. Do you go running back early at all cost? What about the quarterback position?
While I am not sold on the idea of having to address running back in the initial round, I do believe that when value meets need it becomes a necessity to go for it. Doug Martin represents both – probably more so than any other player in the National Football League. His ability to give you points both on the ground and through the air is really what separates him from the rest of the elite fantasy options. Martin’s natural progression as an all-around running back from his rookie season to his sophomore campaign suggests that he will increase his production in nearly every category. While that might be pure conjecture on my part, let’s take a look at a couple of other top running back options heading into 2013.
Arian Foster has tallied 730 total touches over the course of the last two seasons, which ranks him No. 1 overall in the NFL. While he is still relatively young at 26 years old, Foster’s mileage over this span has taken its toll. He averaged just 72 rushing yards per game in Houston’s final five regular season games after putting up 97 yards per game in his first 11 outings. In addition, he put up just three rushing touchdowns in those final five games compared to 12 in his first 11.
For his part, Martin started to struggle a little bit toward the end. There is, however, justification for that. He wasn’t used to playing a full 16-game schedule and lost the power and electricity that made him such a dynamic back heading into December. With a full offseason of conditioning under his belt, this shouldn’t be a huge issue for Martin.
Adrian Peterson had a season for the ages in 2012. He was a mere 8 yards shy of breaking Eric Dickerson’s single-season rushing record. However, there should be concerns about him being able to duplicate that type of otherworldly production in 2013. Even after finishing this past season with one of the better performances in the history of the league, Peterson only averaged 2.7 more fantasy points per outing than Martin.
Taking into account the fact that Martin promises to increase his production and Peterson seems to be bound to fall back a little, it is easy to draw the conclusion that the second-year running back could overtake his older counterpart. Of course, I am not attempting to take anything away from AP here. Instead, it is all about fantasy production. In terms of being an overall running back, Peterson is one of the best in the history of the league. His 2012 performance cemented that status.
It’s extremely valuable when setting your fantasy football big board come draft time to take a look at the strength of schedule for specific players. As we near the real NFL Draft, this becomes even more important in dynasty leagues. Most new keeper/dynasty formats tend to take part in a veteran draft prior to the actual real-live event in New York City in late April. This means that we will be seeing a lot of veteran drafts take place over the next couple weeks before rookie dynasty drafts occur a few weeks later.
Even when looking at standard fantasy football leagues, it’s good to know where some of your highest-rated players stand.
The good news for those looking to grab Doug Martin high in their draft, or even select him number one, is that he should have a pretty easy time adding to what was a stellar rookie campaign.
The following is a list of teams Tampa Bay is set to take on in 2013. I have included various rankings from last season as it relates to their defenses.
|Opponent||PFF Rank||Rushing TDs||AVG Per Rush|
|Atlanta Falcons||29th (-22.4)||16||4.8|
|Carolina Panthers||31st (-45.7)||11||4.2|
|New Orleans Saints||26th (-20.5)||18||5.2|
|New England Patriots||3rd (+56.3)||10||3.9|
|Miami Dolphins||10th (+32.1)||10||4.7|
|New York Jets||11th (+30.0)||17||4.3|
|Buffalo Bills||23rd (-9.3)||23||5.1|
|San Francisco 49ers||1st (+86.7)||7||3.7|
|Seattle Seahawks||21st (-4.4)||8||4.5|
|Arizona Cardinals||25th (-18.5)||12||4.3|
|St. Louis Rams||22nd (-5.0)||18||4.3|
|Detroit Lions||28th (-32.1)||13||4.5|
|Philadelphia Eagles||29th (-23.0)||11||4.2|
As you can see, Tampa Bay plays nine games against defenses that ranked in the bottom eight against the run last season. It’s easy to conclude that some of these defenses have improved in free agency and will address other issues in the draft, but that’s a great indicator that Martin will be among the very best fantasy producers in 2013.
While Martin does go up against the first- and third-ranked rush defenses from a year ago, you can see by the chart above that a vast majority of his games are against units that just aren’t good in that category.
Meanwhile, Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings are slotted to play six games against opposing defenses that ranked in the top 10 in the NFL against the run last season. For his part, Foster has five such games. In comparison, Martin only has those two.
It is also important to note that Tampa Bay will be getting the likes of Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks back for 2013. Joseph missed the entire season with a knee injury, while Nicks sat out the final nine games with a toe injury and wasn’t nearly 100 percent for a vast majority of the seven games he actually played in. Where Joseph might have struggled in run blocking back in 2011, Nicks finished third among all guards in that category and will be a major cog in what Tampa Bay is attempting to build in its running game.
In terms of dynasty leagues, Martin is the obvious No. 1 running back option. He doesn’t have anywhere near the tread on his tires as a Foster or Peterson and hasn’t even hit his prime yet. While attempting to sound a bit less obvious, I am making a strong statement here. Martin should be the No. 1 overall player selected in most fantasy football drafts, standard or not, this offseason. All the indicators are there for him to have another stellar season in 2013 and even take his production to a whole new level.
Looking at all variables of success and/or failure, there is no reason to believe that Martin can’t put up 2,300 total yards and more than 18 touchdowns. That makes him a better fantasy option than Foster, Peterson or anyone else you are considering early in the initial round.