Underrated Game-Breaker: Doug Martin
Remember when the lovable running back out of Boise State was nicknamed the Muscle Hamster and the fantasy community fell in love with him? That feels like a long time ago given his perceived struggles and eventual injury in 2013 after owners had used a top-five overall selection on Doug Martin.
I can promise you that there is likely at least one owner (whoever drafted him last year) that has soured on the idea of Martin as a RB1, but should you follow suit and write him off?
In a word, no.
In the same fashion that drafting him this year won’t guarantee you the sparkling statistics from 2012, it also doesn’t lock you in to a season of disappointment. For his career, Martin’s average 16-game output is 1,780 yards and 9.5 touchdowns, numbers that compare to the 2013 16-game averages of surefire 2014 first-rounders like Adrian Peterson (1,642 yards and 12.6 touchdowns) and Eddie Lacy (1,531 yards and 11.7 touchdowns).
Those numbers are pretty solid and don’t account for the upside that we saw from a healthy Martin in 2012. They also don’t take into account the improvement of the team around him. He came into last season as the primary focus of defenses and was counting on Josh Freeman (for three starts) and Mike Glennon (the first three starts of his career after being selected 73rd overall in the 2013 draft) to take some of that pressure off of him. Good luck with that.
Even with the less-than-ideal quarterback situation (which should improve this season with the experience of Glennon and the acquisition of Josh McCown), Martin wasn’t as bad last year as you want to think he was. If you subtract two games against the top two rush defenses in terms of yards per carry – two teams in the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals that he will not face this year – Martin averaged 4.6 yards per carry … his exact average from his breakout rookie campaign.
While I understand this is a new year and trends change, it certainly doesn’t hurt to look ahead and realize that the Bucs play six games against teams that ranked in the bottom five last season in yards per carry against (including two home games in the final two weeks of the regular season). The matchups are enticing, and given the Buccaneers’ tendency to lean heavily on a healthy Martin, he’s recorded 20-plus touches in 81 percent of games that he started and finished, there is no reason to think the third-year back doesn’t approach 350 touches in 2014 given the glowing reports coming out of Tampa.
Martin’s torn labrum allowed Bobby Rainey and Mike James to showcase their talents, and while I don’t consider them real threats to cut significantly into Martin’s workload, I do like their ability to occasionally spell him, thus maximizing the upside of every touch he gets. The favorable schedule, the increased experience at the quarterback position, and the additions made on the offensive line all are reasons to be bullish (I’ve got him penciled in as my ninth best running back and a early-to-mid second round pick) on the Muscle Hamster in 2014.