Heading into 2012, a lot of questions surrounded then-rookie Doug Martin. Would his game transition well to an NFL level? Would he manage to steal enough market share from LeGarrette Blount to achieve fantasy relevance? Would it even matter on a Tampa Bay franchise that ranked dead last in rushing attempts in 2011? Owners who looked past those question marks and took a gamble on Martin as their RB2 were rewarded beyond their wildest expectations; by the time the dust settled on the 2012 season, Martin was the No. 2 running back in all of fantasy, behind only the miraculous Mr. Peterson.
Heading into the 2013 season, Martin is most notable for the shocking lack of question marks remaining. From age to performance to supporting cast, Martin has in the span of a single year gone from one of fantasy's biggest mysteries to one of its surest things. Let's examine all of the questions that Martin has answered.
Will Martin's Age and Experience be a Liability?
Last year, Martin was a young, raw, untested rookie. Now that he's been tested at the NFL level, however, Martin's age and experience become a point in his favor. At 24 years old, Martin is several years younger than most of the running backs going in the first round, which means he should have an easier time recovering from injury or overuse. Players often make strong physical gains during their second offseason conditioning program, which means the Martin of 2013 will likely be in even better shape than the Martin of 2012. Both Martin's age and experience level suggest that Martin's career should still be on the upslope.
Can Martin Beat Out the Competition?
Last year, Martin was competing for snaps with LeGarrette Blount, a third year pro and former 1,000 yard rusher. This year, Blount has been traded to the Patriots, and the leading competitor for the backup running back role is a rookie sixth rounder named Mike James. No offense intended to James, but sixth round rookies generally don't pose much of a threat to the workload of established veteran workhorses. Only Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster had more touches last year than Martin, and with Blount and tight end Dallas Clark both gone, Martin could potentially see an even larger workload in 2013.
Can Martin Produce at an NFL Level?
Martin answered that question fairly emphatically in Week 7 last year with 214 yards and 2 scores vs. a stout Vikings defense. He followed that up with an exclamation point in Week 8 to the tune of 250 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns vs. a woeful Raiders squad. All told, Martin finished 2012 with 1926 yards and 12 touchdowns. The only players with more offensive yards than Martin last season were the record-breaking duo of Peterson and Calvin Johnson.
Will Tampa Hold Martin Back?
Tampa made huge strides last season after finishing 4-12 and ranking 32nd in rushing attempts in 2011. In 2012, Tampa was 7-9 and ranked in the middle of the NFL pack in rushing attempts and rushing yards. In 2013, Tampa is looking to further build on that foundation. They've shored up their largest weakness- pass defense- with what some believe is the best shutdown corner since Deion Sanders in Darrelle Revis. Most importantly for Martin, Tampa played most of last season without either of its two best offensive linemen after Davin Joseph was injured in the preseason and Carl Nicks was injured in Week 7. Both guards have a pair of pro bowl appearances to their name, and Nicks was a first team AP All Pro in 2011. If anything, the team around Martin in 2013 should be significantly better than the team that propelled him to such heights in 2012.
Of course, with all apologies to Jerry Rice, no player is ever perfect, and Martin still has a few questions left to answer in 2013. Here are a few:
Was Martin's Rookie Season a Fluke?
Martin is hardly the first player to be a revelation as a rookie. Sometimes, those players who are this year's surprises become next year's disappointments. Rookies like Steve Slaton and Martin's former teammate LeGarrette Blount have in the past failed to use sparkling debuts as a stepping stone to NFL stardom. Can Martin overcome the so-called sophomore slump and continue his stellar play in year two?
Can Martin Become More Consistent?
Martin achieved a quarter of his yards and half of his touchdowns during a two-week stretch last year. In the other 14 games, Martin had 1440 yards and 6 TDs, Those numbers are still very respectable -- had Martin performed at that pace over a full 16 games, he still would have finished as RB8. They're not exactly what owners are hoping for when they're taking him in the top half of the first round, though. Can Martin sprinkle a few more huge games into the mix this season?
Can Martin Join the NFL's Elite?
This seems like a silly question to ask of a back who finished second in yards from scrimmage and fantasy points last year, but it's a fair one. Martin built his fantasy success by being very good over a huge workload, but at the top half of the first round, owners are choosing from several other backs who have elite skills. With Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster expected to go 1-2, owners with the No. 3 pick also have to consider players like C.J. Spiller, who averaged over six yards per attempt last year, or Jamaal Charles, who is the NFL's career yards per attempt leader. They'll have to consider the hard-charging, impossible-to-tackle Marshawn Lynch, as well as proven workhorses like LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice, who have a long history of production and a few top-2 finishes of their own. They'll have to consider Trent Richardson, the other top-10 back from the 2012 class, who was drafted substantially higher than Martin was. Is the safety and security of Martin more valuable than what is offered by some of the other amazing talents that will still be on the board?
- With very little competition and a team that has already demonstrated a willingness to use him, Martin should absolutely dominate the workload in Tampa Bay this season.
- A former first round pick with an elite fantasy season under his belt, Martin has both the pedigree and the history of production that owners are looking for at the top of the draft.
- With the dramatic improvement in surrounding personnel and the chance to go through another offseason conditioning program, Martin should be in an even better position to produce in 2013 than he was in 2012.
- With only one year to go on, Martin has less of a track record of success than some of the three-, four-, or five-year starters being drafted around him.
- Much of Martin's production came in a two-game stretch last year, including an historic game against the Oakland Raiders, who aren't on the schedule this season.
- Opportunity cost. Early ADP figures have Martin as the third player selected, which means if you want him you'll have to pass on some truly sublime talents.
There's little question that Martin is worthy of the hype that has built around him over the last year. A first round running back who finishes second at his position and sees his supporting cast improve will naturally be a highly coveted commodity. The only question is whether, with an ADP of third overall, he's worth more than the other fantastic options that will be available. As one of the few true, honest-to-goodness workhorse RBs in the league, and given how much room he still has to improve, expect Martin to justify the hype and vindicate the owners who are taking a chance on him in the top half of the first round. He may not have many four touchdown games left in him this season, but expect across-the-board improvements in his consistency and his effectiveness.
QUOTATIONS FROM THE MESSAGE BOARD THREAD
To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here
fightingillini said: Martin, like Richardson, is a pretty safe 1st round pick for the same reasons as Richardson.......Martin is going to carry the ball a lot, catch a lot of passes, and TB offense should provide plenty of chances for Martin to eclipse 10 TDs.
My concern is that last year, Martin generated 26% of his yards and 50% of his TDs in 2 games, which includes his historic performance against the Raiders. Which means that the other 14 games he had 265 car for 1068 yds, had 42 rec for 372 yds and scored 6 TDs. These aren't bad numbers, but would be very disappointing for a RB that's going 3rd overall. He had 9 games where he didn't score a TD. A positive is that Martin consistently gets 2-4 catches a game, which helps him go over 10 points almost every week. But given his draft position of RB3, I want a guy that can consistently produce big numbers, and Martin last year seemed to be shut down by good defenses.
But that said, just the sheer volume alone makes Martin a safe 1st round pick. He likely will finish in the top 10 RBs, but IMO he's not worth the 3rd overall pick. I would rather take Calvin Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, Ray Rice, Jamaal Charles, or Trent Richardson over Martin, once Peterson and Foster are off the board. So Martin is currently ranked RB7 on my board.
There are a few other points to remember:
1. He was a rookie. The game will continue to slow down and there is usually a JUMP in effectiveness going into year 2.
2. His offensive line is solid and will be better than last year.
3. He is the unquestioned best player on the team in any running situation; passing downs, red zone, you name it...NO competition for carries.
4. He is extremely durable.
I don't see any way that he drops off this year. As good as his rookie year was, there is upside here.
The Bucs offense looks pretty stable carrying over what they established last season with pro bowl guards Nicks and Joseph returning which should be a very good thing. Nicks looked dominant at times before he was injured and seemed to help LT Penn play at a higher level than I have noticed before also. I thought he had a great year. They create a nasty left side and with Joseph being a very good pulling guard I can see more good things ahead running to this side.
FF Ninja said:
If you temporarily ignore that Oakland game, Martin appears to just be a stat compiler 294 carries for 1203 yards. People will always see what they want to see, and Martin won a lot of people a lot of games, so I'm sure everyone sees some great skill in those 15 games at 4.1 ypc, but I'm not too excited about him. It is hard to imagine he doesn't get ~300 carries again, so he should be fine, but it shouldn't shock anyone if he ends the year with less flashy totals. I could see him on a similar career trajectory of another late first round pick - Mendenhall. After missing his first season with an injury, Mendenhall tore it up his second year but hasn't broken 4.1 ypc since then. We all expected the game to slow down for Mendenhall and for him to get better after his breakout year, but that isn't always the way it works.
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More from Adam Harstad:
A Narrative History of Fantasy Football - August 28
Diversification 101 - August 19
Dynasty, in Theory: The Components of Player Value - August 14
The Opportunity Cost of Top Tight Ends - August 11
Player Spotlight: Reggie Bush & Joique Bell - August 8
Player Spotlight: Andy Dalton - August 5
Player Spotlight: Rob Gronkowski - July 30
Reality Sports Online Product Review - July 25
Player Spotlight: Percy Harvin - July 11
Player Spotlight: Le'Veon Bell - July 2