Faceoff: Doug Martin
Jeff Tefertiller: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers traded back into the first round to select the stout (5'9", 223 pounds) running back from Boise State. Tampa Bay has a new head coach who brought in his own starting tailback. Coach Schiano said of his new draft pick, "He (Martin) has patience as he runs. He's a mature runner. (He) can block. Can (catch)." The job is Martin's to lose from day one. The value of NFL running backs has been on the decline the past few years so fantasy owners should take notice when one is selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Given LeGarrette Blount's woes in the passing game last season, the Buccaneers were seeking a complete back.
Coach Schiano stressed a strong running game at Rutgers and will do the same in the NFL. Last season, Raheem Morris abandoned the run game way too early. In fact, Blount was the only Buccaneer running back with more than 37 carries for the entire year. The Buccaneers were just one of few teams to have less than 300 carries by running back position. This will change with Schiano and his new ball carrier, Martin. Yes, do expect the young defense to yield plenty of points again, putting the offense in obvious passing situations ... which is great for Martin's fantasy owners.
Last season, Martin topped 1,500 total yards and 18 touchdowns. A few things jump out about the rookie. He is quick to the line of scrimmage, can cut on a dime, and has outstanding balance with his low center of gravity. In addition, Martin will be on the field on third downs and passing downs. This makes him a three-down back and one who will not come off the field much.
The Buccaneers have a good offensive line and will run the ball under the new coach. The team has the fourth best quarterback in the NFC South and has to control the clock to keep Brees, Ryan, and Newton off the field. With a current ADP of RB27(according to the Footballguys ADP), the rookie is a steal as your fantasy team's RB2. His ADP will be on the rise soon as the word gets out about Martin's talent and situation. There are not many healthy running backs who will get the majority of their teams' carries. Add in the ball carriers possibly holding out and the list gets thinner. Martin is a great value play at his current ADP.
Andy Hicks: Rookie running backs often look like the savior for your fantasy team. All their positives are accentuated. This leads to inflated draft prices, eventually leading to mainly disappointed owners come the end of the season. Every year the cycle repeats itself, and every year you'll hear stories about how this guy is different and how he'll deliver.
It would be easy to assume that I'm advising that you should never draft a rookie running back. Not true. What is the price? What is his situation and skill set? Then weigh up whether he is worth it. For the most part they aren't.
Let's examine this a little bit further before looking at Doug Martin in more detail. There have been 22 running backs drafted in the first round over the last 10 years that played in their rookie seasons and had an ADP in the Top 100. Only 2 performed above their draft slot: Adrian Peterson and Joseph Addai. The other 20 at best got near their ADP or in the majority of cases performed well below their ADP. Optimistic thinking was clearly at play here when it came to drafting rookies.
Onto Doug Martin himself. As a first round pick he obviously has ability and the Buccaneers have a clear plan in place. What he has against him are the usual rookie problems like pass protection, adapting to the speed and skill level of the NFL, but also he must contend with the incumbent LeGarrette Blount who averages 4.6 yards a carry, is a 1,000-yard a season rusher recently and is a handy touchdown accumulator. Blount will almost certainly start the season with the advantage.
Not only does Martin have to contend with Blount, but Josh Freeman must rebound from a rough second season and free agent additions Dallas Clark and Vincent Jackson will all be learning as well. With an entirely new coaching staff that will have their hands full getting to grips with a new roster and opinion divided on his pass protection skills, Martin will need to be able to look after Josh Freeman before he can be counted on to contribute as a fantasy back. This is always a difficult transition for young backs moving from college to the NFL. All this makes it difficult for a rookie to shine.
Martin will obviously be important for the Bucs moving forward, but I would dampen expectations for this year. In 2013, though, watch out.