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Spotlight: Doug Martin

posted by Cecil Lammey on Jul 31st


Cecil Lammey's thoughts

Doug Martin has been compared to Ravens RB Ray Rice, and may have a big opportunity as a rookie for the Buccaneers. He was a favorite in the scouting community because of his work ethic, team first mentality, production, and versatility. Martin is not the biggest back, but has a muscular build and has shown the ability to play through nagging injuries in college at Boise State. I watched Martin up close during the week of practice for the Senior Bowl in Mobile, AL earlier this year and came away impressed. His chiseled physique shows the dedication he has in the weight room, and how seriously he takes his conditioning. But Martin is no workout wonder, he's also very impressive with the football in his hands. In today's NFL there are more and more RBBC situations because of the lack of true workhorse runners. Martin is one of those throwbacks who can be effectively used in many different ways. He'll be a favorite of the new coaching staff and should be counted on to make an immediate impact for the Buccaneers.

Martin has everything you want in an all-purpose back. He's built low to the ground and is difficult to tackle because of his elite balance. His lower body strength lets him run through arm tackles with ease, and allows him to change direction on a dime. Martin does a good job of creating his own space as a runner. He can do that two ways. He can either run over defenders (thereby creating space) or he can break off a juke/spin move to get past an opponent. While Martin isn't incredibly fast he does get to top speed in a hurry. That initial burst allows him to get to the second level of the defense quicker than some people think. Martin also doesn't lose much speed when he changes direction. He is a very good receiver out of the backfield, and can run WR-like routes. Martin's hands and concentration as a receiver will keep him in on passing situations.

He lacks elite speed and does not have the ability to score from anywhere on the field. NFL defenders should be able to run him down in the open field, and that may limit his fantasy value in leagues that score bonus points for big plays. Because of his small stature there is a concern about his ability to be a quality pass blocker. Martin also had fumbling issues in college when playing elite competition.

The Buccaneers are moving in a different direction in 2012 as new head coach Greg Schiano implements a run heavy offense. When I was at the 2012 Scouting Combine I was able to interview Schiano and he told me the team was going 'back to basics' this year. Martin was the team's second first-round pick because they realized a great need for a workhorse RB with three down ability. This philosophy should set up a lot of play action passes between QB Josh Freeman and superstar WR Vincent Jackson. Their effectiveness in the passing game will only help keep defenses honest when lining up against the Bucs. Martin should regularly see over 20 touches per game as a rookie.

Martin has the potential to be a consistent starter, but will he play up to his potential? His current ADP is RB19 and he may be able to out produce that draft position. He may not be a top 10 fantasy RB in his rookie season, but breaking into the top 15 shouldn't be a problem - especially in PPR leagues. Let's take a closer look at Doug Martin and examine this all-purpose star.

Questions about Doug Martin entering the 2012 season:

Will he beat out LeGarrette Blount for the starting job?
Martin has already been impressing in training camp and is getting most of the work with the first-team. He was hand-picked by the new regime and should lead the charge for the Bucs from day one. Blount is a bigger back, with more natural power. However, he's not the receiver out of the backfield that Martin is and he isn't as much of a big play threat either. Blount gives the team veteran depth at the RB position but may not be used more than a part time player behind Martin. He had a disappointing season last year and there are plenty of questions about Blount's work ethic. It was a strong indication of the team's intentions when they traded back into the first-round to select Martin at 31 overall. The battle will last throughout training camp but we fully expect Martin to win the job and open the season as the starting RB for the Bucs.

Can Martin improve as a pass blocker?
This is a big question mark for a lot of rookie runners. Martin is built low to the ground, so chop blocking an oncoming rusher isn't the best move. As athletic as pass rushers are today they would likely just jump over Martin and disrupt the play. Martin must learn proper technique as a heads up blocker. First and foremost Martin must identify any potential rushers and understand the O-Line protection schemes. A lot of pass blocking for a back is good ole fashioned desire. Martin must be willing to sacrifice his body in order to salvage the play. His team first mentality means that adapting this mindset won't be a problem. Martin has to protect QB Josh Freeman if he wants to stay on the field in obvious passing situations.

Will the Bucs be able to lean on their ground game?
The Buccaneers defense is not a strong unit and they could fall behind early when they play better teams. One asset a team with a weak defense can have is a strong ground game. Pounding the rock with Martin will keep opponents off the field and moving the chains consistently will help keep Tampa Bay's defense fresh. Even when/if the Bucs fall behind Martin is more than capable as a receiver out of the backfield. He's a true feature back and won't come off the field very much in 2012, regardless of the score. Schiano coached Ray Rice in college at Rutgers and understands the value of a versatile RB who can wear down a defense yet be relied on as a receiver as well.

Does his lack of elite speed limit his fantasy value?
Sure, Martin is not gifted with the speed to score from anywhere on the field but that won't limit what he can do as a fantasy back. He's built low to the ground, has good instincts, and understands tackling angles. His savvy, football intelligence, and instincts allow him to create his own space as a runner. Martin can set up defenders at the second level with a subtle move behind the line of scrimmage. If need be, Martin can flat out run over a Linebacker once he's past the line of scrimmage. Martin is also known to keep himself in great shape. He'll wear down an opposing defense yet stay strong throughout the game. This is where we could see some breakaway runs from Martin as defenders are tired of tackling him.

Can he cure his fumbling problems?
The answer here is certainly! We've seen several backs come into the league and cure their fumbling problems with proper coaching. Martin should be the centerpiece of the Bucs offense and they know he must do a better job of holding onto the football. They'll teach him three points of pressure when carrying the ball in one hand, and they'll insist that he covers the ball up when running through trash at the line of scrimmage.

Positives

  • Natural runner with elite balance and vision
  • Low center of gravity, tough to bring down
  • Very good hands, can make plays as a receiver out of the backfield

Negatives

  • Lacks elite speed
  • Fumbling problems in college
  • Questions about pass protection ability

Final thoughts

The Buccaneers are going 'back to basics' with a run-heavy Greg Schiano offense. Martin is the key piece to the puzzle and should get over 250 touches on the season as a runner and receiver out of the backfield. Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson should be able to keep defenses honest, so we're not expecting Martin to consistently face 8 or 9 men in the box. He'll be used on all three downs and is likely to lead the team in rushing as a rookie. He could certainly outperform his ADP (RB19) and he may finish the season as a top 15 fantasy RB. Martin is a rare workhorse back, and the Bucs will feature him early and often.


Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

TheDirtyWord said:

Think about this...going into the 2011 season, the Buccaneers had atop their depth chart a player who at the beginning of the prior season was a UDFA trying to make another team. LeGarrette Blount turned in a fantastic 2010 season no doubt as soon as TB gave him a shot. But behind Blount, the Bucs had absolutely nothing. Kregg Lumpkin? Earnest Graham? I mean, this position may have been the most devoid of talent as any in the NFL. It was asking a lot of Blount to carry the load in 2011. Remember, in 2010, he had the benefit of a quasi-resurgent Cadillac Williams.

So out goes the old coaching staff, and in comes Schiano, Carl Nicks, V-Jax and a new attention to detail and accountability. Gone are catch phrases like 'youngry'. Martin was a good get for the Bucs. They absolutely needed a guy that if they needed to, could give him the ball 250-275 times. Whether he'll do that or not remains to be seen but with Blount being simply an unacceptable option in the passing game both as a receiver and protector, this was a giant void.

But people are bidding Blount farewell far too soon IMO. The last 5 games of the season, the Bucs average halftime deficit was 19.6 points. Tough to get a run game established, particularly with a guy with no passing game skills, in those types of situations. Whether the murmurs about Blount packing it in were true or not...fact of matter is that if you watched that team during this putrid 5 game stretch, it would have been tough to tell the difference between Blount and any other Buc. I get that Schiano is going to want to build a team with his guys, but smart coaches give holdovers a chance to be their guys too. I wouldn't write off Blount quite yet.

In the 9 games he played prior to the Bucs tanking from 12/3 on Blount put up a 772(YFS)/4 line. Prorated over 16 games, that's a solid 1372/7. My point is, I don't see Blount disappearing. Blount is going to get touches and he's going to do it at the expense of Martin. Martin is still going to be a central cog in the offense, but bad teams need to make best use of all their assets, and for lack of a better term, Blount is an asset.

Will it break down to a 50/50 split? 60/40? 40/60? It will probably be in that range...but running games go bye-bye if the defense doesn't prevent 20 point halftime deficits on a consistent basis, and for the most part, for a team that pretty much stopped being able to stop the run last year, their primary defensive additions were Mark Barron/Eric Wright. They get some guys back from injury, notably Gerald McCoy. But Martin's success, or lack of it, will depend on his defenses ability to step up. Can it? I have significant doubts. I also have significant doubts about Josh Freeman. Now entering Year 4, I'm not getting a 'franchise signal' caller vibe from him.

So while I like Martin's long term chances for success...I think he'll be a good NFL RB, I don't like his situation in 2012 and it baffles me that a guy like Peyton Hillis is goin on average 2.5 rounds later than Martin.

chickensoup said:

I think Martin gets the better numbers for the year overall but Blount is the better play by ADP. And you're not going to like starting either player barring injury. Martin could be a flex play but is drafted as a RB 2 for a team that went QB or WR first and/or second round. He's been taken as high as the third round, nuts to me.

Grahamburn said:

I really love Martin as a Buc fan and expect him to be a key cog in what I think is an up and coming offense, but Blount is the play in redraft leagues at his current ADP. This situation looks like a complete committee to me with Blount getting goalline looks and Martin playing on passing downs. Martin being drafted 4-5 rounds ahead of Blount is silly. Blount has shown he can be a productive runner in the NFL.

I actually see a lot of similarities here to the Beanie Wells/Ryan Williams situation in Arizona coming in to last season.

Talented RB has a tough season on a bad team, said team drafts a young player at the same position, fantasy players ignore the incumbent in favor of the rookie. Granted, Williams got hurt which led to Beanie's value increasing, but I'd argue he would have had a similar season regardless. This type of situation often lights a fire under the incumbent as it did with Beanie, and as it has with Blount it seems.

The Bucs will want to run the ball. If their defense can stop some people I expect 450+ rushes with 400 of those going to the RBs. Blount and Martin should dominate the touches as there isn't much else on the roster besides those two.


Doug Martin projections

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