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5 Reasons Why Doug Martin Might Burn You Again

Doug Martin is a popular bounce-back candidate in fantasy football, so why are we worried?
Doug Martin is a popular bounce-back candidate in fantasy football, so why are we worried?

In 2012 Doug Martin burst onto the fantasy football scene as a rookie, finishing as the #2 running back in standard scoring at age 23. Going into the 2013 season he was a consensus top 3 pick in fantasy drafts, some even appointing him the #1 overall pick. Unfortunately, Martin never came close to living up to that status as he provided owners with only 6 mediocre games before getting hurt. And they might be getting themselves in trouble once again with Martin.

Fantasy owners are already writing off 2013 and predicting a strong return for Martin: He was injured, his team was bad and the blocking was weak. However, we’re not so confident he’s poised for a bounce-back year.

Here are 5 reasons why we’re staying away from the Muscle Hamster.

5. Doug Martin is good, but his rookie season was overrated

Here are Martin’s totals for 2012:

319 carries
1,454 rushing yards
11 rushing touchdowns
49 catches
472 receiving yards
1 receiving touchdown
262.6 fantasy points

Here are Martin’s numbers for the week 8 game against the Raiders along with the percentage those numbers were of his totals:

25 carries (7.84%)
251 rushing yards (17.26%)
4 rushing touchdowns (36.36%)
4 catches (8.16%)
21 receiving yards (4.45%)
51.2 fantasy points (19.50%)

Yes, nearly 20% of his 16-game rushing yards and fantasy points plus nearly 40% of his rushing touchdowns came from a single spectacular game. Using a “normal” game in its place would have dropped Martin down to the #6 RB and tanked his YPC from 4.6 to 4.09 — Yikes!

The Oakland game stats absolutely still matter for fantasy and you can certainly argue it’s not fair to discount games or plays as one sees fit. The point is that totals and averages can be misleading sometimes and those particular numbers weren’t fully representative of how Martin played throughout the year. Martin’s rookie season was very good but it wasn’t as good as it appeared on the surface — he’s certainly not an Adrian Peterson-like talent at the position and a perennial lock for a top spot among running backs.

4. Other running backs on the Buccaneers statistically outperformed Doug Martin last year.

Returning for his highly-anticipated sophomore campaign, few had the foresight to predict Martin would struggle mightily in his limited game action. In 2013 Martin averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and 5.5 yards per catch. He scored just 1 touchdown in 6 games. His fantasy points per game average was down almost 40% from his rookie season despite getting more work per game. And then all of a sudden he was taken out for the season with a shoulder injury.

The poor performance in itself was troubling, but even worse was the fact that every running back that succeeded Martin as the Bucs’ starter seemingly played well – better than Martin even. In three starts, before going down to an injury himself, Mike James put up 238 yards on 43 carries (5.53 YPC). Third-stringer Bobby Rainey then took over for the final 7 games of the season where he put up 487 yards on 129 yards (3.78 YPC) to go with 5 total touchdowns. Rainey’s YPC wasn’t much better than Martin’s, but at least he was finding the end zone for fantasy owners.

It’s worth noting that the Bucs were 0-6 and reeling QB Josh Freeman started 3 games while Martin was healthy. Still, no matter the circumstances Martin’s individual performance prior to the injury raised some eyebrows and it can’t help that the team saw it had capable runners in the stable behind Martin, should they want to lighten their starter’s load.

3. In addition to the RBs left over from last year, the team spent a 3rd round pick on Charles Sims.

Even with Doug Martin returning healthy and the team having more pressing needs, Buccaneers management decided to spend a premium 3rd round pick on RB Charles Sims. Sims is a guy with great measurables and is talented enough to be a starter in the NFL. He’s an excellent 3rd-down back, both in terms of pass catching and blocking. With a significant investment placed in him, Sims projects to cut into Martin’s workload. The question is how much he cuts into it and in what situations. If Sims takes over as the primary running back on passing downs, that is going to drain Martin’s value heavily.

A potentially worse omen from the Sims pick is that the men in charge of drafting Martin were fired. It’s conceivable, if unlikely, that the new regime could decide to go with “their guy” in Sims should Martin carry his 2013 struggles into 2014. Whatever the case may be, the Sims pick was not good news for Martin’s fantasy owners.

2. New head coach Lovie Smith has a history of poorly utilizing his running backs.

One the reasons why Lovie Smith was reportedly fired from Chicago after a 10-6 season was his misuse of RB Matt Forte. Forte was not used as a receiver as much as people thought he could be and he was being pulled in key situations like deep in the red zone and on short-yardage plays. The immediate year following Smith’s firing, Forte set career highs in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, receptions, receiving yards, and fantasy points. He also had the most carries since his rookie year. His first year under Marc Trestman he had 30 more receptions than Smith’s final year. Coincidence?

Although Martin and Forte look different on tape, they have overlapping skills and the arrival of Smith in Tampa Bay is concerning. Forte was not a dud by any means under Smith but clearly Smith did not allow him to reach his full potential. Fantasy owners can only hope Smith does not have the same effect on Martin.

1. New offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford has hinted towards a committee approach.

Not only does Martin have to worry about Smith and his coaching history, his new OC arguably could cause even more of a headache for fantasy. Over the last several weeks Tedford has dropped hints about what his NFL offense may look like and recently he came out on record as saying he planned to “alternate” running backs. Considering the draft selection of Charles Sims as mentioned earlier, this is the last thing you want to hear from the mouth of the guy in charge of calling plays.

I would still expect Martin to be the lead runner and command over 200 carries, but it is probably safe to assume the days of him getting 300 were short-lived. And it’s anyone’s guess what this alternating RB strategy means for passing downs – this article breaking down Tedford’s history in college does not inspire confidence on that front.

With Doug Martin possibly the lead-end of a committee and his valuable receptions in jeopardy, fantasy owners might be set up for another disappointing season out of the Muscle Hamster. Like any player, there is always a point in the draft to consider taking them, but I would consider it a mistake if you came out with Martin penciled in as your RB1, much less your first round pick.

Do you think Doug Martin will bounce back strong?

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