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2012 Fantasy Football Sleeper: Buccaneers RB Doug Martin
With the exception of Trent Richardson, no rookie RB has been provided with a better opportunity to succeed this season than Doug Martin. As a handpicked back by GM Mark Dominik and new HC Greg Schiano, he will become involved in a new offensive system that will make running the ball the primary objective. He has an exceptional opportunity to seize the team’s feature back role, and ultimately deliver excellent numbers for fantasy owners.
He was a proven yardage and TD producer at Boise State, accumulating 3,152 total yards in his last two seasons, while generating 2,559 on the ground and scoring 32 times. His numbers in 2011 alone were 1,554, 1,299 and 18 respectively, and he later ran a 4.55 40 at the combine. Most observers considered him to be the most talented rookie RB beyond Richardson prior to last April’s NFL draft, because he has the blend of skills that are necessary to be an effective every down back. Martin’s strength and vision should result in consistent production on first and second downs, and his versatility should keep him on the field in third down situations.
All of which impressed the Buccaneers sufficiently to utilize a first round draft pick on him. The organization is attempting to rebound from last season’s disappointing 4-12 record, which brought a swift conclusion to the Raheem Morris era. That in turn, led to Schiano’s arrival after 11 years at Rutgers, where he was a strong advocate of ball control, and had no misgivings about providing his feature back with an extensive workload. The best example is Ray Rice, who averaged a mammoth 358 carries in 2006-2007 under Schiano. The new HC will be extremely focused on improving a feeble rushing attack that ranked 30th in 2011, while averaging just 91.1 YPG.
Which has provided the 5’9”, 223 pound Martin with the good fortune to be drafted by a team that will be firmly committed to running the ball. Plus, the fact that it’s Schiano who will be determining how the RBs touches will be allocated, supplies Martin with a huge advantage in his effort to seize the No. 1 slot in Tampa Bay’s new offense. He is an effective rusher between the tackles, yet also possesses the speed to generate big plays to the outside. Martin is also a capable receiver, which has been a shortcoming of incumbent starter LeGarrette Blount.
In fact, that is just one of Blount’s deficiencies that will be work against him, now that Martin has arrived. Blount’s declining output last season made his status tenuous. Also, when Schiano was discussing him in March, he specifically stated that “no one who touches the football will get touches if they don’t protect the football”. That was in direct reference to the nine fumbles that Blount has surrendered during his 385 career rushing attempts. Also, Blount has been almost a nonentity as a receiving threat, managing just 20 receptions in two seasons. There are simply too many factors that will eventually cost him significant playing time in Schiano’s new system. Regardless of who might be taking first team reps when training camp commences.
All of which results in very high odds that Martin will supplant Blount as the Bucs’ primary RB. He is the more versatile runner, and his ability as a receiver makes him a more complete back. Martin is also less likely to cough up the ball, and will be playing for a coach who consistently relied upon a feature back to carry the load in his offense at Rutgers.
Plus, Tampa Bay moved up into round one in order to secure him, and also signed him to a multi-year deal. Such a considerable investment was not made so that he could backup Blount, or even split a large allotment of touches with the veteran. Martin will be employed extensively by the Bucs, and you should target him as early as round five. And even earlier, if RBs are departing the board quickly during your drafts.