Each week during the fantasy season I will profile two offensive players that can help you win. They will never be the obvious starts; the year-in-year-out studs and elite players. Rather, we will take a look at rookies, journeymen, players coming back from injuries and guys that have come out of obscurity and find themselves in the right place at the right time. This week I will analyze a first-year 1st-round pick running back and a second-year 2nd-round pick at tight end.
Run Play: Doug Martin.
I look for the rookie out of Boise State to put up a decent stat line for week one in the Bucs home opener against the Panthers. He has certainly earned the starting job. And we should expect him to be every bit as motivated to hold onto that position since first year coach Greg Schiano has made it clear that the depth chart is fluid at each position on his team. I know that rookie running backs don’t usually garner a whole lot of fantasy points in today’s NFL. Nevertheless, Coach Schiano wants to establish a ground presence with this offense. And it doesn’t look as though LeGarrette Blount would be capable of providing what he is looking for when compared to the rookie’s performance in camp and in the preseason. Martin seems to handle the speed of the game well, fits right into the offensive scheme and even shows good pass-protection skills. The Carolina Defense, which ranked 25th against the run in 2011, was gashed 15 times for plays over 20 yards, 4 times for plays over 40 yards and allowed the third most rushing TD’s with 18. The Panthers have worked hard to address the problem and many expect their first round draft pick Luke Kuechly to be a large part of that plan. But it’s still a work in progress. I would not be surprised to see Martin finish this contest with 80-90 yards on the ground and a touchdown, with a couple of receptions for another 20. Start him with confidence as an RB2 this week.
Pass Play: Kyle Rudolph
Here is a guy who is being compared to Rob Gronkowski – 6'6”, just a hair lighter and insanely athletic. In limited time during his rookie season (also his QB's rookie season, mind you) he was productive at both moving the chains and as a red-zone target. Kyle begins this season as the clear-cut starter with Visanthe Shiancoe no longer on the team and veteran John Carlson battling a sprained MCL. Moreover, this is an offense that will see its franchise player Adrian Peterson eased toward the number of touches we're used to seeing him have after returning from reconstructive knee surgery less than 9 months ago. Without a doubt this will cause teams to zero in on Minnesota’s Swiss army knife, Percy Harvin. That being the case look for Rudolph and 2nd year QB Christian Ponder to lean on each other early and often this season to find ways to move the ball down the field. And if they do find a connection of a consistent basis in the first few games, look for offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave to adopt the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra moving forward. If you own him you probably got him late, or even off the waiver wire. But feel confident starting Rudolph as at least a low end TE2, with the upside of potential TE 1 numbers.