What is that sound the distance? Doug Martin is anything but a no-brainer in the first round of fantasy drafts? That hardly seems justified for a statistical stud that barreled his way to a 1,454 yard, 11 touchdown rookie season. And yet, fake football GMs around the country continue to have their doubts.
Are Martin’s noteworthy achievements only the first of many steps toward a Hall of Fame career, or an act of deception caused by a lack of familiarity with opposing defenses? The possibility of a sophomore slump is always worth evaluating when it comes to young players, but a running back with overwhelming amounts of opportunity, ability and surrounding talent like Martin does not often lead to a second year snag. There are plenty of cumbersome topics for fantasy owners to debate in the coming weeks; Martin’s performance level is not worthy to land among them.
Attempting to find a man that achieved as much as Martin did in his first season is nearly impossible; there are in fact zero active players who rushed for more total yardage in their rookie year. However, a majority of the closest examples in recent history indicate that Martin’s totals are likely to either remain at their current eye-popping level or improve to even more glorious heights.
Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Marshawn Lynch all rushed for upwards of 1100 yards and seven touchdowns in their first season. Only Lynch regressed (in the strictest sense of the word) in yardage, lowering his output from 1115 in 2007 to 1036 in 2008. Both Peterson and Johnson decimated their freshman totals, outpacing their all-purpose yield by an average of 648 yards. Touchdowns stayed relatively consistent (at or near double digits) in two of the three cases. Johnson’s change was only one worth noting, as he increased from 10 to 16 scores between years one and two.
All three are still regarded as the utmost in gridiron talent- they have compiled a combined eight additional 1000-yard seasons after their respective sophomore campaigns. Nearly all of the other perennial Pro Bowlers that broke 1400 yards at a time later than their first year have still managed to make multiple Pro Bowls following breakout (Arian Foster, Frank Gore, Jamaal Charles, Maurice Jones-Drew are only a handful of examples).
Even if Martin is less efficient next season because of defensive planning or bodily wear, a large number of carries likely still awaits. He received over 300 carries in year one, well above the amount given to any player mentioned above in their first season. Head coach Greg Schiano trusted his feature back from an early stage, and he is unlikely to lessen his workload after witnessing such positive results thus far.
The Buccaneers had a solid offensive line in 2012 (18th per Pro Football Focus) even without the help of guard Davin Joseph and a mid-season injury to Pro Bowl interior acquisition Carl Nicks. Josh Freeman is still likely to start under center and perform erratically, and Vincent Jackson will carve out large chunks of yardage over the middle but lack the speed needed to break off long touchdowns. In other words, Tampa Bay’s offense aligns perfectly for a three down, all-purpose runner like Martin heading into 2013, just as it did in 2012.
Clearly, Martin is not your run-of-the-mill overachieving rookie. The initial year attempts of perennial stars and even future Hall of Famers pale in comparison to what he has achieved in such a short time. His offense is one of the few that value the running and passing game as relative equals, and he appears as strong and healthy as ever (he is known as the Muscle Hamster, after all).
A sophomore slump for Doug Martin? Please. Fantasy participants should be more concerned about how they can go about landing one of football’s greatest young backs on their roster.