When a friend first mentioned Doug Martin to me as a potential fantasy sleeper in late August, I looked at him like he was speaking Russian. Maybe it was the fact that Martin played for the Rodney Dangerfield of colleges in Boise State, his name sounds like he was a third-string quarterback from the 80’s, or he’s only 5’9. Either way I wasn’t willing to risk an early round pick on him.
Martin now ranks third in the NFL in rushing and third in yards per rush, among backs with over 100 carries. Not only that, but amongst the top ten rushers in 2012, only he and Arian Foster have yet to fumble this season. And he has earned the nickname “Muscle Hamster”. Still, no one has been able to tell me whether that’s complimentary or derogatory.
Now part of the reason for Martin’s inflated numbers is the massive game he had against the Oakland Raiders last Sunday. He ran for 251 yards, which accounted for nearly a third of his season yardage so far, and posted four touchdowns. Nearly causing Twitter to shutdown in the process. It was like back in the day when you played Madden and set the computer to beginner and just ran roughshod to relieve some frustration. Didn’t anyone else do that?
The way I look at running backs in fantasy is in two categories: Reliable and Explosive. Guys like Adrian Peterson, Marshawn Lynch, and Maurice Jones-Drew are extremely consistent and their bad games are typically 50-60 yard performances. Not great, but not terrible. They are going to grind out the yards and need plenty of carries.
Explosive backs are more likely to hit a big play and get the majority of their yardage in a game on a few snaps. C.J. Spiller, Jamaal Charles and perhaps the best example of all, Chris Johnson, are all members of the explosive club. Take Johnson’s game against the Chicago Bears last Sunday for example. He was struggling mightily against the Bears defense, and with two fumbles, looked on his way to possibly a negative fantasy points week. Believe me, it’s happened before. In the midst of my cursing and throwing things at the television like many other Johnson owners surely were, he ripped off an 80 yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. That’s fourteen fantasy points in one play.
Owning guys like Johnson is essentially playing Blackjack or Poker. You can sit there all night and not get a good hand, and then all of a sudden the right card hits and you are in money. Although you may have a few more grey hairs for your trouble.
What makes Martin so compelling is that he has a chance to be a combination of reliable and explosive. His worst output this year was 33 yards, but that came with only eight carries. Martin’s worst game based on yards per carry was 2.8, but he still finished with a total of 53 on 19 rushes. Where as Johnson has had games this year of 4, 17, and 24 yards. While Johnson may have the speed, he just doesn’t have the North and South ability it seems that Martin does.
It’s definitely a little early for comparisons, but Martin kind of reminds me of LaDainian Tomlinson in some respects. He has the ability to run tough through the tackles, break off an 80 yard run, and can catch the ball out of the backfield. Tomlinson was one of the best fantasy performers of the past decade, and you could just about pencil in 20 points every week from 2002-2007. Martin is nowhere near Tomlinson yet in his brief career, but if he even gets anywhere close, Buccaneers fans and poolies are going to be very happy.
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