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Doug Martin Fantasy Football Stock Profile: Despite a looming suspension, Martin is a major bounce back candidate for 2017

Doug Martin

Position: Running Back

Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Talent: 8.5/10

At 5’9″ and over 220 pounds with 4.55 speed, Doug Martin is an absolute bruiser deserving of the nickname “Muscle Hamster.” He may absolutely hate that nickname, but it doesn’t make it any less accurate, and Martin’s bowling-ball style has suited him well since he entered the league out of Boise State in 2012. In his rookie year, he racked up over 1,400 yards and 11 TDs, earning a spot in the 2013 Pro Bowl as a result. Martin’s other breakout season came in 2015, where his totals for carries (288), yards (1,402), and touchdowns (6) trailed only his rookie season for career-highs. Clearly, Doug Martin’s problem hasn’t been overall production in the league — consistency, however, has certainly been a factor.

Take last season for example. After his All-Pro 2015 campaign, Martin was rewarded with a 5-year, $35.75 million deal heading into 2016. Expectations were high for the Muscle Hamster in 2016, hence his high placement on many fantasy draft boards. But instead, Martin started just 8 games a season ago due to a hamstring injury and late-season suspension that will carry over into 2017, and he finished the season with just 421 yards and 3 TDs. In Martin’s 2013 and 2014 seasons, he started only 17 games combined due to a multitude of injuries and ran for less than 500 yards in both seasons.

Obviously in Doug Martin’s case, the talent is certainly there — and once he can translate his skill into regular success, he’ll be a mainstay in the 1st round for years to come.

Opportunity/Usage: 8/10

If you missed my breakdown of the Fantasy Fullback Dive boys’ Buccaneers preview with Trevor Sikkema from the Pewter Report, check it out here. A few of the points from his interview are relevant here, particularly head coach Dirk Koetter’s history as an offensive-minded coach. Koetter served as offensive coordinator for the Falcons and Jaguars, as well as a season with the Bucs before taking over as Tampa Bay’s head coach last season, so he knows his way around an offensive gameplan. And he’s well aware of Martin’s talent and what it can mean for an offense — just check out the team’s numbers from 2015, when they set a franchise record for total yards in a season and ran for over 135 yards per game. So Martin’s history as the team’s feature back coupled with the fact that Tampa Bay ran the ball 453 times in 2016, good for 7th in the NFL, should mean a healthy amount of chances for Martin when he returns from suspension in Week 4.

And as far as competition goes, Martin finds himself battling only Charles Sims and Jacquizz Rodgers for carries when he does return. Rodgers was actually the team’s top fantasy RB a season ago, barely edging out Martin due to about 140 more rushing yards on the season, but neither back has the talent or trust from Koetter to really emerge as the new lead back — especially not by Week 4. Martin should have his shot when he’s eligible to return, and he should get the ball early and often once he’s back.

Coaching Scheme: 9/10

Although Todd Monken holds the title of Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator, play-calling duties are still heavily handled by Dirk Koetter. Koetter has been handed the keys to a quietly talented offensive unit in 2017, especially with the additions of guys like DeSean Jackson and O.J. Howard, and that talent will certainly be utilized to its fullest extent. The one way in which this could actually hurt the stock of a player like Doug Martin is that with so much talent on the roster, Dirk Koetter can get creative with his offensive gameplans. That means we certainly may see guys like Jackson in the backfield at times, and we’ll definitely see some unique formations that work to get Mike Evans or Cameron Brate open downfield.

Overall, however, Koetter’s offensive prowess will typically benefit Martin, who should see plenty of chances to produce for a team that very well could mess around and steal a playoff spot in the NFC.

Surrounding Talent: 8/10

If you’ve been reading to this point, you’ve seen the names: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Jacquizz Rodgers… the talent is there. The offensive line certainly could be improved upon, currently sitting at 23rd on PFF’s offensive line rankings, which brings down this section’s score a bit. But this team also has Jameis Winston, who is currently The Wolf’s 12th-ranked QB and rising. Winston’s continued growth, combined with the team’s offseason additions should culminate in a much improved aerial attack for the Bucs in 2017, which opens up play-action and makes the lives of Martin, Rodgers, and Sims much easier.

Defense is certainly not a strength for this Tampa Bay team — they’re currently PFF’s 24th ranked defense — so their offense is going to determine whether or not this team wins games. With that in mind and the aforementioned multitude of talent that Tampa Bay’s offensive unit boasts, I see plenty of opportunity for Martin to make his mark on this season.

Risk: 5/10

And finally, here’s where Doug Martin’s stock takes a pretty substantial hit. First, the obvious — Doug Martin will begin the 2017 season by serving the remaining 3 games of his 4-game suspension for testing positive for Adderall. While his suspension stemmed directly from his positive drug test, when Martin entered a treatment facility last December he made it clear that it wasn’t just for substance abuse — he was aiming to solve a number of serious personal issues that had been plaguing him throughout his career. Obviously both he and the Buccaneers feel that the facility worked for him and prepared him to return to professional football in 2017, but the possibility of another issue is always there, and that risk looms over him heading into this season.

Injuries have also hindered Martin’s ability to stay on the field during his NFL career. He’s missed 5+ games due to injury in 3 of his first 5 professional seasons, with issues ranging from a torn labrum to a bad hamstring strain and more. He runs hard between the tackles and doesn’t boast the imposing size of many running backs of that nature, so injuries are bound to happen. But obviously for Martin to make the kind of impact he wants for the Bucs (and his fantasy owners) in 2017, his health will be a key factor.

Overall Stock Score: 38.5/50, C+

Ceiling Projection/Scenario: Martin returns Week 4 and doesn’t miss a beat, immediately regaining the starting role and locking it up for the remainder of the season. He gets overlooked by many defenses early on due to the need to worry about Tampa Bay’s surplus of offensive weapons, and by the time opposing teams figure out how to slow him down, it’s too late. He goes off for the remainder of the season, leading the Bucs and many fantasy teams into the postseason, and finally lives up to his hefty paycheck.

240 carries, 1,350 yards, 8 TDs; 35 receptions, 350 receiving yards, 2 receiving TDs

Floor Projection/Scenario: Martin returns Week 4 and immediately looks out of whack, still trying to get into football shape after 3 weeks away from the team. Defenses find ways to easily penetrate Tampa Bay’s offensive line, leaving the Bucs with no choice but to abandon the run game and try to win games through the air. Martin’s injury history also resurfaces, causing him to miss some important late-season games.

150 carries, 500 yards, 3 TDs; 15 receptions, 125 receiving yards, 0 receiving TDs

Bottom Line: Although he’ll miss Weeks 1-3, Martin is still the guy in Tampa Bay’s backfield. He’ll get his chance to prove his worth to this team as its lead back when he returns, and if the early trends of OTAs hold true, his production will be that of a mid-to-low tier RB1. Staying healthy and on the field will obviously be a top priority, and will be possibly the biggest indicator of Martin’s success in 2017.

The Bucs know what kind of talent they have in Doug Martin, and will work hard to utilize his skills and allow him to pace their rushing attack. However, if his inconsistency remains and he can’t stay healthy, they’ll have to look elsewhere — both this season, and in the future.

Predicted Stat Line: 220 carries, 1,200 yards, 7 TDs; 28 receptions, 275 receiving yards, 1 receiving TD

We used this formula to nail David Johnson and Ezekiel Elliott in 2016. Check back for more Fantasy Stock Profiles throughout the off-season to stay ahead of your fantasy football league.

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