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Mark Chamberlin will tell you that someone who played their college football on a blue field is the No. 3 guy (Doug Martin). Scott Martin will tell you that the true No. 3 guy played his football a bit further northwest, and that’s Chris Polk.
Polk is a prototype three-down running back at the next level. While he may not possess the truly elite qualities that Lamar Miller and Trent Richardson have, there is nothing that Polk seems to lack, minus the top end speed. While he won’t be tearing away from people down the sideline, he’ll be a great chain mover between the tackles. I fully expect Polk to be the third running back taken in April’s draft, likely in the early-to-mid second round. I think he’d be a great fit in Cincinnati if he falls to them in the mid-to-late part of the round, but I’d be shocked if he lasted that long. He may just be a good fit for the New York Jets, who have to be tired of the middling production of Shonn Greene.
Mark’s take on Doug Martin - Martin can take over a game. This was especially evident in Boise State’s struggles in 2011. He missed the TCU game (Boise State’s only loss) with a foot problem caused in the previous game against UNLV. The offense just couldn’t match point-for-point with a surprisingly explosive TCU attack, and UNLV hung a lot tougher than they should have. When he did play he dominated, and so did Boise State on the scoreboard.
Martin has it all. He can break a game open, as even with the injuries his top gear can still get him clear in the open field, and he’s even better when he doesn’t. His vision is spectacular as well as his burst into the hole. When there isn’t a hole there he routinely gets yards after contact powering through tackles. His running technique is textbook, and at 5-foot-9, 215 pounds he has excellent pad level and does a great job of staying low. He’s not only difficult to see, but he creates better leverage than the opposition, so when they do get to him he’s more likely to win the battle. Unlike most power backs, he doesn’t rely solely on running through tackles to amass his yardage. He can cut on a dime as well. Elusiveness in a back with a game like Martin’s is simply not normal.
Additionally, he makes plays in the passing game. His skills in the passing game are advanced for his level as well. Not just his blocking but his route running is above average for someone at this stage of his career. Most backs are adept at the swing pass and screen, but Martin can also get down field. His speed won’t be matched by opposing linebackers, so separating won’t be an issue against them, and safeties will incur punishment if they try to get physical with him at the line. He wasn’t called upon in these situations much in school, but when he did he delivered as he’s going to be a matchup problem for any defense in both the running and passing game.
What really separates Martin from Polk is his ability to run through garbage. Both should time similarly at the NFL Combine and both have displayed the ability to be productive running backs. However, while Polk does a great job seeing and reading the hole, he just isn’t as physical as Martin through it. Without an elite fifth gear it will be tougher for Polk to be productive on those types of plays, while Martin will be. Martin can do everything that Polk can do, but there’s high value on the sort of between the tackles ability Martin has. He isn’t in most Top 5 running backs right now, but he probably will be soon.
I was torn between him and Montee Ball as my No. 3 running back behind Trent Richardson and Lamar Miller, but Ball returning to school made the decision easy. I’m not marrying myself to keeping him behind Miller, either. Miller and Martin are two completely different players, and the situations could jumble them on draft boards as Miller’s more of the game-breaking type whereas Martin is a workhorse. A poor situation could change how these two are viewed. In the end, Martin has Top 30 ability.
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