Dear Fantasy Football gods,
Please grant me the first overall selection in my fantasy draft. I want
Doug Martin. This will no doubt draw a collective gasp from the other draft gurus I call my friends. They will more than likely shout, “Blasphemy!” “Lunacy!” or may just grunt loudly; depending on how much alcohol has been consumed up to that point.
All we have heard the entire offseason is how
Adrian Peterson must be the No. 1 overall pick. If not Peterson, Houston Texans running back
Arian Foster should be the guy. In 2012, coming off of a gruesome ACL injury, Peterson showed that he only needed one fully intact knee to lead the NFL with 2,097 yards and 12 touchdowns. The ever-consistent Foster piled up 1,641 total yards and 17 touchdowns. So how, with the first pick, could you choose to not select Peterson or Foster? Two words: consistency and upside.
We can safely assume that Peterson’s 2012 season, although spectacular, will be very difficult to repeat. It can also be assumed that for the 28-year old, it could have been his single-season ceiling. There is no doubt Peterson will receive the majority of the carries for the Minnesota Vikings, and his freakish athleticism will propel him to another great season. The lack of other offensive options in Minnesota, however, will allow teams to stack the box with regularity, making it difficult for Peterson to run wild.
Foster is still the undisputed bell cow in Houston, playing for a run-first team with a terrific defense, assuring the Texans will not have to play “catch up” late in games. His ability to catch the ball out of the backfield gives him added value, especially in points-per-reception leagues. Foster has a history of lower-body injuries including a calf strain during organized team activities, which should cause concern; as well as a yards-per-carry that has shown steady decline in the past three seasons.
Backup running back
Ben Tate could start for at least 10 other NFL teams and has proven to be a very capable NFL runner. If Tate can stay healthy, it is in the Houston Texans’ best interest to spell Foster often to preserve their franchise back come playoff time.
Despite the past success of Peterson and Foster, I believe
Doug Martin has a strong chance to finish the 2013 season leading the league in fantasy scoring, based on strong offensive line play, an improved Tampa Bay defense, and the best balance of consistency and upside among the top-tier running backs.
Heading into the 2013 season, Tampa Bay boasts perhaps the top guard pairing in the NFL in Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks. Both are bruising run blockers who play a smash-mouth type of game, which fits right into coach Greg Schiano’s game plan. Tackle Donald Penn is an underrated player providing stability on the left side of the line. Tampa Bay also added Gabe Carimi, who will compete with Demar Dotson at right tackle. According to Evan Silva at Rotoworld.com, Tampa Bay ranks as the fifth-best offensive-Line, above Minnesota and Houston at seventh and 12th, respectively.
In 2012, Martin rushed for 1,451 yard and 11 touchdowns while adding 49 receptions for another 472 yards and a touchdown, all accomplished with his top two offensive linemen only playing a combined seven games. Following a slow start and playing a majority of the season with a patchwork offensive line, Martin was still productive, only dipping below 11 fantasy points twice in his final 12 games.
Some experts point to his 4.6 yards per carry which ranked only 12th in the NFL or the possibility of a “second-year slump” as potential drawbacks. However, with the benefit of a full offseason behind him and strong, stable blocking in front, Martin will become a more efficient runner, making better use of his guaranteed 300-plus touches as the lead back in Tampa Bay.
Another factor will be the improved play of the Tampa Bay defense; more specifically the secondary. Ranking dead-last in the NFL in 2012 allowing nearly 300 yards per game, Tampa Bay addressed this weak spot in a big way during the offseason. The signing of cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson will go a long way toward improving a porous Bucs secondary. Combine an improved back-end with the NFL’s best rushing defense from a year ago, and Tampa Bay should be able to play a more possession-oriented game, which should only feed Martin more carries late in the game.
Tampa Bay also boasts more offensive weapons, aside from its feature back, than does Minnesota or Houston.
Josh Freeman struggled immensely at times last year, but should be highly motivated to improve entering a contract year. Having a full offseason to learn offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan’s system should help as well. With
Vincent Jackson and
Mike Williams entrenched at wide receiver, and the addition of underrated
Kevin Ogletree, ample resources exist for Freeman to utilize. I anticipate Tampa Bay to be markedly improved on both sides of the football, leading to even more opportunity for Martin to produce.
Most fantasy footballers will take Peterson No. 1 overall come draft day expecting a repeat, superhuman performance from Peterson. Others will take Foster banking on his past production assuming things will go on unchanged. I predict a slight drop in Peterson’s production to more human-like levels while Foster’s touches should be scaled back to preserve the franchise back come NFL playoff time. Conversely,
Doug Martin has the opportunity to take a major step up in fantasy production, with the improvement on both sides of the ball in Tampa Bay.
A roster mixed with consistency and upside is what leads to fantasy titles. Of all the top-tier running backs available,
Doug Martin has the best combination of both to vault him over Peterson and Foster into fantasy’s top spot in 2013.