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« : June 23, 2013, 12:00:12 AM »

Learning From The Past: What Do Previous Rookie Running Backs Tell Us About The Future Of Doug Martin?

Jun 22nd, 2013 at 11:18 am

 by Leo Howell

It’s fair to say that most Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans were quite happy with the performance of Doug Martin last season, stepping up as a rookie and having one of the best offensive seasons of any player in Buccaneers’ history. When Martin was drafted in the first round, he was seen as a great compliment to LeGarrette Blount and someone who could develop into a solid player for the Bucs, but no one could have expected he’d have one of the best games in NFL history at the position, and finish the season with almost 2000 total yards. But with the fall of Blount and the breakdown of Cadillac Williams, it’s understandable that Bucs’ fans might be weary about a promising young running back, as well. So what do the numbers say?
Well, let’s just say it’s not a sure thing.
Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus did a study looking back at running backs from the past few years and evaluating their performance after their rookie seasons, and attempting to see how predictive rookie season statistics are going forward. While the focus of the article isn’t on Martin, there is some bits of information about him provided in the article. But if we borrow the numbers from Clay and focus in on the Dougernaut, can we learn more about how similar rookies have progressed?

The rookie with the most similar rookie season in recent years was first round choice and instant success Chris Johnson of the Tenneessee Titans. Johnson had 262 carries for 1300 yards as a rookie, and of course showed similar big play ability to Martin. But unfortunately, Steve Slaton also had a very similar rookie season, posting a very similar yards per carry and toting the football almost 270 times for around 1300 yards. For Johnson, he would follow-up his rookie season with another impressive year of running, and proved to be well worth a first round choice. But for Slaton, fumbles and an injury took him off the field in 2009, eventually leading to the rise of Arian Foster, who USA Today wisely predicted would have an impact on the team all the way back when the injury was announced.
So what’s the difference between Johnson and Slaton? Johnson showed an aversion to fumbling, much like Martin. And Slaton had a checkered history health-wise heading into the NFL, something that Martin clearly has not shown to this point (thankfully). Martin is also built much differently than Slaton, and even Johnson, as Martin has a 20-30 pound advantage over the other running backs despite being a similar height. This means that Martin is truly a different style of runner than these pure speedsters.
So who is a better comparison? It would likely be Matt Forte, who shows the same versatility as Martin, and also shares a similar build and strength. Forte was used heavily as a rookie, like Martin, and while he didn’t run as well in his second season, he continued to contribute in the passing game and provided an excellent weapon for the Bears’ offense when healthy. Clay has given Forte an “A” for his career following his impressive rookie year, and I am certainly in agreement with that. Forte has shown some injury concerns over the years, but he’s not as injury prone as you may think. And he has been one of the best running backs in the passing game while still providing solid numbers as a rusher. Doug Martin has all the skills and the opportunity to have a similar, if not better career.
But I’ll allow Clay to provide the best news to Bucs’ fans, as he gave the following nugget of information in his article:

Doug Martin is in good company. Among seven other first or second round backs who handled 100 or more rookie-season carries and managed a YPC above 4.0, three have been in the elite conversation (Johnson, McCoy, Rice), three have been decent or better (McFadden, Stewart, Mathews), and only one has really failed (Wells). This study offers optimism about Martin’s future.

In other words, it’s the ability to gain consistent yardage that sets Martin apart from other heavily used rookie runners. And with any luck, he’ll be healthier than Beanie Wells, Darren McFadden, and Ryan Matthews, and can more closely emulate the careers of Johnson, McCoy, and Rice, who have been franchise changing runners for their teams.



Hall of Famer

Posts : 13313
« #1 : June 23, 2013, 01:23:11 AM »

For better or worse, it doesn't matter.

Different teams, coaching staffs, playcalls, blockers, teammates, weather, environments, situations, personal issues, weaknesses, rules, and even uniforms.

There are so many variables when considering creating a solid running attack in an offense, and to have a player durable enough to handle it is tough enough all on it's own. Although the NFL is far more Pass-happy than it was when I grew up, a running offense still has to have one of two main characteristics, 1) a tough OL, or 2) a hell of a good RB, or it's just not going to work.

Naismith was right about Revis. Everyone else is a dummy.


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Posts : 7660
« #2 : June 23, 2013, 04:59:40 PM »

No mjd or ray rice comparison?

Quote from: Illuminator
You were simply too smart for me.

The Franchi5e

Pro Bowler

Posts : 1641
« #3 : June 23, 2013, 08:32:28 PM »

Doug Martin might be Dominik's best draft pick ever. I might even say Martin and Lavonte David are 1A and 1B as far as what it took to get them, the spot they were drafted, what they mean to the Bucs franchise and how they fit the culture brought in by Schiano. If Barron turns out to be a Pro-Bowler as well (I think he will be) that could be one of the best drafts I've ever seen.

To answer the question though, Doug Martin is no one-year wonder. He's as close to the real deal as you can get. This is a guy that we'll be talking about as one of the all-time Buccaneer greats when it's all said and done IMO.
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