Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Can Doug Martin Win Rookie of the Year Honors in 2012?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers moved back into the first round of the 2012 NFL draft to select running back Doug Martin, which was a great move because the Boise State product has a real chance at being productive enough to win Offensive Rookie of the Year honors.
The No. 31 overall pick in the draft is already on the fast track to being the starting back for the Bucs in 2012. New head coach Greg Schiano likes what he sees in Martin already, and his versatile skill set makes him essentially a lock to take the majority of the snaps next season.
Martin's opponent for the starting job, LeGarrette Blount, is not as versatile in terms of pass-blocking or catching passes out of the backfield (he only caught 15 passes in 2011), and he's not elusive enough to handle the majority of the snaps.
With Martin likely handling the majority of the workload next season as an every-down back, it brings up the question of his chances at winning the Rookie of the Year Award.
His main opposition is a pair of quarterbacks and a fellow running back. Quarterback Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts is working with a depleted roster and has to be considered somewhat of a long shot, while quarterback Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins is a boom-or-bust type of player that could struggle in an elite division.
Martin's main opposition for the award will be the No. 3 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft, running back Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns. Richardson is a sexy pick for the award because of his dominance at the collegiate level, but he has a variety of factors working against his pursuit of the award.
For beginners, Richardson plays for the Browns, a team that was ranked 28th out of 32 in rushing statistics a year ago. Now the team is starting over with a rookie quarterback, which will allow opposing defenses to tee-off on Richardson on almost every down.
Will Doug Martin win Rookie of the Year?
Speaking of opposing defenses, the AFC North has three elite defenses each year. The Baltimore Ravens were ranked No. 2 against the run last year. The Pittsburgh Steelers were ranked No. 8 against the run, and the Cincinnati Bengals were the No. 10 team against the run.
There is not much evidence to support any of those defenses regressing in 2012, which means Richardson faces elite units focused solely on him in six games next season.
None of this is to say Martin will have a cakewalk against NFC South teams next season. In fact, the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints were exceptional against the run last year. Martin's chances at the award are more of a testament to the team around him.
Opposing defenses will not be able to focus only on Martin. Josh Freeman is a quarterback with elite potential if he has a solid run game and weapons to throw to, and Vincent Jackson is a legit No. 1 receiver.
Martin's chances are furthered by his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield, which not only provides another wrinkle to the Bucs' offense, but it gives him more chances to compile enough statistics for the award.
Martin is a very similar running back to Rice, and if he can produce anything close to Rice's numbers like Bloom believes he can, Martin is a lock for the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
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