Why Doug Martin Was the Steal of the 2012 NFL Draft

Lou Rom@louromliveContributor IOctober 26, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 25:  Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers outruns Harrison Smith #22 of the Minnesota Vikings for a gain at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on October 25, 2012 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)
Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Doug Martin had his share of skeptics going into the NFL Draft, but as the season approaches its midpoint, no other rookie running back has had the impact that Martin has had on his team.

Trent Richardson has had his ups and downs in Cleveland, and the New York Giants David Wilson is still recovering from a season-opening case of fumblitis.

Meanwhile, Martin's smashmouth, up-the-gut style has breathed new life into a ragged Buccaneers offense and into quarterback Josh Freeman, who endured a horrendous 2011.

Martin, a Boise State product, was chosen by the Buccaneers with the 31st pick of the draft. He has put together a respectable 2012 campaign, including almost 120-plus all-purpose yards on opening day.

But on Thursday night, Martin had his coming out party—that's what you call it when the rookie forces a national TV audience to (gasp) forget for a moment about Adrian Peterson.

Martin went wild against the Minnesota Vikings, tallying 135 yards on 29 carries with a touchdown, grabbing three catches for 79 yards and another score.

He opened the season with 95 rushing yards in a surprise 16-10 win over the Carolina Panthers, then cooled off over the next few games and currently sits at 408 yards on 100 carries.

Until Thursday night on the NFL Network, against a guy who has been the best back in the league the last five years.

To be fair to AP, he also ran for 123 yards, and his yards per carry—8.2 compared to Martin's 4.7—shows it's not time to retire this old horse just yet.

But Martin made his case for Rookie of the Year honors in the Bucs 36-17 road victory over the Vikings.

And the Bucs' 2012 draft, considered by many to be among the best on draft day, is looking better and better every week, thanks in large part to Martin.

A solid performance next week, against the Oakland Raiders on the road, will go a long way in proving Martin has staying power and can contribute week to week.

Lou Rom, a veteran journalist with more than 17 years experience, covers the NFL, his hometown New York Giants and whatever else gets under his skin for Bleacher Report.