Attention NFL running backs.
There's a new sheriff in town, and his name is Doug Martin.
After getting off to a somewhat sluggish start to his National Football League career, the rookie tailback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers has been on an absolute tear over the past two games, gaining nearly 500 total yards and scoring a ridiculous six touchdowns.
The 23-year-old had a historic outing in the Buccaneers' Week 9 win over the Oakland Raiders, rushing for over 200 yards in the second half alone, gaining a franchise-record 251 yards total on the ground and becoming the first player in the history of the National Football League to score on three runs of 45 yards or longer in the same game.
Martin's huge game inspired loads of superlatives and gushing reviews from around the NFL, according to from his own head coach according to Monte Poole of The San Jose Mercury-News.
"That was a great, great performance," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "After having a really big outing up in Minnesota on national TV (last week) and winning some awards, you sit back and say, `How is the young guy going to handle the success?' This week he stepped up and met the challenge for sure."
So, with the Martin hype now picking up more speed than a bullet train and with any number of football pundits ready to anoint him as one of the best running backs in the National Football League, the question becomes...
How does Martin stack up against the NFL's top backs?
First off, as fantastic as Martin has looked the past two games, let's all just step back, take a breath and relax. Granted, that was two incredible performances in a row, but two games is a preciously small sample size.
Jerome Harrison rushed for 286 yards in a game in 2009. I'm not comparing Doug Martin to Jerome Harrison. I'm just saying that one (or two) games does not necessarily make an elite back.
In fact, the best running back in the National Football League likely plays for Tampa's Week 8 opponent. Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings has come back from last year's ACL tear with a vengeance, leading the NFL in rushing this year, and were it not for Martin's explosion against the Raiders, we'd all be talking about the 182 yards and two scores that "All Day" ripped the Seattle Seahawks for on Sunday.
That reminds me...Martin needs a nickname. Feel free to make a suggestion, but I digress.
After that we have the likes of Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, Chris Johnson of the Tennessee Titans and LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles, ball-carriers still very much in their prime who have proven track records and multiple 1,000-yard (or in Johnson's case 2,000-yard) seasons under their belts.
It's Rice that Martin often draws comparisons to given their similar size, running style, receiving ability and the fact that each played for Schiano at some point in their careers. Not bad company to keep.
Where does Doug Martin Rank Among NFL Running Backs?
However, as good as Martin has looked recently, I'm not quite ready to place him in that group just yet. Instead I'd rank him in the tier below them that includes both younger backs such as Matt Forte of the Chicago Bears and veterans such as Maurice Jones-Drew of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Frank Gore of the San Francisco 49ers.
Mind you, these are excellent football players that any number of teams would gladly have as starters in their backfields, but each also carries a question mark of some sort, whether it's Martin's limited sample size, Gore's age or Jones-Drew's durability.
This isn't to say that this list is static. Nothing in the NFL ever is, and if Martin keeps it up at anywhere near the frenetic pace he's been on as of late, the former Boise State star may well soon find himself ranked among the top five players at his position in the NFL.
For now though, he'll have to settle for being just inside or just outside the top 10, depending on your own personal preferences.
And for a rookie that ain't half bad.