It’s not so much that Martin or Charles are bad options for your squad. Both are potentially capable of living up to their draft position and then some. The question is: Will they?
That’s a question that you should be asking yourself. If you’re not, good luck.
We all know running backs dominate in most fantasy formats, so they undoubtedly draw the biggest attention. But unless you’re taking Adrian Peterson, there’s a reason to be cautious in your approach.
Basically, unless you’re picking first overall you’re going to have some tough decisions to make in the first round. Don’t squander an opportunity to secure yourself a player that will produce at a high level all season by mailing it in without doing your homework.
RB Doug Martin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Player Ranking: 2nd RB, No. 2 overall
Beware of the sophomore slump. While many are pegging the “Muscle Hamster” to have a breakout second season, it’s important to understand one thing: As positive as it is that he has one year of experience under his belt, defensive coordinators also have a full season of tape to watch.
And although he did put up surprisingly high fantasy numbers as a rookie, much of his production came after a slow start, and his consistency throughout was shaky at best. He failed to break 100 yards once during the Bucs’ first six games and did it only five times total on the year. Then there’s his three multi-touchdown performances to consider.
It’s hard to play the “take away this game” game, but his 251-yard, four-touchdown performance against Oakland was more of a fluke than anything close to the mean of his ability.
Yes, Martin was electric at times. He put up a staggering 794 yards and scored seven times in five games. However, he managed just 660 yards and four scores in his other 11 appearances. That had to be maddening for fantasy owners. After all, it doesn't matter if he scores 40 points in five games for you if he doesn't carry his weight throughout the year.
Extrapolate Martin’s performance last season over the whole season and the median score you’ll find is in the 10-to-15 points per game realm. Yes, he did put up astronomical numbers against Oakland that inflated his average points per game, but the median of his work was far less impressive.
Placing your season in the hands of Martin and the Josh Freeman-led Bucs is a big risk—bigger than most are accounting for considering his sky-high average draft position.
RB Jamaal Charles, Kansas City Chiefs
Player Ranking: 4th RB, No. 4 overall
How many times have you rolled the dice with Charles in the past and been burnt? Those who have should know better than to pick the explosive runner as high as he is going off of draft boards.
Despite having a career year in yardage last season, Charles still wasn’t much help for fantasy owners in the touchdown department. He scored just five times on the ground and once through the air.
Pro Football Focus agrees. Sam Monson defended the site’s exclusion of Charles from their 2012 PFF Top 101 list for a variety of reasons, the most prominent being that 42 percent of Charles’ 1,500-plus yards came on just 19 carries. Monson also said that the Chiefs’ run blocking had a lot to do with the yards he gained, as he scampered free for a league-best yards-before-contact average.
Then there’s Charles’ injury history to keep in mind. He missed most of 2011 with an ACL tear before bouncing back strong in 2012. That recovery was certainly inspiring, but it does raise some questions. And that uncertainty is already rearing its ugly head.
Charles already missed some time in August due to an injury he labeled as “weird,” because it affected the way he runs. While he’s back on the field now, durability questions certainly are real for the back.
Factor in Philadelphia fans’ and LaDainian Tomlinson's criticism of Andy Reid’s utilization of LeSean McCoy and there is a perfect storm brewing for Charles to disappoint fantasy owners this season.
“I think Andy Reid doesn’t know how to use LeSean McCoy,” Tomlinson said last season, per Spike Eskin of CBS Philly.
TE Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
Player Ranking: 2nd TE, No. 40 overall
Want to take Rob Gronkowski as the second tight end off the board in your fantasy draft? Be prepared to endlessly scourge the web for injury updates as the recovering fantasy star attempts to get back onto the field.
As it stands now, Gronk’s recovery from back and forearm surgeries is reportedly going well. He could be ready for a Week 3 return to the field, according to Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. However, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe said the tight end will “likely” miss up to the first six weeks of the season after remaining the PUP list to begin the year.
After not playing in a single preseason game and missing all of training camp, it’s going to take some time for him to get back into top fantasy form regardless of when he returns. Fantasy players that have already responded by waiting a little longer to pick him should be applauded.
But they should wait a little bit longer.
Gronkowski simply isn’t a reliable option to build your team around, despite his double-digit touchdown marks in each of his three NFL seasons. Back surgery is a big deal and his play this season is going to suffer as a result even after he’s back on the field.