Fantasy Football: Is Doug Martin Destined for a Bounce-Back Season in 2014?

Garrett BakerSenior Analyst IJune 1, 2014

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 15:  Running back Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushes upfield in the 4th quarter against the New Orleans Saints September 15, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. The Saints won 16  - 14.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Doug Martin was arguably the most disappointing player in fantasy football last season. He got hurt roughly halfway through the season, but he was not very good before that, either. In six games, he had just 456 rushing yards on 127 attempts and only one score. His total yards-per-carry average was just 3.6, and he caught only 12 passes.

On October 20, Martin injured his shoulder. It turned out to be a torn labrum, and there was speculation that he would miss the remainder of the season. However, it took a while for anything to happen. Martin tried to play through it before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers shut him down by placing him on injured reserve November 8.

There's certainly a lot to be concerned here when taken at surface value. The red flags are pretty apparent and will be discussed at length when looking at Martin's fantasy value for 2014. Just one successful year (his rookie season in 2012), a season-ending injury and a low YPC before the injury occurred.

Doing a little more in-depth investigation, though, reveals that there is actually a lot to be excited about for Martin's return. He could even end up being a big steal if he slides a bit in your fantasy draft.

Specifically, diving into his low YPC reveals a whole new picture. Take away one dreadful game against the Arizona Cardinals, and Martin's numbers suddenly look a whole lot more promising. He actually had a YPC of over 4.1 in four of the six games. Against the Cardinals' exceptional run defense (the best in the league in 2013), however, he ran 27 times but managed only 45 yards for an abysmal 1.7 YPC.

His other bad game came against the New York Jets, who finished as the third-best defense against the run in 2013. Martin had only 65 yards on 24 carries. 

Martin and the Bucs do not play either the Cardinals or the Jets in 2014.

There is plenty to get excited about when looking at Martin's talent. He rushed for 1,454 yards on an otherwise mediocre offense as a rookie, scoring 11 touchdowns and averaging 4.6 YPC.  He was downright dominant at times that season, going for over 125 yards in five games, including an unbelievable 251-yard, four-touchdown performance against the Oakland Raiders.

Doug Martin Career Stats
GPAttemptsYardsYPCReceptionsYardsTotal TD

Martin certainly has a lot of talent, and his shortened 2013 season wasn't as bad as it seems. But the fact that his season was shortened will certainly be a focal point during this summer.

Even so, while the season-ending injury raises some legitimate flags, it may not actually be overly concerning for his future. The injury itself may have needed surgery, but it was one that's not anywhere near as debilitating to a running back as many other injuries are. He could have even played through it before getting surgery, but Tampa Bay wisely shut him down to preserve his long-term potential.

For more details, I'll turn things over to Bleacher Report's medical expert, Dave Siebert, who discussed Martin's injury and recovery here.

Basically, although the injury can be tough on a shoulder and affect a throwing motion, for Martin's purposes, it should not hinder him much. As Siebert says:

...At his position—and with an entire offseason's worth of team activities and training camp at which to return to regular-season form—it seems likely Martin will be able to hit the ground running, literally, come Week 1.

It seems that the injury shouldn't have any affect on Martin in 2014. Compared to some other injury-ridden stars, Martin seems like one of the safest bets to bounce back.

Robert Griffin III has dealt with two ACL surgeries now. Arian Foster had surgery on his back. Reggie Wayne (at 35) will have to beat the odds and return to form from an ACL surgery. 

Compared to some of these players' situations, Martin's doesn't look all that bad. And with that encouraging health news, combined with a deeper look into the numbers from his 2013 campaign, you can safely bet that he will return to form as a No. 1 fantasy running back in 2014.