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Doug Martin's Updated 2014 Fantasy Outlook Heading into Week 3

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor ISeptember 16, 2014

Running back Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers runs the ball during a Pre-Season NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014, in Jacksonville, Fla. (Photo by Marc Serota/Panini/AP Images)
Marc Serota/Associated Press

Just because Doug Martin lines up for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers doesn't mean he should be doing the same for The Fighting Muscle Hamsters or whatever you like to call your fantasy team. 

First, the good news. The Bucs' third-year running back, who missed a large portion of Week 1 and all of Week 2 with a knee injury, is practicing and should be ready to go for Thursday night's contest against the Atlanta Falcons, per the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman: 

Greg Auman @gregauman

Bucs had RB Doug Martin and DE Michael Johnson working with first-string units at practice today. Bodes well for both on Thursday.

Second, it's an alluring matchup. Five running backs have faced this Falcons defense through two weeks, and every single one has produced valuable fantasy numbers.

Overall, Atlanta has allowed the most standard fantasy points to running backs through two weeks. With head coach Lovie Smith looking to take Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Falcons' explosive pass offense out of the equation as much as possible on the road, the Bucs will lean on the run game early. 

However, there are some major concerns, with the greatest of those being an uncertain workload. 

Bobby Rainey's Week 2 outburst makes Martin a risky play, no matter how healthy he is
Bobby Rainey's Week 2 outburst makes Martin a risky play, no matter how healthy he isPhelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press
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Martin was famously dubbed the team's bell-cow back in the offseason, but that's a distant memory at this point. He was the epitome of mediocre in Week 1—nine carries for nine yards—and backup Bobby Rainey sliced and diced the St. Louis Rams for 144 yards on 22 carries in his stead. 

As NFL Philosophy and ESPN's Christopher Harris argued, there isn't a major discrepancy in talent between the two backs:

NFL Philosophy @NFLosophy

If I'm the Bucs, I'm shopping Doug Martin. No drop off from him to Rainey. Good backup in James. And they drafted Sims in the 3rd.

Christopher Harris @HarrisFootball

Just finished STL/TB tape - Rainey was terrific. He's little, but he's tough. Can't imagine Martin is full-time THU even if healthy.

Even if Martin suits up, it seems we're headed for the dreaded running back by committee. We've seen that multiple backs can be successful against Atlanta, but it's a dangerous thing to bet on, especially in the often sloppy Thursday night game. 

Ultimately, the matchup is good enough to feel safe about putting Martin in your lineup if necessary. Just don't automatically slot him into your lineup because you drafted him as an RB1 and he's supposedly healthy. 

He's an RB3. If you've been hit by the injury bug, you're likely going to have to be play him. But if you've fallen into some depth at the position, don't be afraid to keep him on the pine. There are just too many unknown factors at play. 

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