I'd like to thank my fantasy competitors in advance for allowing me to draft Doug Martin this year.
Or maybe more specifically I should thank Tampa Bay's new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford.
Because when the former Cal coach told media that he didn't think "one back can carry the load," the fantasy community groaned as it appeared yet another team adopted the dreaded "running back by committee" approach.
I get it. The guy disappointed big time last year. A consensus first-rounder in most 2013 fantasy drafts, the former Boise State star blew out his shoulder and was done after just six games leaving managers spinning on their collective Muscle Hamster wheels. You add that with Tedford's recent comments and Martin's stock dropped big time. Current average draft position projections have Martin going somewhere between the late second to early fourth round.
Martin at that price is an absolute steal. I'll gladly draft him over Montee Ball and Gio Bernard who themselves also have statistical upside paired with serious situational questions.
While Tedford may have indicated a time share, his 11-year stint in Berkeley shows that maybe his idea of splitting carries and your idea of splitting carries is vastly different.
Lead backs at Cal during the Tedford era averaged more than 220 carries per season. Backups averaged less than 100 carries per season. If you were to project that out to a 16-game NFL season, starters ran the rock anywhere between 275 to 300 times per season. Backups would've hauled it anywhere between 120-130 times.
Those numbers are in line with what guys like Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles did last year. And oh yeah, what Martin did his rookie season when he amassed more than 1,900 yards with 12 total touchdowns.
And unlike Steve Spurrier and starting quarterbacks, once Tedford made a decision on who was going to start in the backfield, he rarely, if ever, deviated from that decision, sometimes to a fault. His reticence to play explosive third-stringer Brendan Bigelow for more snaps in 2012 added to the growing unhappiness among donors which in turn contributed to Tedford's dismissal.
This doggedness to a clear lead back bodes well for Martin. Extremely well.
And while Tedford originally made a name for himself by developing quarterbacks into first-round picks (i.e., Akili Smith, Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers), more recently the guy has been an absolute mad scientist in terms of engineering collegiate running backs.He turned J.J. Arrington into a 2,000-yard back. Read that again. That seriously happened.
Jahvid Best on just 194 carries racked up nearly 1,600 yards. Even scatback Isi Sofele was able to compile more than 1,300 rushing yards in a season playing for Tedford. Between Adimchinobi Echemandu, Arrington, Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett, Best and Shane Vereen, Tedford was able to churn out six NFL-caliber running backs in just 11 seasons, with five of the six starting for an NFL team at some point.
Outside of Lynch, none of those guys are anywhere near the level of Martin in terms of athleticism and running ability, and yet that group enjoyed tremendous growth and success under Tedford's tutelage.
If you take away Tedford's disastrous 2012 Cal team that went 3-9, starting running backs averaged more than 1,300 rushing yards and more than 13 total touchdowns during his tenure.
I'm not sure "gaudy" fully captures the essence of those numbers.
If I could borrow a line from Stone Cold Steve Austin, here's the bottom line: Tedford very well may believe he is using a "committee" to run the ball, but for fantasy purposes, if Doug Martin can stay healthy, he will be in line to produce RB1 numbers for an RB2 price.
My projections for Martin in 2014: 1,500 total yards, 12 total touchdowns.
James Koh is an anchor/reporter for NFL Network and a proud Cal alum. Follow him on Twitter @JamesDKoh