Rookie running backs haven’t exactly been tearing things up in the NFL in recent years.
First-year backs have a lot to learn, specifically when it comes to pass protection, and it can be a tall task asking them to learn their position at the highest level, as well as figuring out complex blocking assignments.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie running back Doug Martin (31st overall pick in 2012 NFL Draft) has a Mock Draft Central average draft position (ADP) of 22. He’s the 15th running back to come off the board, according to their tallies.
Yahoo! Sports is a little more cautious, but he’s still No. 36 overall and No. 15 among running backs.
A very savvy and reliable runner between the tackles, Martin also has the athletic ability to break it outside. But is he ranked too high?
Word is, Martin has excelled in organize team activities (OTAs), and albeit that’s a good sign, it’s not quite the same as real-game action.
There’s also an incumbent standing in the way. While he is about the least-exciting running back in the league, LeGarrette Blount picked up 1,007 yards at 5.0 YPC as a rookie and totaled 781 yards at a 4.2 clip on the ground in his second season.
At 6-0, 247 pounds, he simply won’t go away, especially near the stripe. At least due to on-field performance, that is. As for off-the-field, he has plenty of problems. Recent rumblings regarding work ethic indicate his days could actually be numbered if he doesn’t change his ways.
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, Blount’s lack of commitment was startling to coaches from the day he arrived in Tampa Bay in 2010. Stroud writes that Blount was fined more than $15,000 for repeatedly showing up late to practice.
His tardiness got so out of hand that the team arranged for him to hire a car service with a driver who would wake him up in the morning and bring him to the team’s practice facilities.
After that worked for a few weeks, the team figured Blount could cancel the car service because he had figured out what time he needed to wake up to make it to practice on time. Sure enough, on the first day the service was canceled, Blount was once again late to practice. With this in mind, the Buccaneers re-ordered the service and a driver continued to take Blount to practice the past two seasons.
“And even when he sleeps in, Blount still apparently needs more sleep, because he also has a history of falling asleep in team meetings,” Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com writes.
As it stands, the Bucs figure to frequently pound it out on the ground, so both runners should see plenty of use.
Martin looks to be not only the choice in third-down situations, but also looks to wind up the favorite in early down situations as well.
At the end of the game is when Tampa turns to Blount’s size, assuming he’s still on the team this season.
While Martin looks to have a very good season, he shapes up to be more of a low-end RB2 than a high-end one like he’s being currently treated.