First off, let me just say that nobody should be allowed to choose their own nickname. A nickname should be earned and bestowed upon you by outside observers. ‘The Muscle Hamster’ was a fantastic nickname, given to NFL running back Doug Martin by former college teammate Jarrell Root. Unfortunately, Martin did not care for the name and has decided he would rather be called ‘Dougernaut’. In my opinion this is a clear downgrade, but the nickname he would prefer to be associated with.
Based on his recent on-field production, dynasty football owners would prefer not to be associated with The Dougernaut at all. Checking the ADP data from March over at DLF, Martin is being selected as the RB76, which ranks him 232nd overall. A few players being selected around his position are players like CJ Prosise, Tyler Kroft, Willie Snead and Jeremy Hill. His price point is bordering on “free” to acquire and smart owners should jump on this low risk opportunity as it could pay off with big rewards.
On March 15 Martin signed a one-year contract with the Oakland Raiders just a few weeks after being released by his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. At this point the backfield in Oakland appears to be crowded, casting further doubt on Martin’s chances of being a viable fantasy weapon this season. Returning from last year are Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington, two runners who have not been overly impressive when given a larger share of opportunities. Neither player has topped 500 rushing yards in a season, and both seem better suited to change of pace duties. Joining the Richard/Washington duo is media darling Marshawn Lynch, who at age 31 enjoyed some minor success last season while garnering the lion's share of the workload. Lynch finished as the overall PPR RB24 by putting up 1042 total yards and 7 touchdowns. Whether all three of these backs remain on the roster come opening day or not is still undecided. According to recent reports, the Raiders plan on retaining Lynch, though the always unpredictable player may choose to re-retire at any point.
Martin enters his age 29 season with a lot to prove to both his NFL coaching staff and fantasy owners. Twice in his six seasons as a professional, he has shown us what he could be, rushing for over 1400 yards in both 2014 and 2012 and finishing as a top 5 PPR option at the position in fantasy leagues. Martin has a three-down skillset as he is able to churn out yards on the ground both between the tackles and out in space, as well as possessing the ability to contribute in the passing game as a blocker and receiver. Unfortunately for a player dubbed by Rotoworld as ‘one of the most inconsistent players in the NFL’, Martin has dealt with just as many low points as he has high points. He has played in all 16 games only twice in his career, often dealing with injuries which limited both his stats and abilities. He was also handed a 4 game PED suspension by the league at the end of the 2016 season. As impressive as his 1400+ yard seasons were, he has failed to top even 500 yards rushing in each of his other four seasons in the league, never playing more than 11 games. With only 1150 career carries on his resume, Martin does seem to have very little wear and tear on his body compared to some of the other high-volume runners in his age bracket. Fellow 29 year old LeSean McCoy for example has 2185 rushing attempts while 30 year old Jonathan Stewart has 1699 attempts.
So how will Martin fare in Oakland under new head coach Jon Gruden? If history is an indicator, and assuming Lynch rides off into the sunset once again as I predict, he has an opportunity to return great value in all fantasy formats. As head coach of these same Oakland Raiders from 1998-2001 and of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2001-2009, Gruden’s offenses ran the ball an average of 444.5 times per season. Based on last year’s rushing totals this would put them around the 12th compared to the rest of the NFL, the same amount of rushing attempts utilized by the New Orleans Saints. Any owners of Alvin Kamara or Mark Ingram can tell you that is a perfectly acceptable number of rushing attempts to ensure fantasy success. Gruden also seemed to rely more frequently on workhorse backs to carry the load when it came to the ground game. Fantasy owners will remember great past seasons from players like Cadillac Williams (1147 rushing yards on 290 rushing attempts in 2005) and Earnest Graham (PPR RB9 in 2007 on 222 rushing attempts) who both played well on Gruden-led offenses. Since taking the head coaching gig, Gruden’s Raiders have added blocking TE Derek Carrier, FB Keith Smith and re-signed blocking TE Lee Smith, showing that Gruden intends to establish a power running game. Another factor working in Martin’s favor is that Oakland boasts one of the better offensive lines in the game, ranking 8th overall in 2017 after ranking 4th in 2016 according to ProFootballFocus.com. Oakland returns it’s entire offensive line in tact from last season’s unit that produced three pro-bowlers. Also, thanks to a variety of injuries, the Raiders boast impressive depth in reserve should the dreaded injury bug hit once again as backup players gained valuable experience filling in last season.
Doug Martin will join a Raiders team who have dealt with their own share of disappointment in 2017 between injuries and ineffectiveness, as they finished 6-10. This season under their new coach, they will be looking to regain their position as one of the top rising young teams in the AFC. With much to prove on his own, Martin will be playing hard, motivated to prove to his new coaching staff and teammates that he can be the guy to lead the backfield and return Oakland to it’s rightful position in the standings. The one-year prove-it deal doesn’t leave him much room to slack off, as he is essentially playing for his career. Running behind one of the best lines in football, expect Martin to return to form and return to being a viable weekly fantasy starter. If you own a dynasty team that you feel is ready to make a run at a championship this season, Doug Martin can be acquired cheaply, and then add valuable depth to your roster to assist you in your pursuit of fantasy glory.