Is Eddie Lacy this year’s Doug Martin?

You may not remember, but there was a time when Doug Martin’s name was mentioned in the same breath as Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster and Jamaal Charles. His name was likely one of the first few that disappeared off of the available players during your fantasy football drafts last August.

At the time there were two schools of thought:

1.) You’re overvaluing his incredible rookie campaign.

He was fifth in rushing yards (1,454), 12th in yards per attempt (4.6), tied with Marshawn Lynch and Trent Richardson for fifth in touchdowns (11), tied with Charles for third in runs of 20 yards or more (11), fifth in yards per game (90.9), fourth in rushing attempts (319) and he only fumbled the ball once.

Martin exploded onto the scene with a 251 yard, four touchdown outburst against the Raiders in Week 8 of the 2012 season. He followed that up with three 100+ yard games, his only other multi-touchdown game in Week 11, a shitty nine carry-16 yard performance in Week 14 and a couple of mediocre games sprinkled in-between.

There was so much to like about Martin last summer. He lived up to the billing as the next Ray Rice in Greg Schiano’s system (Martin had 45 receptions for 454 yards and a touchdown in his rookie season). There were weapons around Martin (Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams) and Josh Freeman was still a living, breathing human being that was capable of actually throwing a football.

There was a nucleus of fantasy potential that surrounded Martin and he appeared to be in the right situation to succeed. So when his name was as high as two during last year’s fantasy football drafting season, it was something to note, but it wasn’t outlandish.

The other school of thought surrounding Martin last summer was:

2.) There’s no chance he’s going to live up to his expectations.

The problem with this thought is, there aren’t very many first round running backs who live up to their average draft position. Let’s take a look back at the running backs who were projected to go in the first round of a 12-team PPR league last year and then look at where they finished the season in the running back ranks:

  • Adrian Peterson – finished the season 11th
  • Jamaal Charles – finished the season 1st
  • Doug Martin – finished the season behind Bobby Rainey (56th)
  • Arian Foster – finished the season 44th, right behind Bobby Rainey
  • C.J. Spiller – finished the season 27th
  • Ray Rice – finished the season 22nd
  • Marshawn Lynch – finished the season 5th
  • LeSean McCoy – finished the season 3rd
  • Trent Richardson – finished the season 31st
  • Alfred Morris – finished the season 21st
  • Matt Forte – finished the season 2nd

Biggest take away from that list? Bobby Rainey had pretty good year.

Second biggest take away? Only one running back in the top six finished the season in back in the top six (Charles at 1). Looking at the list just provides more evidence of what you should have already figured out if you’ve been playing fantasy football for the past couple of years. The running back position has become filled with disposable entities that can be found anywhere in a draft and even on the waiver wire (Zac Stacy owners please nod in agreement).

Another second year running back has a top six average draft position in both standard and PPR leagues thanks to his 284 carry-1,178 yard-11 touchdown outburst in 2013. Eddie Lacy quickly became the focal point of the Green Bay Packers offense while Aaron Rodgers missed basically half of the season with a broken collarbone. While Rodgers played injured cheerleader on the sidelines, Lacy racked up 666 yards on 151 carries (4.4 YPA) and seven touchdowns. There were only two games during that span where he didn’t score a touchdown.

The only difference between Martin and Lacy’s rookie seasons, in terms of rushing the ball, was Martin’s massive outlier against the Raiders. Lacy had four 100+ yard games and one multi-touchdown game and was only 16 carries from reaching the ever elusive total of 300.

While Lacy broke out onto the scene in 2013, Martin was ran into the ground early on by Greg Schiano (he reached the 100 carry mark in the fourth game of the season). His YPA plummeted from 4.5 in 2012 to 3.42 in those first four games last year. Martin only reached the end zone once in the six games he played before tearing the labrum in his left shoulder, which ended his sophomore season and all but destroyed the championship hopes for most of his owners (unless they struck gold somewhere else).

So if you find yourself with a pick in the five-eight range in a draft, do you take the risk on Lacy knowing that the odds of a running back flaming out in the first round are greater than a running back living up to their lofty draft position?

The talent surrounding Lacy this season is far greater than that of Martin last season. The Bucs quarterback situation was a poo-bag filled with the remains of Josh Freeman’s NFL career, while the Packers have arguably the best QB in the league along with a nice buffet of options to spread the ball around.

Martin entered last season as the bell-cow back in the Bucs’ offense, while Lacy is going to enter this season with James Starks and DuJuan Harris ready to take some of the load off of Lacy’s shoulders. It’s doubtful that head coach Mike McCarthy will decide to run his second year back into the ground like Schiano did with Martin. Yes, the Packers moved to more of a balanced attack even when Rodgers was healthy, but odds are McCarthy isn’t going to run Lacy into the ground like Schiano did with Martin, especially with the Packers championship aspirations. McCarthy needs to have Lacy as healthy as possible come January.

So to answer the question I posed in the title of this column, Eddie Lacy will not be this year’s Doug Martin. If you have a middle of the road pick in the first round, take him with confidence.

Follow me on Twitter @Scottdargis

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