The Oakland Raiders acquired former Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin via free agency in March, which we addressed at the time. Below is the section specific to Martin and the backfield situation. This go-around the focus will be on any changes afterward, primarily the NFL draft.
An “M&M” backfield
By paying 2017 starting running back Marshawn Lynch his roster bonus, Oakland effectively guarantees Beast Mode will return in ’18. Lynch visibly improved as the year went on last season, likely due to improved conditioning after missing the previous year.
Lynch’s splits reflect as much. He played five games in December, rushing for a season-best 5.2 yards per carry when compared to all other months. In three September games, the 31-year-old ran for only 3.9 yards per tote — a number that would dip to 3.6 over his next 87 attempts (seven games). Lynch scored twice over his first seven games (once per 36 carries) and five times in the final eight outings (27 handles).
Oakland mostly pulled him in clear passing situations, inserting a blend of DeAndre Washington and Jalen Richard. It will be much of the same, though the addition of Doug Martin could jumble the rotation a great deal.
Martin is better receiver than Lynch, albeit not by a drastic margin. The latter is a more reliable blocker in pass protection. Richard arguably has the best hands of this lot, and there will be some competition for the third-down chores.
Lynch turns 32 years old April 22. Entering his age-29 season, Martin also is no spring chicken in running back years. Just how much of a workload either back is capable of shouldering is the elephant in the room, and the most predictable scenario is these well-seasoned vets rotate series with the regularity of a high-fiber diet. Fantasy gamers will be frustrated trying to trust each player when both are healthy.
Martin enjoyed two monster seasons in his career, both topping 1,400 rushing yards, and followed each them with consecutive injury-plagued encores. Most alarming of all, Martin has averaged 2.9 yards per carry in his past 282 carries. For comparison, only three NFL backs rushed 282 times or more last season, and Melvin Gordon’s 3.9 yards-per-carry average was the worst of the trio.
Martin’s woes can partially be blamed on Tampa’s offensive line, yet he was unable to break a run longer than 27 yards in that span. It begs the question whether he simply is ready for a fork in the back. His collegiate workload was limited, and if his NFL pattern holds true, he’s in for a rebound season.
Oakland’s offensive line was a disaster last year after being among the strongest units entering the season. It, too, is poised to bounce back in 2018.
All things considered, it will require a significant injury to one of them for either back to carry the ball north of 225 times in 2018. They should cannibalize each other’s fantasy offerings, and both present major injury risks. Treat the duo as merely roster depth with flex consideration in mind.
It seems foolish to think Jon Gruden didn’t reach out to ties at his former employer to get a close-up perspective of what Martin has left in the tank. Gruden believes he can get the most of the well-seasoned rusher, despite a host of skeptics. After all, the coach loves veteran players and has a reasonably strong track record in his favor.
The biggest move in the draft to impact Martin is Kolton Miller’s selection in the first round. He’ll open his career competing for the starting right tackle job but will have a shot at moving to the left side if 35-year-old Donald Penn cannot return to form after a Lisfranc injury of the midfoot.
The Raiders also could be without wide receiver Martavis Bryant, per media reports suggesting he may face discipline by the league for an alleged substance abuse violation.
In the event Bryant is suspended, the Raiders could rely more on the ground attack — obviously a win for Martin’s fantasy potential.
Fantasy football takeaway
Gamers have opted for the vet in the late 10th to early 11th rounds, on average. This range backs up the original fantasy forecast of his expected value to be in the roster-depth department. He could be a steal if Marshawn Lynch were to suffer an injury.