Doug Martin (According to ESPN: Current ADP: RB35/102 overall)
Charles Sims (Current ADP: RB51/131 overall)
Jacquizz Rodgers (RB59/139)
Peyton Barber (Undrafted)
Jeremy McNichols (Rookie 5th round pick, Current ADP: Undrafted)
Mr. boom or bust himself lived up to his reputation last season. Failing to top the 500 yard rushing mark for the third time in his five-year NFL career. Unfortunately, this upcoming season will begin with a 2016 hangover as Martin is suspended for the first three games. This has caused his current average draft position (ADP) to drop out of the top 100. If it stays this way heading into August, then it is time to collect as many shares of Martin as possible for this fantasy season.
Martin is the most talented back on the roster. Sure, Rodgers was serviceable when given his opportunities last season and Jeremy McNichols out of Boise State makes for an intriguing rookie to keep an eye on, but Martin at his best is the best of this group.
In what was a deep draft at the running back position, the Bucs had plenty of opportunities to add significant competition or draft Martin's replacement outright and release him. The organization decided to keep Martin on the roster, which should tell us that they still believe he is their guy heading into the season.
In what figures to be a more explosive offense in 2017, Martin is absolutely worth investing an 8th-10th round pick on. If you are an advocate of the zero RB approach, Martin is on the short list of RBs I want to land on my squad. The risk and uncertainty surrounding a player who has proven RB1 production twice in his career makes for a great buy on draft day.
Charles Sims & Jacquizz Rodgers:
When Martin went down with a hamstring injury in Week 2 of last year, Sims was given the opportunity to lead the Tampa backfield. Unfortunately, he underwhelmed against two stout defenses before falling victim to an injury of his own, averaging 2.9 yards per carry over his two starts. Rodgers filled in admirably, averaging 4.3 yards per carry on 129 carries (career high).
When trying to figure out the first three weeks of this season without Martin, look to the Christmas Eve matchup against the Saints as a potential preview. With Sims and Rodgers as the two healthy options, it was Rodgers who led the rushing attack. Though Sims did remain involved in the passing game. The only certainty we have about the first three weeks of the season is that Sims will be the passing down option for this offense. If you want to take the Saints game as a possible preview of the first three games of the season, then Rodgers would be your pick, however, Sims is the player that will be guaranteed a PPR floor of some sort (of the four games they played together, Sims caught more passes than Rodgers in each contest). Rodgers familiarity with Koetter's system (who played under him in Atlanta for three seasons) may give him the edge as the lead RB for the first three weeks. Both are worth late round picks with Sims having sustained value throughout the season as the top pass catching option of this backfield.
The wild card of this backfield is the 5th round pick out of Boise State. McNichols isn't an overly explosive RB, but he does play with good vision, has quality hands in the passing game (88 receptions over the last two seasons) and doesn't shy away from contact. He reminds me of a less physical version of Ahmad Bradshaw. He will have an opportunity to make an impression in the preseason. With no clear cut front runner with Martin out the picture the first three weeks of the season, he is worth keeping an eye on this preseason. Currently going undrafted, he is nothing more than a dart throw at the current moment.
The Bucs had plenty of chances/reasons to let go of Doug Martin this off season. The organization felt confident enough with Martin's progress off the field that they decided not to add any significant competition. Martin is the back to own on what should be an ascending offense. I feel comfortable taking him as early as the 7th round. As far as the other options, I like Rodgers to see the most carries the first three weeks, with Sims being guaranteed the passing work for the 2017 season.
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