Doug Martin and Alfred Morris were in the top-10 running backs in fantasy football rankings at this time last year, but Martin missed 10 games with a shoulder injury and Morris had his production drop off across the board as the Redskins struggled. Both will be looking to rebound in their third NFL season under a new coaching staff, but will Morris or Martin be the more reliable fantasy option this year?
The Case For Doug Martin
Martin was a productive dual threat when fully healthy in 2012, rushing for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns along with 49 catches for 472 yards and another score. The Buccaneers are likely to have a run-heavy offense under new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, with Martin atop the depth chart and seeing the most work even if a committee approach is used.
Martin had four one-yard rushing touchdowns in 2012, so even without a build (5’9″, 215 lbs.) befitting a bruising goal line back he should see plenty of opportunities when Tampa Bay enters the red zone.
Martin was targeted four times per game last season and 4.4 times per game as a rookie in 2012. Even with wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins added to the mix in May’s draft, Martin should be a prominent part of Tampa Bay’s pass offense.
The Case For Alfred Morris
Morris had just four games with 20 or more carries last season, after reaching that mark 10 times in 2012, but his yards per carry average was comparable (4.6 vs. 4.8). He also had 22 fewer red zone carries last season (34), which helped drive his drop to seven rushing touchdowns after he found pay dirt 13 times as a rookie. Robert Griffin III’s likely return to full strength this year is good new for the entire Redskins’ offense, and he’ll keep defenses from keying on Morris with his own ability as a runner.
Morris is unchallenged as the Redskins’ No. 1 running back, with only previous underachiever Roy Helu and rookie Lache Seastrunk as any sort of threat to his playing time. A third straight season with at least 275 carries is a virtual certainty, and Morris’ role as Washington’s primary goal line back helps make up for his shortcomings as a pass catcher (20 career receptions).
Morris is unlikely to suddenly become a prolific pass catcher this year, which limits his fantasy value and gives Martin an advantage in PPR leagues. Morris and Martin are very close in average draft position right now (via Fantasy Pros.com), at #21 (Martin) and #23 (Morris) overall. That makes each guy a low-end RB1 or high-end RB2 in standard scoring formats.
The Buccaneers have expressed a desire to use a running back rotation this year, with rookie Charles Sims and some combination of Bobby Rainey or Mike James possibly in the mix. That takes away some of Martin’s advantage over Morris as a higher volume pass catcher, while their carry and touchdown totals may be comparable. All things considered, including my lack of faith in Martin that dates back to last year at this time, Morris gets the slight nod here as a clear workhorse with better talent around him.
Brad Berreman is a Senior Writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter.