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Is Doug Martin the Most Undervalued Player in Fantasy Football?

dougmartinIf that title sounds familiar, it’s because recently Shawn Siegele wrote an article asking the same exact question about Zac Stacy. My first thought upon reading his headline was, “well, it’s either Stacy or Doug Martin.” So I decided to make the case for the man known as Muscle Hamster.

Let’s start by examining his ADP from both 2013 and 2014:

Draft Overall ADP RB ADP Average Pick
2013 2 2 4.35
2014 22 11 24.37

The two are radically different. Such a huge change suggests an influx of information that is negative for Martin’s 2014 outlook. The most obvious explanation is his disappointing 2013 production.

Season Games Carries Yards YPC TDs Receptions Rec. Yards Y/R Rec. TDs
2012 16 319 1454 4.6 11 49 472 9.6 1
2013 6 127 127 3.6 1 12 66 5.5 0

If you didn’t know those two seasons were posted by the same guy, you probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you they were. After finishing as RB2 in points per game in PPR formats in 2012, he finished as RB31 in points per game in PPR formats in 2013. When you remove the guys who played even fewer games than Martin1 he finished as RB27 in PPR points per game. So his current ADP suggests that drafters think his real value is approximately halfway between his 2012 and 2013 production. While I agree his real value lies between the two, it should be far closer to his 2013 ADP.

Let’s look at the two biggest knocks against his 2013 production:

  1. His low yards per carry. Your average drafter probably doesn’t realize that YPC is not a very predictive stat, at all. So holding Martin’s 2013 YPC against him is foolish, especially given that we know he averaged 4.6 YPC as a rookie. But let’s pretend for a second that YPC is predictive. By that logic, we should still put more stock in his rookie 4.6 YPC since it came from a substantially larger sample. His career YPC of 4.3 is perfectly good.
  2. His low TD total. Since 1995, there have been only 51 seasons where a RB has had 127 or more carries while having one touchdown or less. That’s an average of approximately 2.5 per year. Given that it’s already unlikely that a RB would score so few TDs on that many carries, and Martin scored 11 rushing TDs in 2012, he’s likely to score substantially more TDs in 2014. This is an example of how you can make regression work for you.

I’ll be frank with you, the RB Similarity Score App does not like Martin in 2014. His high-end projection in PPR is only 11.8 PPG. This makes sense, as six games is a small sample which makes the projections less accurate. We know that he scored 19.6 PPR PPG in 2012, and that’s clearly more important.

Last year, Jonathan Bales made the case for Doug Martin as the No. 1 overall pick. Using the aforementioned RB Similarity Score App, he determined that Martin had both the second-highest ceiling and by far the highest floor of the top six RBs. Sure enough, when you plug Martin’s 2012 production and his 2013 age into the RB Similarity Score Lab, here are his projections for next year:

Projection Standard Half PPR PPR
Low 13.8 15.3 16.5
Median 15.6 17 18.6
High 17.1 18.9 20.7

That’s an elite RB in any format. I’m not saying this method doesn’t have flaws. I just believe it’s more accurate than basing our projections and opinions on his 2013 season.

The other concerns involve usage. He’s likely not going to see as many carries in 2014 as he did in 2012. That’s OK, he doesn’t need to repeat that workload to be an elite fantasy RB, and that means his efficiency will likely be higher than it would be on a larger number of carries. The other concern is that he’ll lose some receptions to Charles Sims. That’s a possibility, but most teams realize that you telegraph your plays when you switch your back on third down. There’s also the possibility that Sims has a good number of receptions, but that’s just because they pass more to the RBs in general, which wouldn’t harm Martin at all.

I don’t expect that Martin will meet or exceed his 2012 production. I just think he’ll come close enough to it that he’ll be a huge bargain at the end of the second or in the third round. His draft stock seems heavily informed by his 2013 performance, which wasn’t actually very informative. Recency bias is at work, and this is likely the cheapest Martin will be in redraft for several years. Draft away.

  1. Jonathan Grimes, Ahmad Bradshaw, Edwin Baker, Matt Asiata.  (back)

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