Is Doug Martin Worth His New Contract?

Martin's career has been a roller coaster to date. Did Tampa Bay make a smart decision giving Martin a five-year, $35 million dollar deal?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have reached an agreement with running back Doug Martin for a five-year, $35 million dollar deal as reported by Adam Schefter.

The 27-year-old Martin has had a roller coaster of a career to date, but general manager Jason Licht must have liked Martin's 2015 campaign enough to extend the veteran running back.

Martin signed the fifth-highest contract among running backs in the league, but has his play warranted such a deal?

After a breakout rookie season -- finishing as the second-highest PPR fantasy scoring running back -- Martin struggled with health, missing 15 games over the next two seasons finishing as the RB56 and RB52 in PPR formats. Martin rebounded in 2015, playing out the whole season and finishing as the fourth-highest scoring fantasy running back.

Considering he's only played 49 career games, it's fair to question which Doug Martin the Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed.

Football Implications of the Deal

Martin had a terrific 2015 season, rushing for 1,402 yards at 4.9 yards per carry. His career -- if rocky -- has provided some success to the Buccaneers' organization. Martin is one of just 10 running backs to eclipse 1,400 rushing yards multiple times in his first four seasons dating back the past 30 years.

His performances broken down from an advanced analytical viewpoint, appear to be all over the map.

Using numberFire's Net Expected Points (NEP) metric -- which is our signature statistic that quantifies the number of points a player adds to his team versus how he's expected to perform -- gives us a true measure of efficiency to help compare running backs. 

On average, 44 running backs had at least 100 rushing attempts over the past four years, with Martin's rankings indicated below in parentheses.

Year Games Ru Att Ru Yds Ru TDs Rush NEP Rec Rec Yds Rec TDs Rec NEP Total NEP
2012 16 319 1454 11 10.18 (7th) 49 472 1 25.92 (1st) 36.1 (3rd)
2013 6 127 456 1 -12.64 (31st) 12 66 0 -0.12 (42nd) -12.76 (37th)
2014 11 134 494 2 -7.83 (25th) 13 64 0 0.32 (41st) -7.51 (35th)
2015 16 288 1402 6 -1.59 (16th) 33 271 1 12.47 (23rd) 10.89 (17th)

To be fair, NEP is a cumulative statistic, so running backs who see more touches -- particularly receptions -- could favor more highly in this facet.

However, even on a per-touch basis, Martin's numbers were less than flattering during his two abysmal 2013 and 2014 seasons.

His receiving game leaves something to be desired from an advanced metric viewpoint. At times, it looks like he was being forced the ball, resulting in sub-optimal plays and actually costing his team points.

Luckily, receiving maven Charles Sims -- who had the fourth-highest Reception NEP among the subset -- is still on his rookie deal to help facilitate this offense, as he finished last year second on the team in receptions (51).

The table as whole leaves a lot to be desired, raising many questions as to how Tampa Bay was able to shell out the deal they gave Martin during a time when running backs are becoming increasingly replaceable.

Doling out a five-year, $35 million deal to a 27-year-old running back with a lot of questions has the potential to put Tampa Bay in a fiscal predicament in the very near future, as they continue to build around quarterback Jameis Winston.

Fantasy Implications of the Deal

Martin was a workhorse for this offense last year, taking 71.8% of the team's carries and 56.8% of the offensive snaps from the backfield. Capitalizing on that large market share was what led to his finish as the fourth-highest scoring fantasy running back in PPR.

Tampa Bay ran the ball 44.69% of the time last year -- ninth-most in the league -- in Dirk Koetter's first season as Tampa Bay's offensive coordinator. Prior to joining the Buccaneers, his offenses in Atlanta ranked 30th, 32nd, and 26th in rushing percentage the past three years.

Koetter's ability to adapt his offense to suit his young, franchise quarterback better and lean on Martin should continue as Winston is given time to develop. Martin was able to shoulder the offense last season and will look to do so again in 2016 if he can stay on the field.

When healthy, Martin has provided some productive, if inconsistent, performances for Tampa Bay. Looking at his performances on a game-to-game basis, we can see just how often Martin was a viable fantasy performer during his career.

Top-6 Finishes Top-12 Finishes Top-24 Finishes Outside Top-24 Finishes Career Games
7 14 29 20 49

Martin was hardly a consistent fantasy performer, with only 28.6% of his performances finishing as a top-12 running back over his career. Getting paid as a top-five running back is sure to raise some eyebrows.

However, we've seen the ceiling that Martin can provide, finishing as a top-five running back in both 2012 and 2015. We've also seen the floor he displays with his 2013 and 2014 campaigns. 

The uncertainty surrounding Martin is sure to be a hot topic entering this offseason, and gambling on a running back making it through 16 games unscathed is a high-risk roll of the dice.

Koetter knows he has a workhorse he can utilize in Martin. If he wants to keep his franchise quarterback healthy and continue to progress, Koetter would be smart to continue riding Martin until the pace of the NFL slows down for Winston.

Early ADP data has Martin going at the second-to-third-round turn in light of his recent 2015 success. At that price tag, Martin should be a "buy" for re-draft fantasy players given the combination of the ceiling we've seen and the unpredictable nature of injuries.

It's not too costly for fantasy players to assume that risk on a one-year season.

What is costly, though, is trying to project which version of Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde Tampa Bay just invested in over the next five years.