Draft Spotlight: Doug Martin, RB, Boise St.

Written by Kip Earlywine

Doug Martin is (most likely) a classic illustration of the gap between “draftniks” and actual NFL front office personnel.  Doug Martin had almost 1600 yards from scrimmage in 2010 with 14 total touchdowns.  He did this while being the featured back of the Boise State Broncos, a perennial top 10 team in college football.  Despite this, Martin was an afterthought entering the 2011 season, thought to be a 4th round pick.  After posting another 1554 total yards and 18 total touchdowns in 2011, Martin was still considered a 4th round prospect as recently as early January of this year.

Then something happened.  Some time around the Senior Bowl, Doug Martin’s stock rocketed from a 4th round afterthought to the near consensus “best back in the draft not named Trent Richardson.”  Now Martin is considered a possible late 1st round pick.

It’s one of those things that gets me thinking.  We’ve heard quotes about NFL scouts having Ryan Tannehill as a top 15 guy going way back.  Rob and I know from our own inside info experiences that Seattle’s own front office tends to look at least one extra year ahead with every draft.  It’s not uncommon for scouts to follow prospects going all the way back to high school.

In other words, I don’t think the NFL world just suddenly discovered Doug Martin, even if it looks that way.  More likely, a scout or two blabbed about Martin to a draftnik at some point, and suddenly the cat was out of the bag.  Because of this, I don’t feel that Martin is over-hyped or a sudden riser: I simply think that he’s finally getting the credit he should have been getting over a year ago.

Now with all that being said, do I personally think Martin is the second best back in this class?  No, I don’t.  Although I do think it’s mighty close.  I slightly favor Miller as the second option, with Polk placing third and Martin fourth.  You might not be able to slip a piece of dental floss between the three though- all of them are outstanding backs in three unique ways, and your preference will ultimately boil down to what you value most in a running back.

Martin had the humblest beginnings of the three.  Whereas Miller and Polk were four star recruits coming out of high school, Martin was only a two star (out of five) prospect.  Whereas Polk and Miller had multiple schools fighting for their signatures, Martin did not get a single scholarship offer outside of Boise State.  ESPN ranked Martin as the 248th best running back coming out of high school.  Miller was 12th and Polk was 66th.

Martin redshirted his first season (2007).  He played special teams and defense during the next season (2008), with just a handful of rushing attempts sprinkled in.  During his third year (2009) Martin broke out after replacing injured starting running back DJ Harper.  Martin finished with over 700 rushing yards in part time duty.  The next year (2010) was his massive debut season as the full time starter in which he had nearly 1600 yards from scrimmage.  He followed that up with another good season in his senior year (2011) with 1554 total yards from scrimmage.

Even though I may not rate Martin quite as high as some, even I will attest to Martin’s special quickness.  There may not be a back in this draft that can move his feet as quickly as Martin can.  Martin has a lightning fast spin move and has elite stop and go ability.  He’s deadly in the open field as he can easily juke defenders out of their shoes.  Martin might be even more elusive in the open field than Lamar Miller, although I tend to favor Miller as he just makes everything look so easy.  Martin’s combination of strong looking physique, quickness, but lack of a third gear is reminiscent of Knowshon Moreno, the 12th overall pick in the 2009 draft.

While Martin struggles in some aspects of penetrating the first level (more on this later), his command and navigation in the second and third levels of the defense looks pro-bowl worthy.  In addition to having great quickness, quick cuts, short area burst and general elusiveness, he’s also patient and smart.  He’ll often wait the extra split second to let a lineman reach his block and use that block for extra yardage.  When Martin gets up to speed he displays impressive strength, often carrying defenders extra yards.  Short (good leverage), strong, and quick is a tough combination to deal with as a defender in the open field.  Martin is one of those running backs that linebackers hate having to tackle.

As a receiver Martin has good hands and has been productive each of the last two years.  He won’t run routes deep downfield like Chris Polk can, but on screens or safety valve passes you can’t ask for much more than what Martin provides.  Martin’s pass blocking is neither good nor bad, though in this class of backs that probably makes him one of the better pass blockers.

Despite being only 5’9″, Martin is a ripped looking 222 pounds.  That added size eases some injury concerns, but Martin suffered his share of injuries at Boise State, including an ankle injury late last season and an injured hamstring in 2008.  I’m kind of surprised he wasn’t injured more.  As strong as Martin can be at full speed, a few times a game he’ll get popped at the line of scrimmage and slammed to ground with great force- not unlike how Justin Forsett could get manhandled when he ran into a defensive lineman instead of a crease.  Martin is not a weak back, but there are many times he gets blown back at the line with so much violence that it’s as if he weighed 170 pounds, not 222.  We’ll have to wait and see, but I suspect that Martin could end up getting pulled in 3rd and short situations in the NFL.

Martin has good balance and has a good habit of churning his legs through contact.  Despite that, I found that he broke surprisingly few tackles.  Whereas a back like Chris Polk (or Marshawn Lynch) has a knack for using his balance to absorb the impact of a hit and transition to a spin out of the tackle, Martin looks caught in a trap.  Rather than break free, Martin typically concedes the tackle while pushing for the extra yard or two.  I really like it when backs have the presence of mind to tack on extra yardage whenever they can, though I would prefer to see Martin break more tackles instead.

For as much flak as Chris Polk has received for his average speed, he’s actually faster than Doug Martin.  And given how well Martin benefited for playing on a national title contending team against Mountain West competition, that lack of top speed should probably be talked about more.  A lot of Martin’s big runs wouldn’t have been so big in the SEC, much less the NFL.  Martin can still be a great NFL back, but big plays will probably drop off considerably and he’ll have to make his living off a high number of mid-range runs.

For a variety of reasons, I found that Martin had a distressingly high number of rushes for negative yardage in my sample despite the run blocking advantage held by Boise State on a week in week out basis.  As said before, Martin’s initial power isn’t enough to compensate for his lack of height.  You would think that being 222 pounds, it wouldn’t matter how tall Martin is, but for whatever reason linemen can blow Martin back at the line as if he weighed far less.  And for as impressive as Martin’s footwork and quickness are beyond the first level, it lures him into a bad habit of dancing too much behind the line, robbing him of the precious time needed to turn a two yard loss into mildly positive play.

Finally, as with many players I’ve reviewed recently, Martin is another “old” college prospect (Earl Thomas is 4 months younger than Doug Martin is).  I don’t worry about age as much with running backs though, as decline for backs is tied more to wear and usage than age.

In conclusion:

Doug Martin is a hell of a running back, and I wouldn’t argue with anyone who ranks him as the second best running back in the draft.  Martin is special enough to warrant late first round consideration, though in my opinion Lamar Miller and Chris Polk are equally as special, if not more so.

What I like most about Martin is his ability to make linebackers miss with his quick feet and impressive lateral agility.   Once he gets past the first level, Martin passes the eyeball test with flying colors.  The Ray Rice and Frank Gore comparisons almost feel inadequate because neither one possess the short area quickness and elusiveness that Martin does.

However, I do have some worries about Martin’s ability to breach the first level, and I also worry about his lack of fit with a zone blocking scheme that asks running backs to can the flashy stuff, make one cut, and go.  Behind a man scheme line that allows for some wiggle room (pun intended) behind the line of scrimmage, it wouldn’t be hard for me to envision Martin as a top five NFL back.  But behind a zone scheme without great blocking, I could just as easily envision Martin struggling as Knowshon Moreno did with Denver.   I don’t think Seattle is the ideal fit for Martin, but we could certainly do worse than taking Martin with the 43rd pick, should he reach it.

Compilation videos:

vs. Colorado State

vs. Georgia

vs. Arizona State

vs. New Mexico


  1. Vin

    Kip, thanks for all the recent RB spotlights. Before reading this latest one, I had it in my mind that Martin is #2 after TR. After reviewing all the tapes again, I actually like Polk or Miller better, for the Hawks. if the hawks go DE/LB in the first 2 rnds and then get Polk or miller, I would be ecstatic. wouldn’t mind turbin as a poor man’s Beastmode. People talk about the want/need of a change of pace back…..but I prefer Beastmode all day long….drive it down the defense’s throat and make them work for every tackle they attempt to make.

  2. Stuart

    Thanks Kip for the exellent insight!

  3. peter

    Interesting, write up…his stock does seem to have leveled a bit, finally. I think from my own perspective you have successfully convinced me that Miller or Polk would be the better fit for the Seahawks.

  4. SHawn

    I dont see Miller as the style of RB we are looking for. I like Polk better than Martin myself. My RB board for the Hawks looks like:

    Richardson (obviously)

  5. Misfit74

    Martin will be gone by our 2nd-rounder. Love him though.

  6. Doug

    I hope he is gone, and Polk is there for the taking in rd 2. I would be happy with any of them.

    Coples and Polk 1 and 2 would be one helluva draft…..errrr I mean Upshaw and Polk,,, hehe

  7. Colin

    I think Martin will be a stud in this league, but man when you see Lamar Miller break some of those big runs and you see first hand just how friggin’ FAST that guy is, I’m sold. Sign me up for him in round 2.

    Let that defense try to tackle Lynch and let them try to catch Miller. Oh. My. God.

  8. D

    I am a fan of Martin but your point of zone scheme fit is very valid. Never thought of it before, good catch.

  9. Misfit74

    I think Miller and Wilson COULD be there at our 2nd-rounder, but because we locked up Lynch long-term we will likely go with a 3rd-round or later back. Guys like Turbin, Lam James, Pierce, or a guy I’m really warming to in Isaiah Pead, who Greg Cosell says has a lot of similarities to Jamaal Charles coming out of college.

    One things is certain: this RB class is deep enough that we can get a solid #2 RB in almost any round and possibly add another via the post-draft UDFA market. Guys like Bryce Brown, Edwin Baker, Bobby Rainey, or Michael Smith could be had late or undrafted.

  10. Kip Earlywine

    Thanks for reading. This will probably be my last one on running backs this year. Bernard Pierce has an outside shot at being an option in round 3, but I feel pretty confident that one of Polk or Turbin will reach our 3rd rounder in the event that Seattle passes on a running back in round 2.

  11. Misfit74

    Polk in round 3 would be fantastic.

  12. Jake

    Nice writeup Kip,

    I agree with most of what’s written above about Martin. He may be a good pro, but his speed and competition level are definetely big time concerns. It seems like for whatever reason Lamar Miller has suffered the most from Martin’s rise on draft boards. Miller is far more athletic, shifty, and ton faster. He may not have done much pass blocking, but that is a coachable limitation.

    We’ll see how the team goes, but an undrafted or late round RB is most likely IMO.
    I mean we are afterall projecting him to be strictly a backup RB, he isn’t taking any of Lynch’s carries and he isn’t taking Washington’s job as KR/PR.

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