Finding the Fits -- In Doug Martin, Schiano gets a Ray Rice clone
With three selections from the first two rounds who each could play significant roles for the Tampa Bay Bucs as rookies, "Finding the Fits" won't be hard for GM Mark Dominic and head coach Greg Schiano -- especially not when the only pick on the offensive side of the ball from the trio offers a game eerily reminiscent of a back Schiano leaned heavily on while both starred at Rutgers.
Over the next several weeks, NFLDraftScout.com will be reviewing some of the more intriguing picks made during the 2012 NFL draft through a series called "Finding the Fits." The goal of the series is to identify one relatively unheralded player per team who would appear to be a particularly good schematic fit and therefore more likely to be a surprise contributor early in his respective pro career.
In selecting Alabama All-American safety Mark Barron at No. 7 overall, Boise State running back Doug Martin at No. 31 and the best weakside linebacker in the 2012 draft in Nebraska's Lavonte David in the second round (No. 58), general manager Mark Dominik and new head coach Greg Schiano began their first draft together as the braintrust of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with as impressive a trio of prospects as any selected this year.
Much of the post-draft attention will be placed upon Barron and rightly so. A physical and instinctive defender with excellent ball skills, Barron could provide the leadership in the deep patrol similar to what Schiano had when coaching Ravens' All-Pro Ed Reed when the two were at the University of Miami.
It could be another NFL superstar playing for the Ravens -- running back Ray Rice -- that Schiano leaned on heavily while at Rutgers, however, that may have served as the inspiration behind the Bucs aggressively trading back up into the first round to nab Martin.
Like the 5-8, 199-pound Rice (as measured at the 2008 Combine), Martin is a bit shorter (5-9, 223 pounds) than scouts would prefer but has an even thicker, more muscled build than Rice. With quarterback Kellen Moore earning the lion's share of media attention throughout their respective careers together at Boise State, Martin entered his senior campaign largely unknown outside of the west coast. This, despite the fact that he rushed for 1,260 yards and a dozen rushing touchdowns in 2010 and also caught 338 yards and two touchdowns worth of passes (on 28 catches) as well. Frankly, Martin didn't start earning the praise that comes with being a highly regarded pro prospect until his senior season. He ran for a career-high 1,299 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2011 despite missing every snap against TCU (which, not coincidentally was Boise's only loss of the season). He only rushed six times versus UNLV before suffering the leg injury that kept him out a week later against the Horned Frogs.
Martin's talents were obvious. He is a tough interior runner who is able to run through contact because of his determined, powerful style. He has excellent lateral agility and balance, a strong stiff-arm and has the speed to run away from defenders in the open field. He made strides as a pass protector over his final season, including handling the jump in physicality and intensity in this role while at the Senior Bowl. Martin is also a reliable receiver out of the backfield and an accomplished kick returner.
Despite his obvious talents, many were surprised when Martin was selected in the draft's opening frame. Though I had Martin graded as a first-round prospect (ranked as No. 31 overall, incidentally), I failed to include him in my final first-round projection largely because, as we've all seen, the NFL has transitioned to a running back by committee approach as teams are now focusing much more on the passing game.
As it turns out, the fact that the new CBA gives teams the option of adding a fifth year to the rookie contracts of players selected in the first round (as opposed to four-year deals for all other rookies), drafting running backs in the first round now may make more fiscal sense than ever before. Teams are understandably hesitant to sign running backs to the big second contracts, but today's rookie deals offer a much more palatable salary.
Martin deserved first round consideration. Make no mistake, so too did Trent Richardson (Cleveland Browns) and David Wilson (New York Giants), the other two running backs drafted in the first round this year. But don't lose sight of the role that the salary cap implications of the five-year rather than four-year deals had in pushing these backs up the board.
The rest of the Bucs' picks:
1st Round - No. 7 overall - Mark Barron, S, Alabama
1st Round - No. 31 overall - Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
2nd Round - No. 58 overall - Lavonte David, OLB, Nebraska
5th Round - No. 140 overall - Najee Goode, ILB, West Virginia
6th Round - No. 174 overall - Keith Tandy, CB, West Virginia
7th Round - No. 212 overall - Michael Smith, RB, Utah State
7th Round - No. 233 overall - Drake Dunsmore, FB, Northwestern
Read more about all of the Bucs' draft picks here.
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