Through all but one game of the first eight weeks of the season (San Francisco and Arizona finish Week Eight on Monday night), there are exactly two players in the league who have recorded at least 500 rushing yards and at least 200 receiving yards. One of them is Ray Rice, the Baltimore Ravens' two-time All-Pro running back. The other just happens to be the rookie who has been drawing Ray Rice comparisons since the moment he was drafted this past April.
That would be Doug Martin, the 31st overall pick in the 2012 draft and a back who does seem to be fashioned out of the same mold that created Rice. Both backs are roughly 5-9 and 215 pounds, both run with both power and speed, and both are as comfortable running between the tackles and catching passes out in the flat. It was perhaps no surprise that it was Greg Schiano's Tampa Bay Buccaneers who traded up to get Martin; Schiano had the pleasure of coaching Rice at Rutgers before he went to Baltimore as a second-round pick in 2008.
In the Buccaneers' 2012 training camp, as Martin won the starting tailback jab over LeGarrette Blount with one outstanding practice after another, Schiano allowed that his new runner did indeed remind him of Rice. Roughly halfway through Martin's first season, the comparison seems particularly apt. As usual, Rice is right near the top of the NFL charts in yards from scrimmage (rushing plus receiving yards, that is). Just two yards behind him: Doug Martin.
Here are the top 10 players in the NFL in yards from scrimmage so far this year:
- RB Adrian Peterson
- RB Marshawn Lynch
- RB Ray Rice
4t. RB Doug Martin
4t. RB Stevan Ridley
- WR Reggie Wayne
- RB Alfred Morris
- WR Percy Harvin
9t. RB Arian Foster
9t. WR Wes Welker
That's some impressive company for Martin, and he's wasting no time in inserting himself into the NFL's upper echelon of offensive producers. Injuries and a crowded backfield limited Rice to 727 yards from scrimmage as a rookie, but he shot all the way past the 2,000-yard mark in just his second year, with 1,339 yards rushing and 702 receiving. Martin has already surpassed Rice's rookie total, and while he's not currently on a 2,000-yard pace, he is averaging enough per game to get to 1,750 if he can keep it up.
In 2011, Rice paced the NFL with a career-best 2,068 yards from scrimmage. No Buccaneer has ever led the NFL in that category. Martin would have to overtake or stay ahead of some of the NFL's most accomplished running backs to be the first – including the man to whom he is most often compared – but it is already an enormous achievement just to be in the conversation.