The Mike Martz effect

I have long been a follower of trends when it comes to the world of fantasy football. It’s always been an interesting and legitimate tool in the determination of a player’s overall draft value.

One trend that could have an enormous impact on drafts this season surrounds the increase in statistical success of running backs in their first season under offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Widely considered one of the greatest offensive minds in the NFL, Martz has been better known for his prolific pass attacks. But when we look inside the numbers, we find that runners also tend to see their overall numbers rise as well.

Furthermore, backs under Martz tend to become far more valuable in leagues that reward points for receptions.

Frank Gore, RB
San Francisco 49ers

2007 statistics
Att: 260
Yards: 1,102
TDs: 5

In Martz’s first season as the offensive coordinator in St. Louis (1999), Marshall Faulk recorded a career-best 87 receptions and established an NFL record with 2,429 scrimmage yards. That included 1,381 rushing yards and 1,048 receiving yards, making him one of a select few players to record 1,000 yards in both categories in the same season. Faulk also found the end zone 12 times.

Overall, Faulk averaged 83 receptions in his first four seasons with the Rams. That was anĀ 30 more catches than he averaged in his first four seasons with the Indianapolis Colts.

An argument can be made that Faulk was a superior running back evenĀ before he left the Colts and would have posted enormous as part of the “Greatest Show on Turf” regardless of who was at the helm of the offense. After all, that team also fielded the productive trio of Kurt Warner, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce, not to mention some talented role players and a defense that was fast and aggressive on the other side of the football.

How, then, do you explain Kevin Jones?

Jones is a nice running back, but he’s not even close to Faulk in terms of career numbers of value in fantasy football.

Still, the Virginia Tech product exploded for career bests in receptions (61), scrimmage yards (1,209) and total touchdowns (8) in 2006, and he did it all in 12 games. Had he been active for a full season, Jones would have projected to finish with 81 receptions, 1,612 scrimmage yards and 11 total scores under Martz’s tutelage that season. Numbers like that would made Jones an absolute star in fantasy football, especially in leagues that reward points for receptions.

All of these little factoids make Gore even more attractive heading into 2008.

While he was a bit of a disappointment last season, Gore should still be seen as a surefire first-round selection in both standard and PPR (point per reception) formats. Martz plans to utilize Gore as the centerpiece of his offensive attack, so the Miami product will have a legitimate chance to finish with career bests in receptions and scrimmage yards if he avoids injuries.

And if you’re worried about stacked defensive fronts due to the team’s unstable quarterback position, it’s time to remove that train of thought from your mind. In a recent look at the affect of a poor quarterback on a star running back, I found that runners could still have monster seasons even if the team’s signal-caller was less than stellar.

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