Fantasy owners who scooped Jacquizz Rodgers off waivers a few weeks ago are no doubt feeling pretty good about their investments right now. Rodgers has been a quality play in each of his last two starts with 292 yards from scrimmage. What’s more, he’s been a workhorse. Rodgers has received 62 touches in that aforementioned two-game stretch.
With Doug Martin likely out again against the Oakland Raiders, you can expect to see Rodgers enjoy a heavy workload again on Sunday. Against the league’s 28th-ranked run defense, that makes the veteran an obvious start. In the short term, that’s all Rodgers’ owners need to hear. However, with how productive he’s been, one can’t help but wonder if he’ll wind up being a season-long fantasy darling.
There are compelling arguments to be made on both sides of the coin. Martin, for one, is a proven commodity. He’s been a Pro Bowler as recently as last season and is someone that Tampa Bay just awarded a big contract extension too. When he’s healthy, that backfield belongs to him.
But Martin hasn’t exactly been the picture of health throughout his career. The 27-year-old has just two 16-game seasons on his resume. Martin’s missed a total of 19 games in his five seasons. Given his injury history, the salary he’s paid and the fact that he’s currently sidelined with an always-sketchy hamstring issue, one can’t imagine the Bucs are in any hurry to get him back.
Especially not with where Tampa Bay stands. The 3-3 Buccaneers are just half a game back of the NFC South-leading Atlanta Falcons. The Buccaneers will want to have Martin at full strength near season’s end if they hope to contend for a division title. That means that, so long as the Bucs can keep their heads above water, they’ll be comfortable rolling with Rodgers.
Even if Martin does return sooner than later, Rodgers should retain some value. Much like the situation in Kansas City with Spencer Ware and Jamaal Charles, Tampa Bay might prefer to have its star healthy for a playoff push. Sure, it’ll get Martin some touches to get re-acclimated to the game, but, so long as Rodgers produces, it’ll be tough to justify taking the ball out of his hands.
The worst-case scenario is Tampa Bay turning the starting job over to Martin as soon as he returns. That would knock Rodgers off the must-start tier, but if Charles Sims is any indication, then he should retain flex value. Martin ran for 1,400 yards last year. In most teams with such a productive featured back, you won’t find another fantasy-worthy one. But Tampa Bay reversed that narrative a season ago.
Sims, an adept pass-catcher, posted 1,100 yards from scrimmage and four scores last season in relief of Martin. This made him a viable flex option on a weekly basis and made him a strong late-round draft target for many heading into this year. Unfortunately, Sims landed on Injured Reserve a few weeks ago. While Rodgers may cede his lead-back duties to Martin, someone will still need to take on the job Sims vacated.
In his career, Rodgers has proven to be a strong pass-catcher in his own right. The journeyman caught over 100 balls for the Falcons between 2012 and 2013. Rodgers will lose significant carries to a healthy Martin, but he should be able to make up for it somewhat by a likely growth in passing-down work.
So long as Rodgers retains the leading role, he’s a no-brainer start. But even when Martin returns you shouldn’t be too quick to cut ties with him. Rodgers has earned a share of touches in the Tampa Bay backfield moving forward and, with bye weeks and injuries still on the horizon, that’ll give him strong flex value on a weekly basis.