Doug Martin's College Teammate Deserves Shot To Start
By Corbin Smith
Just a little over a year ago, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano used his first round draft pick to bring in Boise State standout RB Doug Martin. The Buccaneers ground game struggled throughout the 2011 season, as the team ranked 30th in the entire NFL in rushing yards and scored just nine rushing touchdowns. Schiano's pick gave his team the well-rounded running back necessary to employ a physical ground game and with the signing of Carl Nicks to shore up the offensive line, the running game emerged as Tampa's main offensive strength early last season. Unfortunately, Nicks ended up missing the final nine games and the rushing attack regressed to an extent without his presence up front, but that did not take away from an outstanding rookie year from Martin.
Over the years, Boise State has consistently been ranked as one of college football's top 25 teams, but the program's overall success has done little to stop critics from ambushing the Broncos for playing in an easy conference and benefiting from a cupcake schedule. Coach Chris Peterson and his coaching staff do an incredible job developing players, and Martin provides just one example of that. Once an underappreciated, under-recruited running back out of Oakland, Martin came to Boise State as a relative unknown. But during his time at the school, he rose from the bottom of the depth chart to become an All-Mountain West performer and then his stock continued to rise after a strong performance at the NFL Combine. Several teams wanted to draft him, including the New England Patriots. Martin ended up being one of the league's top rookies, and if not for one of the strongest rookie quarterback classes in NFL history, could have easily been Rookie of the Year. He ended up rushing for 1,454 yards and scoring 11 touchdowns while also showing his impressive versatility by hauling in 49 receptions for 472 yards. The Buccaneers believe he will be an even bigger focal point in the offense this season.
Critics can continue to bash Boise's program all they want, but one thing remains clear: Peterson and his staff know how to develop NFL talent. Denver's Ryan Clady has become a top offensive tackle since being drafted, while the Bears have a potential breakout superstar in former first round pick Shea McClellin. And that is only naming a few notable Bronco alumni who will be making big contributions for NFL teams this fall. If you look at NFL rosters across the league, chances are you will find a Boise State player somewhere. Regardless of what skeptics think about the schedule Boise State plays every year, it is obvious that the program has a knack for helping players become successful at the next level. After seeing players like Martin excel for Tampa Bay, I still wonder why and how the greatest player in the history of Boise State football went undrafted and continues to fight for his football life.
As I sat on my couch watching the New England Patriots and Detroit Lions play last evening, I had the opportunity to watch former Boise State QB Kellen Moore lead three straight scoring drives for Detroit. The fact that this young man remains saddled as a third stringer for this team is a joke to me. I have never seen a player with so much talent, ability and football smarts stuck in such a precarious situation, and sadly, there is nothing he can do about it. Even after going 9-for-12 with 150 yards and tossing two touchdown passes, Moore will continue to be underappreciated and undervalued.
Do not misinterpret my comments – Matthew Stafford is a great quarterback and I am not implying that Moore should be starting over him. But I have believed for several years that Moore deserves a chance to start in this league, and I can think of a number of teams where he would be an instant upgrade. During his senior year at Boise, I had the opportunity to watch Moore rip apart Georgia in Atlanta, as he completed 28 of 34 passes for 261 yards and three touchdowns. And he did this without his top two receivers from the season before, as Austin Pettis and Titus Young both had been drafted and were playing in the NFL by this point. Needless to say, I felt like I was watching a left-handed Drew Brees work his magic and prove to all of college football that he was an elite quarterback.
Despite setting an NCAA record by winning 50 games during his four years starting for the Broncos and putting up gaudy passing numbers year in and year out, NFL scouts looked at him and laughed. After watching film on several top quarterbacks from that draft class, I had Moore ranked as the fourth best quarterback in the pool behind Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, and Russell Wilson. But scouts continued to complain about his lack of arm strength and how small he was, continuing to ignore the fact that he has the brains to dissect any defense thrown at him and possesses incredible accuracy. While Luck and Griffin ended up being picked first and second as expected, Wilson fell to the Seattle Seahawks in the third round and Moore did not get drafted at all. All three of the other players ended up putting together outstanding rookie seasons, and I can't help but wonder what Kellen Moore could have accomplished if the right team would have drafted him.
We are talking about a player who threw 35-plus touchdowns in each of his last three seasons with the Broncos and completed a filthy 74.3 percent of his passes during his impressive senior campaign. We are talking about a player who only got sacked 31 times in his four years as a starter combined. Sure, you can thank a strong offensive line for that statistic, but if you have actually sat and watched this guy play, you would realize his ability to get the ball out to his receivers quickly and accurately also played a critical role. We are talking about a player who ran one of college football's most complicated no-huddle offenses and operated it seamlessly throughout his time on campus. But most importantly, we are talking about a talented player who deserves to be playing on Sundays.
It is an absolute travesty that Kellen Moore did not get drafted last April, but he has handled the entire situation with poise and calm like he does when leading an offense. He will continue to plug away and get better, but will anyone take notice? After watching him play last night, I still believe he can be a high-quality NFL starter. I remain just as high on his talent as I did when I witnessed his greatness at Boise State, and I continue to hope that another team will gain interest in bringing him to compete for a starting spot. After seeing Russell Wilson silence critics who criticized him for being "too short" last year, I would love to see Moore get an opportunity to do the same. Many would argue that Moore's performance happened against the Patriots second-string defense, but who cares? Last time I checked, Wilson and Colin Kaepernick both made names for themselves and eventually earned starting jobs last year because of strong preseason showings.
Wrongfully overlooked for so long, Moore has earned that chance to play. But will it happen? Only time will tell, but I know if I was a general manager for the New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars or Oakland Raiders, I would have been on the phone last night offering a late round draft pick to bring him into the fold. After going undrafted, he at least deserves that much.