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The case for Alfred Morris
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I'm a leader, not a follower.

Well, at least when it comes to Alfred Morris.

Let's cut to the chase. Who would you pick first in a fantasy draft: Morris or Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin?

I'll give you a second to think about it.

Okay, time's up.

The results are in and guess what, it's not exactly Al Gore versus George Bush. No recount necessary. Almost all of you said Martin.

And when I say almost all of you I mean, ESPN, CBS, Fox, Bleacher Report, Yahoo, NFL.com, Rotoworld/NBC Sports and probably any other sports outlet you could possibly think of. Even the guy on the other side of this cubicle, my boss Steve Schwarz, has Martin ahead of Morris.

I won't be swayed that easily, though. I'm a Morris man through and through.

Is there any bias at play here? Sure there is. I had Morris on both of my teams last season. But that doesn't mean I'm wrong.

And remember, I've been right before. Who was the handsome young gentleman who told you to pick Frank Gore instead of Maurice Jones-Drew last season?

Yeah, it was me. You're welcome.

So trust me, guys. I know what I'm talking about. I promise my main man Morris won't steer you wrong. Here's why.

1. Morris was a beast in the second half. For most players, your first year in the league is the toughest. Making the leap from college to the pros is a huge adjustment and sometimes it takes a few games to get into the swing of things.

So don't judge Morris on his first half. Not that he was bad. Quite the contrary. Morris racked up 89.6 yards per game in his first eight games of 2012.

But late in the season is when he really found his groove. Over his final six contests, the former Florida Atlantic halfback pounded his way to 744 yards on the ground for an average of 124 rushing yards per game. Eight of his 13 touchdowns came during this stretch including three against the Cowboys in Week 17.

While Morris seemed to get better with each game, the opposite was true of Martin. He did most of his damage early in the season, limping to just 660 yards in the second half (82.5 per game) after bruising his way to 794 in Tampa Bay's first eight games (99.3 ypg). Martin managed only four touchdowns in his final eight games after piling on seven scores in the first half of the season.

So who do you want on your team: the guy who finished the year strong or the one who ran out of gas late in the season? That's what I thought.

2. Morris plays for a better team than Martin. The Redskins finished 10-6 in 2012. The Buccaneers were a disappointing 7-9.

When teams are winning, they generally look to kill clock by handing it off to their running back. That's probably why Morris was third in the NFL in carries last season (335 in 16 appearances).

On the other hand, when teams fall behind they usually abandon the running game and look to air the ball out. This approach came back to haunt Martin when the Bucs dropped five in a row late in the season.

In games that Tampa Bay won, Martin averaged more than 23 carries per game. In games they lost, that average slipped to just 17.4 rushing attempts per game.

Fewer carries equal fewer fantasy points. It's that simple.

3. The Griffin factor. You might have heard that Robert Griffin III enjoys making plays with his feet. Cam Newton (127 rushes) was the only QB in football with more carries than Griffin last season (120).

Griffin's fondness for running actually cost Morris quite a few carries last season, especially near the goal line.

But after tearing his ACL for the second time in four seasons, something tells me Griffin won't be taking as many chances this year. Griffin will probably still tuck and run more than most but there's no way he's going to match his eight carries per game from last season.

So who gets those extra carries? Well, I don't think Griffin will be giving them to charity. Don't be surprised if Morris leads the NFL in rushing attempts this season.

4. Morris is more consistent than Martin. If you're looking for consistency, you're not going to find it with Martin. Here are Martin's rushing totals from his last five games of the season: 56, 128, 16, 62 and 142.

Talk about a roll of the dice.

Meanwhile, here's what Morris was up to over that same five-game stretch:

Week 13: 124 yards, 0 TD vs. NY Giants

Week 14: 129 yards, 1 TD vs. Baltimore

Week 15: 87 yards, 2 TD at Cleveland

Week 16: 91 yards, 1 TD at Philadelphia

Week 17: 200 yards, 3 TD vs. Dallas

Morris rushed for fewer than 75 yards only twice last year. Martin did that eight times in 2012.

You almost always know what you're going to get with Morris. The same can't be said about Martin.

5. Martin's stats aren't what they appear. Week 9 against Oakland, Martin had a performance for the ages. He juked and stiff-armed his way to 251 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He single-handedly won the week with his 51 fantasy points.

It was scintillating, mindblowing, heroic and mostly it completely misrepresented his true value.

Martin averaged 15.5 fantasy points per game last season, second-best among NFL running backs. Take that game away and his average falls to 13.1 ppg, which would have been sixth-best for fantasy running backs and well behind Alfred Morris (14.6 ppg).

Big games aren't everything. Remember Jerome Harrison, the Cleveland Browns running back from a few years ago? He stormed onto the fantasy scene with a 286-yard, three-touchdown game versus the Chiefs in December of 2009.

In the 18 games that followed his 286-yard explosion, Harrison logged a combined 646 yards (35.8 yards per game) with three trips to the end zone. He hasn't been employed by an NFL team since 2011.

I'm not saying that will happen to Martin. I'm just not buying all the hype.

Picking Morris over Martin might not be the popular choice, but it's the right one.

You can thank me later.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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