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Can Charles Sims be a feature back?

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Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

With Doug Martin's return to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in question, can complementary back Charles Sims evolve into a feature back?  Sims' production in 2015 was amazing as a runner and as a pass catcher. But there are two caveats:  1) that is a one year sample and 2) the running attempt sample is comparatively small to the attempts Martin had.

Tampa Bay Bucs
2015 Run Production of Martin and Sims
RB att yards avg long 20+ TD Yds/G Fumble Lost
Martin 288 1402 4.9 84 14 6 87.6 4
Sims 107 529 4.9 59 4 0 33.1 1
Total 395 1931 4.9 18 6 120.7 5
http://espn.go.com/nfl/team/stats/_/name/tb

A feature back would have increased attempts. Sims' rushing attempts represent only 27% of the total rushing attempts between the dynamic duo. That would imply that Martin had rushed 73% of the overall total.

If Martin is the standard we are using as a feature back, then let us look at Martin's career, including his college career.

Doug Martin
NCAA and NFL Career
Year League Team Games Att Yards Avg Rec Yards Avg
2008 NCAA Boise St 11 24 107 4.46 3 54 18
2009 NCAA Boise St 13 128 769 6.01 8 68 8.5
2010 NCAA Boise St 13 201 1260 6.27 28 338 12.07
2011 NCAA Boise St 13 263 1299 4.94 28 255 9.11
2012 NFL TB 16 319 1454 4.6 49 472 9.6
2013 NFL TB 6 127 456 3.6 12 66 5.5
2014 NFL TB 11 134 494 3.7 13 64 4.9
2015 NFL TB 16 288 1402 4.9 33 271 8.2
http://www.cfbstats.com/2011/player/66/1008272/index.html
http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/stats/_/id/14885/doug-martin

At Martin's apex in college, he had 263 attempts and 1299 yards on those rushing attempts. His total production in his final year was 291 total touches for 1,554 total yards. Martin has surpassed those totals twice at the NFL level, both Pro Bowl years.

Now, let us look at Sims' career, including his NCAA productions.

Charles Sims
NCAA and NFL Career
Year League Team Games Att Yards Avg Rec Yards Avg
2009 NCAA WV 14 132 698 5.29 70 759 10.84
2011 NCAA WV 13 110 821 7.46 51 575 11.27
2012 NCAA WV 9 142 846 5.96 37 373 10.08
2013 NCAA WV 12 208 1095 5.26 45 401 8.91
2014 NFL TB 8 66 185 2.8 19 190 10
2015 NFL TB 16 107 529 4.9 51 561 11
http://www.cfbstats.com/2011/player/288/1024110/index.html
http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/stats/_/id/16749/charles-sims

Similar to Martin, Sims' best year was his senior year. Sims' running attempts and yards pales to Martin's senior year, but if we look at the total touches, then things are not so different. The total touches in 2013 for Sims is 253 touches for 1,496 total yards.

Total Touches

Total Touches
Martin and Sims
Year League Martin touches Total Yards Year League Sims Touches Total Yards
2008 NCAA 27 161 2009 NCAA 202 1457
2009 NCAA 136 837 2011 NCAA 161 1396
2010 NCAA 229 1598 2012 NCAA 179 1219
2011 NCAA 291 1554 2013 NCAA 253 1496
2012 NFL 368 1926 2014 NFL 85 375
2013 NFL 139 522 2015 NFL 158 1090
2014 NFL 147 558
2015 NFL 321 1673

In college, Sims has surpassed the 200 touches mark twice like Martin has. That total yards gained in college reveals how productive Sims has been, despite not having similar rushing attempts to Martin.

At the NFL level, Sims was injured in his rookie year, but was also an abysmal runner as he ranked last in yards after contact. The following offseason, Sims added extra bulk to his frame. His frame of mind at the beginning of the season was still tentative as runner because he was not running like he had bulked up.  Sims would run towards the sidelines and out of bounds to avoid getting hit. During the season, he finally accepted he bulked up and would stay running in bounds.

Can Sims be a feature back?

Yes.  In college, Sims has revealed how high productive he was a featured back, but a feature back not in the same mold as Martin, a bell cow. With the new mentality and bulkier body, Sims can be a very productive feature back in Dirk Koetter's offense, receiving more touches in the air than a traditional bell cow.

There is only one aspect that Sims has not been in a position to do as a running back. That is to be a short down back. Thus, a complimentary back to Sims would be a bowling ball of a back or half back - reminiscant of the days of one WD-40 tandem.