Summary: There were many surprise early entries into the 2014 NFL Draft and Martin was among them. Scouts and draft observers were not counting on Martin being one of the players to skip his senior season. After a quality 2013 season, perhaps Martin thought there was more risk than reward for coming back to the Trojans. At any rate, he’s among the top-three center prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft, and some think he is the best center available.
Martin worked his way onto the field early in his collegiate career as he played guard in 2011 and 2012. Martin had some up-and-down play early on, but he improved gradually. After Khaled Holmes left for the NFL, Martin won the starting position for the 2013 season.
Martin had a good year at center. The junior was a good run-blocker and improved his pass protection. Perhaps his biggest test of the season came against Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix, a first-round talent, and Martin played an excellent game. He showed the strength to hold up against Nix and had some nice blocks where he got movement out of Nix at the point of attack – a rare sight. Martin really elevated his play in his final season.
For the NFL, Martin looks like a future starter at center. He has good strength to open holes in the ground game with surprising quickness and agility to hit blocks on the second level. Martin has the size to match up on heavy nose tackles and shouldn’t get pushed around. He could use more development in his pass blocking when faced with a one-on-one, especially against smaller defensive tackles who are speed rushers.
There are a few areas Martin could stand to improve. He needs to improve on his ability to sustain blocks. There are plays where Martin does a nice job of getting to a block on a linebacker at the second level, but after an initial shove, the linebacker is able to run to the ball.
Martin looks likely to be a third- or fourth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Player Comparison: Jonathan Goodwin. Martin is nearly indentical in size to Goodwin (6-3, 318), and they have similar styles of play. Both are athletic and quick for centers with plus size. They are heavy centers, yet move well and are able to get to blocks on the second level. Goodwin has had a good career with the Saints and 49ers after being a fifth-round pick by the Jets in 2002 out of Michigan. Martin will probably go a round or two higher, but in the NFL, I could see Martin being a quality center similar to Goodwin.
NFL Matches: Atlanta, Jacksonville, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Green Bay, San Francisco
There are a number of teams that need a new center. Atlanta never adequately replaced Todd McClure, and WalterFootball.com heard from sources that the Falcons want to improve the interior of their offensive line. They did that by signing a guard in Jon Asamoah in free agency. Drafting Richburg could give Matt Ryan a long-term center to work with.
The Jaguars had Brad Meester call it a career, so they’ll need a new center. Baltimore really missed Matt Birk last year as Gino Gradkowski was a disappointment. The Ravens could upgrade their center position with Martin.
Cleveland may lose Alex Mack in free agency, which would leave a big hole in the middle of the Browns’ offensive line. The Lions re-signed Dominic Raiola for 2014, but have to get a long-term answer at the position. Having Raiola tutor Martin for a season before handing over the starting spot could be a great plan for Detroit.
Green Bay needs may not be able to re-sign Evan Dietrich-Smith, and if that comes to pass, the team will have a big hole in front of Aaron Rodgers. Martin could be in play for the Packers if Dietrich-Smith leaves.
The 49ers have a plethora of second-day picks and could use a young center. Jonathan Goodwin is 35 and won’t play forever. Martin would give San Francisco a competitor to go with Daniel Kilgore.
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