After a redshirt year in 2009, Zack Martin stepped into the lineup in 2010, starting all 13 of the Irish's games (11 at left tackle and two at right tackle), as a key figure on a line that gave up only 20 sacks, Notre Dame's lowest total since 1998. The next three seasons, he anchored the line as their left tackle for 39 straight games (his 52 career starts are the most in Irish history), serving as team captain in 2012-13.
Though Martin lacks the prototypical size (and, more importantly the arm length) of an elite NFL tackle, he's instinctive, tough and technically sound. In particular, he's good at keeping his feet underneath him while keeping low, which allows him to handle both speed and power.Want evidence? The fine fellows at Draft Breakdown have cut-ups of nine of Martin's games ready for you to devour greedily. The tastiest morsels might well be his work against two Pac-12 schools, Arizona State and Stanford. A less delicious bite would be the 2012 national championship
game rout against Alabama.
Although he played left tackle for 50 of his 52 games played, most scouts think Martin will have to kick inside to guard in the NFL. Indeed, he played both guard and tackle at the Senior Bowl, where he was the consensus best offensive lineman (and, many thought, the best overall player) and was one of the few blockers able keep up with Pittsburgh DT Aaron Donald. This position flex may be one of his most attractive assets; in his recent conference call with the national media, the NFL Network's draft guru, Mike Mayock reported that Martin "is the only player in this draft that could start and play at a high level at all five offensive line positions." Because of this, Mayock added, Martin should be the fourth offensive lineman off the board.
Do our draftniks agree with Mayock? Lets see what they have to say...
Rob Rang and Derek Stephens (CBSSports.com): top-ranked OG; 15th overall
Strengths: Very good at keeping his feet underneath him while keeping his butt low to handle both speed and power. He does play with good quickness (but not explosiveness) off the snap, showing knee bend and core strength to anchor, as well as the lateral agility to mirror more athletic defenders. He also shows better athleticism than you might think when blocking on the move, demonstrating above average straight-line speed to get to the second level, as well as the nastiness to bury his target into the ground.
Weaknesses: With less than ideal length and lateral range, Martin's NFL future may lie inside at guard, where he never played in college. The move to guard is necessary because Martin does not possess great height, arm length or foot speed. He chucks his way back (rather than sliding) for an effective if not aesthetically-pleasing form of pass protection.
Compares To: Logan Mankins, OG, New England Patriots - Mankins has been one of the NFL's most valuable offensive linemen since being selected by New England in the first round of the 2005 draft, and has anchored the Patriots' front line with top-notch instincts, toughness and versatility despite lacking elite athleticism. Martin exhibits many of the same traits, and should draw first-round consideration.
Gary Horton (ESPN.com): 5th-ranked OT; 14th overall
Pass Protection: Effective kick step and sets quickly to get into sound initial positioning. Plants foot and flashes quick redirect against inside moves. Strong punch and constantly working to gain inside positioning. Smooth mirror and slide once locked on. Gives ground to speed to power initially and then recovers more times than not. Lack of ideal length puts a cap on range and can give him problems with longer speed rushers off the edge. Better fit as a right tackle.
Run Blocking: Fires off ball and gets onto position. Balanced and shows an above-average inline power base to get quality initial movement. Effective zone blocker with good lateral quickness and mobility. Understands angles and positioning. Not a great athlete in space but can wall off linebackers at the second level. Better hand fighter in pass protection. Will lead with helmet at times and can occasionally fall off blocks.
Awareness: Experience shows on tape. Rarely gets caught off guard or out of position. Keeps eyes up and appears to make accurate pre-snap reads. Picks up line stunts and blitzes in pass pro. Locates second level assignments and can adjust on the fly as a run blocker
Toughness: Effort is excellent. Blocks from snap to whistle. Aggressive in-line blocker that can finish but doesn't finish consistently enough to be considered a throwback mauler. Flashes a nasty side and will gourd defenders once getting them to the ground.
Intangibles: Two time team captain. Four-year starter. Natural leader. Vocal and holds teammates accountable. Excellent work and practice habits. Comes from a supportive two parent home. Son of Pam and Keith Martin. Father Keith played football at Kentucky. Younger brother Nick is versatile reserve offensive lineman at Notre Dame.
Dan Shonka (Ourlads): top-ranked OG; 16th overall
Four-year starter at left tackle. Two-year captain who projects inside at guard but will get a chance to play on the edge first. Plays in a three point stance along with a two point preset stance. Gets a good two arm extension in pass protection. Cuts off the inside go. Good awareness on blitz pickups. Works to sustain and finish his blocks. Effective as a pass protector and run blocker. Knee bender who generally plays with flat feet. Plays with balance and body control. Can pivot, turn and run. Effective use of hands to lock up the pass rusher's breast plate. Concentrates and focuses on his job. Good reactions. Gets depth in pass protection. Smooth feet to mirror and slide. Smart and instinctive player who can sit down and anchor a bull rush. A four-for-one player. Must improve his core strength to handle power and leverage players. Medical exclusion at Combine, left hamstring.
Senior Bowl notes: Solid week of practice. Not the ideal length desired in a left tackle, but has NFL qualities. Good functional foot mobility and athletic agility. Blue collar type worker. Positive fundamental initial steps and shows effort working to finish blocks. Smooth lateral and redirect playing quickness as a pass protector. Physically he is better suited for a guard. Showed grit and determination with inline block encounters.
Long Ball (Drafttek.com): top-ranked OG; 24th overall
Early on I wasn't enamored with Martin, as I was convinced his future was inside at the next level; however, the more film I graded the more I appreciated what the young man has to offer. He is not a typical "Notre Dame OL" as his footwork is extremely good. He keeps his feet under him and plays with his butt low to accentuate his power on blocking technique. His knee bend allows him to anchor and he is quicker off the snap than he initially appeared and his lateral movement is very good. He gets to the second level well and has a bit of that nastiness I like to see in OL prospects, more than willing to bury his opponent when he gets the upper hand. Duane Brown of the Texans has proven a 6'4" player can play OT in the NFL; nevertheless, in my opinion while Martin could be a solid starter at ROT, he could be a Pro Bowler at OG.
Nolan Nawrocki (NFL.com): 4th-ranked OT; 12th overall
Strengths: Engages quickly. Flexible and light on his feet. Can work his hips and maneuver. Good blocking posture -- bends his knees, sits in his stance and can shuffle, slide and mirror. Good hand placement (can pop and recoil). Seals running lanes. Can combo block and fit on linebackers. Athletic to pull and trap. Passes off stunts and is alert to blitzers. Started every game of his career. Played well against Alabama in the BCS Championship and was MVP of the Pinstripe Bowl. Sparkling intangibles. Highly respected, hardworking leader who does all the right things.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal length to stay outside in the pros -- relatively small wingspan. Not a pure road grader who rolls off flat-backed and buries defenders. Could be stressed by bigger, more powerful defensive tackles. Can improve balance and sustain on the second level. Does not have experience at guard. Could stand to bulk up in preparation for a move inside.
Draft Projection: Round 1
Bottom Line: Athletic, smart, competitive, dependable college left tackle whose length dictates a move inside, where he has plug-and-play ability in a zone-blocking scheme. One of the cleanest prospects in this year's draft.
Our panelists' grades for Martin are tightly bunched: between picks 12 and 16 of the first round. And that's where every single draftnik for whom I have a modicum of respect grades him as well. That's an awfully clear signal, a veritable clarion call. So, I'll confidently slot him in round one on my "little board."
As far as the Cowboys are concerned, I think he's one of three targets at pick #16, along with Anthony Barr and Aaron Donald. Of the three, I also think Martin is the most likely to fall to the Cowboys, by a long shot. I hear that he's the leader in Jason Garrett's clubhouse; this makes sense, as the Cowboys coach is a low-risk kind of guy, and Martin may well be the safest pick in the first round. I still would prefer that, if Barr and Donald are indeed off the board, the Cowboys trade down and accumulate more valuable second and third day picks. If they cannot engineer such a trade, however, I would be quite happy to see Martin wearing the star...if he can get past the Giants at #12, that is
Later today: Now that you've seen how the national draftniks rate Martin, stay tuned for our in-house scout, Joey Ickes, who will post a detailed film study of the former Golden Domer.
Tomorrow: Mississippi State OG Gabe Jackson