2014 NFL Draft Prospects: Zack Martin, OT Notre Dame

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The first-round offensive line prospect is aggressive and shows great awareness. His lack of length, however, does not make him an ideal left tackle in the NFL.

After a redshirt year in 2009, Zack Martin began his college playing career in 2010 as Notre Dame's left tackle. Starting a school offensive linemen record of 52 games (50 at LT and 2 at RT), he never relinquished his starting role . In his final two years at Notre Dame, Martin was voted a team captain. He helped his team to the BCS National Championship following the 2012 football season.  After the Fighting Irish defeated Rutgers in the 2014 Pinstripe Bowl, Martin was voted the game's MVP.

Strengths

Martin's intangibles are the first thing that standout when discussing his strengths. He is one of the cleanest prospects, off the field, in the entire draft. As a two time team captain, Martin was the leader of Notre Dame's offensive line. On film he doesn't take any plays off and blocks with the aggression coaches will covet.

Martin is also displays great football awareness. He routinely adapts his blocking assignment to the defensive front and quickly deciphers information. This allows him to pass block with great efficiency and find defenders in the second level.

On the field Martin is a technician in the run game. He plays with excellent pad level and good hand placement. It is his ability to position his body and turn defenders that really stands out. Once engages he does an excellent job of keeping his feet moving and turning his body so that his back is to the whole. This prevents defenders from making a play easily and opens up a nice lane for his running backs.

In this play Martin is responsible for a down block  to the MLB as the backside guard pulls in a trap play. Martin does a good job of finding his man when the defensive is lined up in an exotic look. Once he engages the linebacker, he turns him to the right keeping his backside to the hole. The running back is able to run behind Martin because of the lane Martin created.

Martin also has deceptive athleticism. Notre Dame ran its share of zone plays and Martins footwork and athleticism allowed him to effectively get in front of his man or to the second level. His pulling ability stood out to me on tape. This wasn't because of his athleticism shown in the pulls but because of how he attack blockers on the pull.

On this play Notre Dame runs a counter play and Martin, the backside OT, is asked to pull.  Martin pulls with decent athleticism. He quickly finds his man and starts the block. He engages the defender with his inside shoulder turning him out away from the hole and creating a nice lane for the runningback. This is great technique on  the block which is surprising for an offensive tackle.

As a pass blocker, Martin shows good balance when engages. He takes advantage of his natural leverage and is at his best when anchoring against the bull rush. His hand placement is incredible for a college OT, rarely does he place them on the outside. He has heavy hand ans a nice punch. He reads defenders quickly which allows for an efficient pass drop though, it is an aesthetically displeasing one.

Weaknesses

Zack Martin does not possess the ideal length for a LT. He is 6-foot-4, 308 pounds and has a below average 32 7/8 inch arm length. Some have used this lack of  length as a reason for Martin to move inside in the NFL but this is just lazy analysis. Martin should move inside at the pro level but for reasons much more valid than his length.

As a pass blocker Martin as just good enough feet for a OT. He kickslide however is awkward and stiff. He doesn't slide back quickly and  displays more of a shuffle than an actual kickslide.  Martin leans slightly forward in his drop and some of the better defenders have taken advantage of this  when engaging him. Often times Martin has to sell out early to make the block against the speed rush.

Here we Martin going against a speed rush. Too start his has a slightly wider stance than needed. He doesn't fire off the line quickly, likely concerned about the blitz look. With this slowness out of his stance, he lacks the quickness in his slide to meet the defender. Instead he has to turn his hips outward, no longer pointing his back to the QB, and shuffle to the defender. He is then forced to push the defender wide and hope he can regain ground. While Martin didn't allow a pressure in this play, the defenders he will go against in the NFL are faster and stronger and will be able to take advantage of Martin on the speed rush more often.

In the run game Martin isn't a mauler. He doesn't fire out of his stance well and has only average strength. His run blocking success is more based on technique, nastiness and effort than it is on strength. He will have a hard time with the stronger defenders in the NFL unless his gets stronger.

Martin also has no experience inside despite showing traits that suggest he could play either OG or C in the NFL.

Overall

Zack Martin is one of my favorite players in the draft because of his potential on the inside. He plays with good balance, great pad level and excellent technique in the run game. These suggests he should be successful when switching inside to play left guard. While Martin isn't a road grader , his deceptive athleticism and good footwork should make him an ideal candidate for a zone team as a guard.  Martin could stay on the outside, where his smarts and effort should allow him to be an around average OT but his has physical  flaws that prevent him from becoming anything more than that.

When it comes down to Martin teams have a potential Pro Bowl player if they choose to switch him to guard. I believe however some team will try him early as an OT before making the switch in either his second or third year.

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