Zack Martin, Notre Dame (David Zalubowski/AP)
The Dallas Cowboys have finished 8-8 in each of the last three seasons in part because they haven't fulfilled the necessary vision of restocking from the lines out. They endeavored to do this last year by picking center Travis Frederick in the first round, and were panned for it because many had Frederick pegged as a third-round prospect. And with the first-round pick in this draft, Dallas went back to the well the right way and took Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin.
It's entirely possible that Martin will slip inside to guard at the next level, and that's where he fits best as an NFL player.
Strengths: Outstanding drive blocker who rises up from a three-point stance quickly, gets his hands inside the defender and uses leverage to push people back. Excellent upper-body strength, which he uses to get his hands forward and in a striking position to keep opponents on their side of the line. Finished his blocks by lifting defenders off their own power. Understands combo blocks and can peel off his first defender to help with a second defender seamlessly and with no trouble. Keeps a low center of gravity and places his feet properly to give himself a wide base. Good speed to the second level when asked to block in space, and Martin has an excellent sense for his targets — if he whiffs, it’s generally more about lack of speed than any awareness issues.
Weaknesses: In pass pro, Martin’s kick slide is a work in progress — he’s more choppy than smooth with his steps. Establishes protection against turning pass-rushers more with technique than fluidity, and can be susceptible to defenders who change directions quickly. Needs an extra split second to come out of his stance to the outside, and you’ll occasionally see speed rushers blow right by him. In a general sense, better when blocking people in front of him than to either side — plays best in the proverbial phone booth. Hasn’t pulled a lot, which he’ll have to do if he switches to guard in the NFL, but seems to have the skills to do so.
Grade: B. Is Martin as a guard worthy of a mid-first round pick? That's debatable. But over and over on tape, Martin shows that he’s a true ass-kicker, with a fiery mentality and tremendous upper-body strength. He’ll have to get comfortable with a few new things, but he wouldn’t be the first college tackle to kick inside -- and he may wind up as one of the best.
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