Ranking the Packers (No. 44): Kamal Martin
GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.
No. 44: ILB Kamal Martin (6-3, 240, rookie, Minnesota)
With athletic LSU linebacker Patrick Queen on the board in the first round, the Packers drafted quarterback Jordan Love. Instead, at perhaps the most uncertain position on the team, general manager Brian Gutekunst waited until the fifth round to select Martin.
Martin joins a MASH unit of uncertainty. Green Bay replaced Blake Martinez with Christian Kirksey, who missed 23 of a possible 32 games the past two seasons. Oren Burks, a third-round pick in 2018, had his first two seasons derailed in training camp by injuries. Ty Summers, a seventh-round pick in 2019, suffered a pair of torn labrums at TCU and played only special teams as a rookie. Curtis Bolton impressed as an undrafted free agent last year until tearing an ACL.
Martin might have been more than a fifth-round pick if not for a knee injury that eventually required surgery. Another team’s scout said the injury was so evident that he stopped watching Martin’s film after just a couple games. Martin possesses size, athleticism and length (34-inch arms), along with the versatility that came with a path that took him from quarterback to edge rusher to traditional linebacker.
“He’s a guy who can cover tight ends down the field,” Packers scout Brandian Ross said after the selection of Martin. “He has some length and size to him that allows him to be more physical with those tight ends who like to stretch the seam. I think he’s going to be a guy who will give you another versatile piece when dealing with those bigger, faster tight ends because of his ability to run downfield and play out in space and cover backs and tight ends.”
During a final season limited to eight games by the injury, Martin tallied 66 tackles, 2.5 tackles for losses, two forced fumbles and two interceptions to earn honorable-mention all-Big Ten. In four seasons, he recorded 177 tackles, four forced fumbles and four interceptions.
“I think the Packers are getting, honestly, tremendous value,” Gophers defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Joe Rossi told Packer Central. “I really think that if he hadn’t been injured this year, I can see him being a third-round guys or second-round guy. …
“I feel like he’s a guy that’s going to have a successful NFL career. What he brings to the table from his length and his athleticism, he has tremendous special-teams value. His ability to play the run and the pass game, and he’s smart and he’s a good person who works hard. When you combine those attributes, I think you feel really good about his long-term success in the NFL.”
Why he’s got a chance: There’s no such thing as a sure thing, the saying goes, and that’s especially true at inside linebacker for the Packers. Maybe the loss of the offseason program will ruin Martin’s chances. Or maybe he’ll start. “I think the things we liked about him, obviously, he’s got great size, great length, he can run. The kid can really run,” Gutekunst said. “He’s been productive there for a few years. I thought if you did your due diligence and went back to ‘18 before the injury, he was little bit more dynamic. He really toughed it out in 2019 trying to get through it. We just really like the player because of his size, length and speed. We’re excited about him. I think you’ll see more of what you saw in 2018 than this year, to be honest with you.”