Zack Martin became the highest drafted Notre Dame offensive lineman in 25 years on Thursday night when the Dallas Cowboys selected him 16th overall in 2014 NFL Draft marking the third consecutive year Notre Dame produced a first round pick.
NFL Network spent all 10 minutes leading up to Dallas’s pick debating whether or not the Cowboys should select Johnny Manzeil. Instead, the Cowboys selected Martin to help protect incumbent and beleaguered starting quarterback Tony Romo.
In Dallas, Martin has the opportunity to start from day one on a team that has been on the cusp on the playoffs the last few years without being able to get over the hump especially considering Martin has the ability to start at guard or tackle.
Martin’s selection at 16th overall culminates an almost meteoric rise the player with the most starts under his belt in Notre Dame football history since the end of the season. Prior to an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine, Martin was not widely considered a first round pick, but since then he has skyrocketed up draft boards and had even been projected to land higher in the draft.
Many mock drafts had Martin going #12 to the New York Giants, but the Giants opted for LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham. Instead, Martin will be playing for the Giants division foe and will face the Giants twice a season for at least the next few seasons.
Had Martin went to the Giants at #12, Martin would have been the highest drafted offensive lineman out of Notre Dame in 45 years. Instead, Martin has to settle for being the highest drafted offensive lineman in a quarter century since Andy Heck went 15th overall in 1989.
With Martin being selected in the first round, Notre Dame has had first round picks in three straight seasons for the first time since 1992-1994 – a clear sign that the talent level in South Bend has been raised to a new level. You can argue who should receive the credit for those picks – Charlie Weis for recruiting these players originally or Brian Kelly for developing them – but you can’t argue that Notre Dame has the kind of talent that they simply haven’t had in a long, long time.
Martin is the first Notre Dame player off the board in the 2014 NFL Draft with Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt hopeful that they will join their teammate as a first rounder although neither is a lock to be a first round pick at this point.