If there is one player greatly improving his draft stock down in Mobile, Alabama this week at the Senior Bowl, is Notre Dame offensive tackle and two time captain Zack Martin. Notre Dame’s anchor on the offensive line for the last four years is skyrocketing up draft boards this week with a dominant performance thus far in practice.
Here’s just a sample of the some of the rave reviews Martin has been getting so far this week.
NFL.com’s Charles Davis writes that Martin could be the top tackle in this year’s draft:
Notre Dame’s Zack Martin might be the best tackle in this year’s class. Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews has kind of been given that spot, but Martin is showing this week that he has a strong case for that title. - NFL.com
NFL.com’s Huguenin says Martin looks like a first round pick.
Notre Dame’s Zack Martin wasn’t necessarily a common name when the nation’s top offensive linemen were mentioned this season, but he has the look of a first-round pick….. (Mike) Mayock said he thinks Martin can play left tackle, but “worst-case scenario, you move him inside and he’s an All-Pro guard.” – NFL.com
By the end of day three, you begin noticing trends. Carr, Herron, Z.Martin, +others succeeding with consistency, standing out. #SeniorBowl
— Dion Caputi (@nfldraftupdate) January 22, 2014
Entering this week, OL Zack Martin was my top #SeniorBowl prospect and DT Aaron Donald was No. 2…that won’t be changing post-Senior Bowl
— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) January 22, 2014
— Phil Savage (@SeniorBowlPhil) January 22, 2014
Martin and Pitt’s Aaron Donald have been the two prospects drawing the most praise this week and on Wednesday the two squared off in practice when Martin got some reps at guard. The result? Martin was the first lineman to get the better of Donald.
The one knock on Martin heading into the Senior Bowl were his arms. The NFL Draft is driven by measurables in many ways and Martin does not possess prototypical arm length for a NFL offensive tackle. Martin did, however, measure with 32 1/4 inch long arms which was slightly longer than pundits expected and longer than the arms of 2013 first round pick Justin Pugh – another elite college tackle that didn’t have “long enough” arms. The New York Giants selected Pugh with the #20 overall pick in the draft.
Coming into this week Mel Kiper had Martin just inside the first round in his latest mock draft. Based on the praise Martin’s been getting all week by draft experts, it looks like that projection might be conservative as many now have Martin as a potential top 20 pick – just like Pugh was a year ago. In fact, it is looking possible that Martin could end up getting selected higher than Stephon Tuitt.
Now, a lot can change between now and April, but one thing is certain. Zack Martin has helped himself out tremendously this week and has made himself a lot of money by moving up draft boards in the process.
A lot has been talked about this off-season already about replacing Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, but not not much has been said about replacing Martin – a man started more games in his career than anyone else in Notre Dame history. Part of that is because Notre Dame has much more depth along the offensive front, but depth alone is not going to replace Martin. Notre Dame is losing an all-time great, albeit a sometimes unnoticed one, in Martin and will be just as hard, if not harder, to replace than either Tuitt or Nix.
Should Martin get selected in the first round, Notre Dame could have three first round picks in the same draft for the first time since the 1994 NFL Draft if Nix and Tuitt are also selected. In ’94 Bryant Young, Jeff Burris, and Aaron Taylor were all selected in the first round. In fact, all three hear their names called on the first night of the draft, Notre Dame will have six first round draft picks under the watch of Brian Kelly in the span of four years. Notre Dame’s three previous head coaches combined for just three first rounders – Jeff Faine, Brady Quinn, Luke Petigout, - in their combined 13 years at Notre Dame.