Each and every offseason, there are always a few talented 1st Round-worthy prospects whose stocks (for whatever reasons) fluctuate and sometimes slip a bit on Draft Day. One current draft prospect whose stock in particular has been slipping a tad over the last month or so has been Stanford’s talented Offensive Tackle Jonathan Martin who was thought to be a Top 10 pick by many when the 2011 season ended. That being said, after I read Charley Casserly of NFL.com’s (former G.M. of the Redskins and Texans) most recent Mock Draft, he actually had Stanford’s talented Tackle falling to the Steelers at #24. Granted, it’s one Mock Draft, but because Martin’s stock has indeed been slipping in recent weeks, I began to consider the possibility of a player of Martin’s caliber actually being available at #24 in Round 1. So, today I feel like it would be a good idea to explain why Martin has been sliding down draft boards as of late, ask and determine if it is cause for concern or not, explore the possibility of whether or not Martin could fall to Pittsburgh, take a quick look at the Steelers’ current Offensive Line/Tackle situation, and finally discuss whether or not Pittsburgh should take Martin if he is indeed on the board at #24. Let’s get started shall we:
Introduction: Do The Steelers Need Help at Tackle?
The answer to the question above is a resounding yes in my opinion. As I alluded to in a previous article, while Tackle might not be the most pressing of all needs for Pittsburgh, it’s still a pretty darn big question mark heading into 2012. I mean, take a look at what the Steelers have heading into this season: Talented 2nd Year man Marcus Gilbert appears to be stepping into the Left Tackle spot because Max Starks is coming off a knee injury, but Gilbert played most of last season at Right Tackle and now will be faced with the responsibility of protecting Big Ben’s blind-side. As for Right Tackle, the oft-injured and usually inconsistent Willie Colon will be hopefully coming back after logging only 1 start in the last two years. Plus, Jonathan Scott will likely be the #3 guy, and that is reason alone for concern for an Offensive Line as a whole that gave up 42 Sacks last season. With all of the question marks surrounding the Tackle position, Pittsburgh sure could use some stability at the position and a natural Left Tackle to help shore up the Line. Luckily for the Steelers, Stanford’s Jonathan Martin’s (a once projected Top 10 pick) stock is slipping a bit, and he might be in range for Pittsburgh to select.
Martin’s Unfortunate Offseason
Missing The Combine, and a subpar performance at his Pro Day are the two biggest reasons why Jonathan Martin sliding down draft boards right now. In terms of wowing scouts at the “Underpants Olympics,” Martin did not improve his stock in Indianapolis when he came down with an illness he attributed to food poisoning and did not participate in drills. To make things worse, Martin had himself an unimpressive Pro Day where he only put up a 5.33 time in the 40 and only 20 reps in the Bench Press (225 lbs.). Granted, it’s never super to come up short when the off-season workout lights are shining, but Martin’s poor workouts could be a blessing in disguise for Pittsburgh if he does slide. And personally, I’m not overly worried about the low Bench numbers and “slow” 40 time.
While it can be a bit alarming to see a supposedly highly rated Tackle put up that number of reps., strength can be honed much easier than technique as a Tackle in pass protection and run blocking which Martin actually has. At 6’5” and with 34″ arms, Martin could add a bit more mass to his frame (10 lbs.) and has room to work on his raw upper body strength over the course of his career. While it will not be a walk in the park, helping a player add strength is what strength and conditioning programs for N.F.L. teams are all about. As for the 40 though, I’m even less worried. How many “Go” Routes will Martin be running in the N.F.L.? Granted, I’d like every Offensive Lineman to be a “track-star,” but 5.33 is nothing to scoff at for a guy weighing in the neighborhood of 315 lbs.. While it is a tad discomforting to see players under-perform, I would much rather select a player that has shown that they can succeed on a high level and on a consistent basis on film during real live competition (Martin), as opposed to a champion of The Combine workouts that has raw skills, but loads of bad tape.
Which Teams Could Target Martin? & Why They Could Pass
Bad performances during offseason workout aside, Martin is still a 1st Round talent, and there are some teams in the 13-23 range that are in need of Tackles like #13 Arizona, #18 San Diego, #19 Chicago, #22 Cleveland, #23 Detroit which could target him. Nevertheless, these teams have other needs and draft strategies of their own, and it would not shock me if they passed on Martin.
Each team could go after another position of need like Inside Linebacker or Wide Receiver for the Cardinals (Luke Kuechly or Michael Floyd), Pass Rushing Outside Linebacker for San Diego (Courtney Upshaw, Nick Perry, Whitney Mercilus), Wide Receiver or Pass Rushing Defensive End for Chicago or Cleveland (Kendall Wright, Stephen Hill, Perry, Mercilus), and finally Defensive End or Cornerback for Detroit (Perry, Mercilus, Stephon Gilmore, Dre Kirkpatrick, Janoris Jenkins).
Or, if these specific teams decide to draft an Offensive Lineman, they could find themselves taking other 1st Round prospects not named Martin all together. Riley Reiff of Iowa, the versatile OG/OT Cordy Glenn of Georgia, have 1st Round grades, and Mike Adams of Ohio State has 1st Round talent and for whatever reason (blocking scheme, coaching staff preference, versatility, upside, etc.) might end up being selected before Martin hears his name called. With more options to choose from plus multiple needs for every team, the greater the chance Martin has to stay on the board until pick #24.
Should Pittsburgh Take Martin? & Final Thoughts
Granted, quite a bit has to go right for the Steelers to be in a position to select Martin with the 24th pick. But if Martin is indeed on the board at #24, Pittsburgh has to at least consider a few things about him: He’s a player that started 37 games at Left Tackle for a major college program and protected the blind-side of one of the best collegiate signal callers in the last two decades. Martin is also a two time All-Pac 10 (12) first team selection and helped the Cardinal become one of college football’s best Offenses over the last 3 years Bad workouts aside, from the games I’ve watched Martin play however, he’s definitely strong enough and nimble enough to warrant a 1st Round pick. Watching him and David DeCastro in the run game was awesome, and I saw them first-hand help the Cardinal put almost 250 rushing yards last season against Arizona and run for almost 211 Yards Per Game in 2011 overall.
Protecting Big Ben is a must for this franchise, and because Pittsburgh usually selects so late in the Draft, and has over the last decade, elite Left Tackle prospects are really not in the neighborhood for them in Round 1. A player like Martin falling to them at #24 could be too good to pass up, and would definitely warrant a selection over more “need” positions (especially ones with deep classes this year) like Guard, Inside Linebacker, and Nose Tackle which can be found in later Rounds of this specific Draft.
It might be wishful thinking to believe that Martin could fall to #24 (they could trade up for a Tackle or Guard), but stranger things have happened in Round 1 on Draft Days. I personally would like to see some stability on the Offensive Line for Pittsburgh in the coming years, because Big Ben has at least 5 more seasons left in his “prime” and of course could benefit from being protected better. It could be more or it could be less, but it sure would be nice to see Roethlisberger drop back to pass and not fear for him. With the weapons he has at his disposal, and “Bubble Screen Wizard” Bruce Arians out of the picture, Big Ben could flourish if he indeed an upgrade in the protection department. Whatever happens though, I’ve got faith as always in Colbert & Co. to do what is right and acquire yet another hit in Round 1.
Now it’s your turn readers. Will Martin be available at #24? Should the Steelers take Martin if he is available? Should Pittsburgh target another Lineman in Round 1? Let me know. I’m interested.