After taking a month to review the 2013 NFL Draft, it is already time to look ahead to the 2014 class. In fairness, I will do my best to focus on senior prospects for the next few months and move to juniors/redshirt sophomores when the time is right. I am only taking pre-season evaluation notes for now, focusing on where prospects win and where improvements can be made. Therefore, treat these posts like rough drafts and not final opinions.
Preseason Notes Archives on Quarterbacks
Notes on Arizona State DT Will Sutton
Notes on UCLA OLB Anthony Barr
Despite NCAA sanctions that ripped some players of their eligibility, UNC has produced a good number of high draft picks along their defensive line. Each, however, had their own deficiencies. Robert Quinn missed a full season and previously went through a severe head injury. Marvin Austin also missed an entire season. Many questioned Quinton Coples on-field motor and work ethic, and Sylvester Williams made his biggest impact as a pass rusher from the one technique despite having a three techniques body.
All four were arguably considered among the top pass rushers in the country at one point during their careers. The same cannot be said for senior defensive end Kareem Martin, although that shouldn’t take away from his NFL projection. Despite starting alongside him for a handful of games, Martin somewhat took over Coples’ role as an inside/outside power rusher.
Typically lining up as the right defensive end in a four man front, Martin has a strong first step to get upfield or when crashing down on the edge. The Tar Heel also sees time as an interior rusher on third downs, mainly as a three tech, and a five technique in three man fronts. He flashes the ability to win from each spot, which results in versatility, but does Martin possess projectable traits that can develop consistency?
Martin has a strong first step which allows him to gain the advantage on a number of plays. As an edge rusher he turns that extra step into separation and follows it up with a slight dip of his shoulder to get around the opposition. Despite having the size and length that could lend itself to power moves, Martin struggles when his initial momentum is stopped and when forced to engage. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense. Again, Martin displays force and toughness on first contact, but beyond that his willingness to get nasty throughout an entire play is infrequent.
It is a bit of an identity crisis that could only get worse in the NFL. Sure, Martin wins in the same fashion as some quick twitched rushers, but his success is sporadic. I do not think Martin’s lack of success on counter moves is due to a poor motor, since he grinds his feet when locked up. Perhaps Martin just does not know how to win with counter moves or is not confident in his technique.
As a run defender, Martin is at his best when crashing from the backside on stretch or zone plays. There were plenty of instances where Martin beat the opposing offensive tackle with a hard step inside, a strong shoulder shed, and a tackle in the backfield after a few steps down the line. Martin shows the same success as a front side defender, keeping his outside shoulder free, strafing the line just enough, then anchoring to force runners back inside. In fact, Martin is one of the better defenders I have seen at shedding to make the tackle near the line of scrimmage.
Once again, there is a deficiency in martin’s game, and it is re-anchoring against face up situations. If Martin fails to generate that initial forward momentum, he struggles to stop his own when forced backwards.
Where He Wins
Martin is good at keeping his advantage. A solid first step allows him to turn a slight dip into free space. He does not lack toughness, so shedding to make a tackle is usually not an issue.
Areas Of Improvement
There’s an identity crisis in Martin’s game. He needs to start winning with physical counter moves and develop that toughness to win at multiple sections of each play. I don’t think he lacks a motor, but rather he lacks confidence in technique to engage with leverage to shed.