Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
With their third selection in the 2014 NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers added some youth to a position that had been manned by a veteran player for over a decade. Marcus Martin, third-round selection out of the University of Southern California, will attempt to become the 49ers first rookie starting center since Jeremy Newberry in 2000.
Martin fits the mold of what we've come to expect from a 49ers' offensive linemen over the last few seasons. He's a big, physically-gifted player that plays with a mauling style in the run game. As I broke down in greater detail back in May, Martin has the ability to drive defenders off the ball and create movement in the run game while showing a good anchor and knack for being in the right position when in pass protection.
There are certainly some areas in which Martin has room for improvement—namely correcting his tendency to bend at the waist and lean into blocks—but at just 20 years old there's plenty of reason to expect continued improvement over the next several seasons from the young center.
Expected 2014 impact:
As much as head coach Jim Harbaugh and the rest of the coaching staff will publicly state that Martin is the understudy and that he'll need to come in, learn the offense, and compete for a job, Martin should be considered the frontrunner for the starting center position to open the season. While learning the offense and learning from his veteran teammates along the offensive line will undoubtedly be an important part of Martin's offseason, he is far more physically gifted than his primary competition at center, Daniel Kilgore.
Kilgore has the benefit of already knowing the system, having backed up Jonathan Goodwin at center for the past three years, but that is where his advantages would appear to end. Martin would have to struggle a great deal throughout training camp and the preseason to not come away with the job. He will inevitably make mistakes and suffer from some growing pains, as all rookies are prone to do. But with a fantastic offensive line coach in Mike Solari and talented, veteran players surrounding him along the offensive line, Martin is in about as good of a position as a rookie center could hope to be.
Assuming that Martin does win the starting center position, it will be interesting to see if the 49ers will rely on him to make the line calls. Making those line calls is typically the job of the center, though I could see the 49ers electing to place those duties on one of their more experienced guards to lessen the burden on Martin, particularly early in the season.
Odds of making the roster:
As a third-round pick and one of the few rookies on the roster with an opportunity to make an immediate impact in their first season, Martin's roster spot is secured. The only question is how quickly the 49ers' center of the future will turn the future into the present and assume his role in the middle of San Francisco's offensive line.