The need to draft depth along the interior line became apparent when the 49ers decided not to extend a contract to Jonathan Goodwin this offseason. With their first selection in the third round the 49ers selected Marcus Martin from USC. Martin was considered by many to be one of the top one or two centers in this class and figures to compete for the starting center job this season. Let's take a closer look at Martin and what the 49ers can expect in the young lineman.
Weight: 320 lbs
Arm Length: 34"
40 yard dash: 5.22*
Bench: 23 reps
*Martin did not run at the combine while recovering from a dislocated kneecap. The forty-time is a workout reported time by CBSSports.com.
- Versatility and experience. Martin grabbed the starting left guard spot at USC just a few games into his freshman year and never looked back. Accumulated 20 starts there before switching to center in 2013 and starting 13 games.
- Very athletic for his size. Flips hips quickly when sealing defenders.
- Gets to the second level quickly. Once he latches on to those targets, they're almost always moved out of the play.
- Shows great awareness in help protection.
- Mirrors defenders well in pass pro.
- Anchors well against nose tackles.
- Picks up blitzes consistently.
- Just 20 years old.
- Shows flashes of dominant strength but it's not consistent enough for a prospect his size.
- Needs technical refinement when working with his hands to punch defenders at the point of contact.
- Ends up on the ground too much; evidence he plays top heavy.
- Despite quickness to the second level, he fails to connect with defenders too often.
Doing your homework:
Here you can watch Martin against two other members of this draft class and two highly regarded defensive linemen in Stephan Tuitt and Louis Nix III. Martin more than holds his own against Nix most of the game.
What others are saying:
During the rookie mini-camp last week, Jim Harbaugh said of Martin:
"Right now he's the understudy. That's the expectation we put on him, to learn, to get up to speed as fast as possible and put no timetable to it."
Harbaugh also had this to say via the 49ers Twitter account the day after the 49ers draft Martin:
Harbaugh on center Marcus Martin: "Gifted. Leader. Smart football player. He's got some real gifts athletically." #49ersDraft— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 11, 2014
Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said:
"This was the No. 1 center on my board. This is a big-bodied kid who fits exactly what San Francisco is ... a big, powerful, run-the-football kind of team."
When you consider the competition Martin figures to bring to the center position and when you hear about him cross training at guard it becomes a littler clearer that the 49ers may have quite a steal on their hands. It's a little too early to call where Martin will have his biggest impact. Martin's size and athleticism allow him to be quite effective at multiple positions along the line. With weight of guard and height of a center you can make a legitimate argument for Martin at either position. This gives the 49ers incredible versatility when you consider the uncertain future of both starting guards, Mike Iupati and Alex Boone.
I don't think it'd be crazy if Martin earns the starting job out of training camp. Line coach Mike Solari has done an excellent job getting the most from his players and proven the ability to develop younger talent like Anthony Davis and Alex Boone. If Martin picks up the playbook and assignments and develops like the 49ers expect, I think he's the starting the center come week 1.