Why Dallas Cowboys Should Target Zack Martin in 2014 NFL Draft

John Owning@@johnowningCorrespondent IApril 22, 2014

Notre Dame offensive tackle Zack Martin, back, faces off against Air Force in the first quarter of an NCAA football game at the Air Force Academy, Colo., on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski

The Dallas Cowboys have only drafted two offensive linemen since Jerry Jones became the owner. It's time for Jones to pick a third. 

This will draw the ire of many Cowboys fans because of the plethora of needs on the defensive side of the ball. The Cowboys could use help at almost every position on defense. While defense would be first priority at pick No. 16, there may not be any prospects who give the Cowboys enough value.

Aaron Donald's stock has been steadily rising since the college football season ended. I don't believe Anthony Barr's stock will fall far enough to be there when the Cowboys are on the clock. Kony Ealy doesn't consistently put enough pressure on the quarterback to warrant a selection at No. 16. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor have the ability to warrant consideration at pick No. 16, but I think there is a better value on the board, Zack Martin.

NFL.com's Nolan Nawrocki gives a good overview of Martin's college career:

Started in all 52 games played at Notre Dame, the most in school history. 2011 and 2012 FBC All-Independent Team pick. Two-time captain (18th two-time captain in Notre Dame history). 2013: Started all 13 games at left tackle. 2012: Started all 13 games at left tackle. 2011: Started all 13 games at left tackle. 2010: Started all 13 games, with 11 starts at left tackle and two at right tackle. 2009: Did not see any game action.

Martin was a model of consistency in college. While he mostly played left and right tackle at Notre Dame, he figures to fit in better at guard at least initially in the NFL.

The reason why Martin projects inside to guard in the NFL is his physical attributes.  

Martin stands at 6'4" and has below-average arm length at 32.875". A key for offensive tackles in the NFL is to be able to keep defensive players away from their bodies so the defensive player cannot gain leverage on them, especially in pass protection. However, guards are in a much more confined area and can get help from the center. Offensive guards are thought to have the ability to get away with shorter arms.

While guards are thought of as run-blockers first, it is becoming increasingly important for them to be good pass-protectors.

Bleacher Report's own Cian Fahey states why it is important for guards to be good pass-protectors:

This is why Martin brings so much value to the Cowboys at guard. He has the ability to be a great run-blocker in the Cowboys zone-blocking scheme and be an elite pass-protector at guard. 

While there isn't any film of Martin at guard, you can find plays where he displays attributes and techniques that are necessary at guard.

For example, here is a play against the USC Trojans:

Martin (No. 70, playing at left offensive tackle) doubles down with the guard on the 5-technique defensive end. Martin fires out low to gain the maximum leverage on the defensive end. He utilizes a good punch and hand placement to be able to get the end of balance. He finishes the play by keeping his feet moving so he can drive the defender out of the hole and leave a great running lane for the running back. 

This type of block utilizes the "b step" that is very prevalent in zone-blocking schemes. It will be utilized in many different types of running plays.

In an interview with Walter Football's Charlie Campbell, Martin said, "In college, we were a big power and zone team. I didn't get a whole lot of exposure to man." Because of this, Martin would likely adapt to the Cowboys zone-blocking scheme fairly quickly. 

This is not to say that Martin can't play offensive tackle in the NFL. As the New York Giants' Justin Pugh showed, it is not impossible for an offensive tackle to have short arms but play well. Martin could be really good at offensive tackle, but he is good enough to be elite at guard. 

If the Cowboys selected Martin, it would give them three high-level starters under 24 years old in Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Martin. This would be a great foundation for the Cowboys offense to have for years to come.

Also, when the Cowboys have to replace Romo in two to four years, the next quarterback will come into a situation with a solid offensive line that has a nucleus coming into its prime. 

Another great thing about drafting Martin is that he gives the Cowboys flexibility. If Doug Free or Smith gets injured, the Cowboys can slide Martin out to tackle and replace him with either Mackenzy Bernadeau or Ronald Leary (presuming he beats one of them for either of the starting guard spots). Which is a much more favorable position then playing either Jermey Parnell or Darrion Weems at right tackle. 

Martin has the makings to be an elite guard in the NFL. He would give the Cowboys a great nucleus on the offensive line for years to come. In a league that is becoming more and more about offense, that may be too hard to pass up. 


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