The Dallas Cowboys shocked Radio City Music Hall with their No. 16 overall selection, but not in the way most expected. Instead of looking for defensive help in the first round, Dallas selected offensive lineman Zack Martin.
Martin was a four-year starter at Notre Dame, playing tackle for the Irish, and turned into one of his draft class’ top prospects after his senior season. His build is the type the Cowboys have loved out of offensive linemen for years at 6’4”, 308 pounds.
At that size, though, a player needs to know how to make the most of it. Martin has shown over the last four years that he can use his mass to clear out defenders and make way for rushers. He knows how to keep his quarterback upright by using his impressive footwork despite his large frame.
Perhaps the best part of what Martin brings to Dallas, though, is his versatility. NFLDraftScout.com’s Frank Cooney reported that most teams view him as a guard, despite playing tackle most of his college career. Head coach Jason Garrett would be wise to use his newest first-rounder at the guard position and add the final piece of this multiyear offensive line rebuilding project.
Travis Frederick and Tyron Smith were both first-round selections who have helped the line get younger and more talented. Martin gives Garrett a young building block at each position up front on offense.
Mackenzy Bernadeau and Jermey Parnell had serviceable seasons in 2013, but neither has the ability to be more than that. Quarterback Tony Romo has been sacked 107 times over the last three seasons. Despite some improvement out of the guards last year, Romo needs time in the pocket to utilize all his offensive weapons.
In his final mock draft before Day 1, Bleacher Report’s Lead NFL Draft Writer Matt Miller predicted Martin would fall to Dallas. In his write-up about the pick, Miller believes that if the Cowboys use Martin at guard, “he has the talent to be an All-Pro.”
Defense was arguably the bigger need for the Cowboys in the first round, but it’s hard to be upset with their pick. Martin has all the size a team could want out of a big man protecting its franchise quarterback. He also has some impressive speed and footwork that many wouldn’t expect due to that ideal frame.
Martin gives Romo three young and highly promising linemen who likely will end up protecting him for the rest of his career.
Taking Frederick in the first round last season drew plenty of skeptics. He ended up being Miller’s No. 12 center in the NFL 1000 rankings after just one year in the league. Smith has been Dallas’ most reliable and consistent lineman since being selected No. 9 overall in 2011.
Martin is the final piece in Dallas’ commitment to rebuilding its offensive line, and the team couldn’t have done so with a better player at No. 16 overall. He has all the promise to become a Pro Bowl-caliber player who can help lower that season sack total for the Cowboys’ franchise player.