With the 84th pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Arizona Cardinals selected defensive end Kareem Martin of North Carolina. He may not get on the field much as a rookie, but he has good upside and a bright future ahead of him.
He notched 178 total tackles, 45.5 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks in four years at UNC. As for where he will play in 2014? Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com asked head coach Bruce Arians:
Martin will play OLB in base, and then can be on line and rush from inside or outside in sub-packages, Arians said. #CardsDraft— Darren Urban (@Cardschatter) May 10, 2014
That doesn't mean he will be on the field much, but the fact that he's versatile enough to play all over the place in the front seven means he will see more time than he would have if he were pigeonholed into one position.
In base defense (the 3-4), he could be in a rotation at outside linebacker with Sam Acho, Alex Okafor, John Abraham and Lorenzo Alexander. Then, in nickel and dime packages, he could spell Darnell Dockett, Dan Williams or Calais Campbell on any given play.
New #Cardinals DE Kareem Martin: 6'6/272, 35" arms. 44 career TFLs, 19 sacks, 4 FFs. 31 Wonderlic score. Explosive 10'9" broad jump. 4.72 40— Evan Silva (@evansilva) May 10, 2014
Martin doubled total number of tackles from JR to SR year; a 3-sport athlete in high school (football, basketball and track) #CardsDraft— Craig Grialou (@CraigAZSports) May 10, 2014
Martin has the look of an NFL edge-rusher. If he can develop into the piece that some speculate he can, the Cardinals will have a solid rusher for a while. He's long, strong and explosive. There's nothing to dislike about Martin to Arizona, really.
He could end up being a replacement for one of three players (and all of them for a time, potentially) within the front seven: defensive ends Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell, as well as outside linebacker John Abraham. His versatility makes him incredibly valuable, and he hasn't even played a snap yet.
Best-case scenario for Martin? He drops roughly 10 pounds and replaces Abraham as the team's stud edge-rusher while having the ability to move all over the front seven on any given play. Pigeonholing him into one position seems unnecessary considering his underrated athleticism and run-stopping ability.
I see the Martin pick being similiar to Alex Okafor...play him here and there but give him time to develop.— Josh Weinfuss (@joshweinfuss) May 10, 2014
CBSSports.com had this to say of Martin:
...Martin is better against the run [than] the pass and has been effective in this role throughout his career, averaging nearly 15 tackles for loss a year over the past three seasons. His game is built upon his length and power to control at the line of scrimmage rather than burst or fluidity, making him an ideal base (left) end in a traditional 4-3 alignment.
Good against the run and a developing pass-rusher? Yep, that should excite Cardinals fans everywhere. The thing with this pick is that fans might have to wait to see him develop—patience is key here. He's not ready to produce double-digit sacks every year.
Does he have the potential to post double-digit sacks as an edge-rusher on Sundays? Sure. But be patient. Because he's not there yet.