BBD Staff Writer: Glenn Gifford
When the Buffalo Bills opted not to select a single offensive lineman in the seven-round NFL draft last April, it signaled to many that the Bills may be content with their current offensive line situation despite the loss of guards Andy Levitre and Chad Rinehart.
Since the draft, however, the Bills have signed free-agent Doug Legursky from the Pittsburgh Steelers to compete for the starting left guard job, a position where the Bills have an open competition for the starting job. With the offensive line in a state of transition, I feel that the Bills are poised to select an offensive lineman as early as Day 2 of the 2014 NFL draft.
One 2014 draft prospect to keep an eye on this upcoming season is Notre Dame’s offensive tackle Zack Martin. Martin plays left tackle at Notre Dame, but projects better as a guard in the NFL. He has several qualities that make him an ideal fit for Buffalo.
Martin, a fifth-year senior and team captain, is the heart and soul of the Fighting Irish offensive line. His leadership and character are ideal qualities for both a lineman and a potential Buffalo Bill.
Martin comes in at 6’4″ and 304 pounds according to Notre Dame’s official athletics website. His size should not be an issue and gives him the versatility to play multiple spots on an NFL offensive line.
Bills fans may recall when former general manager Buddy Nix talked up Cordy Glenn as a guard prior to the 2012 draft. Later, we learned that Buddy projected Glenn as a tackle all along.
“Hell no he’s not a guard,” Nix said following the draft according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com. ”He started 50 games and the last 16 were at left tackle. We put it out there and tried to spread the rumor that he was a guard to hope somebody wouldn’t take him.”
Martin may be in a similar situation. His versatility along the line and his ability to play guard, tackle or even center will help his overall draft ranking.
It is safe to say that Martin will not be sneaking up on anyone this year. He was recently named to the watch list for the 2013 Outland Trophy, which is given to the nation’s top lineman each season. As a fifth-year senior, captain and player with excellent character, Martin seems well on his way to becoming a staple on an NFL roster. He is a low-risk, high-reward prospect and a great leader.
The following video from Notre Dame’s athletics department takes a closer look at Martin’s leadership and character.
Guard vs. Tackle
Former Bills guard Andy Levitre had a similar skill set to Zack Martin when he entered the 2009 NFL Draft. You may recall that Levitre was the starting left tackle at Oregon State prior to being drafted by Buffalo with the No. 51 pick in the second round of that draft.
While Levitre did see spot duty at tackle when the injury bug plagued the Bills, he was primarily considered a guard at the pro level. Martin’s measurables make him very similar to Levitre in how he projects to the NFL.
The main issue for Martin is his lack of elite size and strength. As Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com points out, “he lacks elite length and strength, but takes pride in his craft and flashes the raw nastiness to develop into a pro blocker.”
The following numbers display the size and strength of the top offensive tackle prospects drafted in the top 11 of the 2013 NFL draft:
Zach Martin will not be able to match these numbers. He is only 6’4″ and does not have the quickness, arm length and strength to be an elite left tackle at the next level. He can, however, make an effective and serviceable guard, much like Andy Levitre. Martin’s nasty streak is an added bonus.
Levitre was seen by many to be a much more effective pass blocker than a run blocker. Martin is every bit as good in both areas of his game.
The following few plays from Notre Dame’s game versus BYU last season should give you an idea of Martin’s tenacity in the area of blocking. The second-to-last play in the tape at :51 seconds shows Martin fold blocking inside, just like a guard would. Martin is No. 70.
Plays like that show scouts what Zack Martin will look like at the next level as a guard. There is little not to like. Combine his skills, leadership and mean streak and Zack Martin looks to be an ideal NFL guard.
The Bills should be in the market for a dependable interior offensive lineman in the 2014 NFL Draft. A short-term solution like Doug Legursky, combined with unproven prospects like Colin Brown and Zebrie Sanders, make Buffalo ripe for drafting a versatile player like Zack Martin who can step in and fill a need at the left guard position.
If he is still on the board when the Bills select on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL draft, selecting a versatile leader like Zack Martin who can play numerous spots on the offensive line would be a prudent move for the Bills. He would solidify the Bills’ offensive line.