Over the next couple weeks CSR will provide in-depth analysis of each of the Panthers recent drafts and select UDFA's. This post will focus on 2nd round pick DB Sherrod Martin.
Upside: Grade B
The upside of this pick is Martin fills the immediate need for a nickel corner, the result of the move of former nickel corner Richard Marshall to an outside CB spot. Martin brings versatility to the defensive backfield in that he has played CB, nickel corner and most recently safety. I have found nothing but glowing reports on this guy particularly this one at Draft Countdown. This analysis has all the adjectives you want in a DB... great speed and acceleration...fluid hips...very physical...excellent tackler...good range...nice hands. You get a real good sense of his hands in this video where he picks off a pass that was deflected.
What I find interesting about Martin is he is safety who is now being projected to move to CB. Usually it's the other way around, from CB to Safety, similar to the move Charles Godfrey made last year. The reason is that Martin has the ideal size of a ‘big' corner in height and weight yet he still maintains the speed needed top stay with NFL receivers. He ran a 4.46 at his Pro Day, slightly faster than the 4.52 at the combine. Martin should have no trouble keeping up with slot receivers such as the Falcons Harry Douglas and the Saints Lance Moore whom he will face twice this season. Here's another video clip that shows off his ability to make plays.
Another interesting aspect is Martin seems to has some "Chris Harris" in him as well as he set the single-season record a Troy for forced fumbles:
When he returned, he went on to start six contests as the team's nickel back. He posted 52 tackles (35 solos), sixth on the team, as he tallied three sacks and nine stops for loss. He also caused a school single-season record six fumbles. Martin returned to his familiar position at free safety for the 2008 season, starting all 13 games. "It's about basically making sure I can come in and transition from the college to the pros," Martin said. "I'm a playmaker and I'm always around the ball. I'm a smart guy as far as knowing what is going on around the field. They're going to get a hard ball player."
Though we may have all been thinking "Who is Sherrod Martin" when is name was called I'm really liking what this guy brings to the secondary.
Downside: Grade C
Yes there is always downside but in Martins case it is very limited. The biggest issue is that prior to a stellar senior season he has a pretty extensive injury history. He red-shirted in 2006 after surgery to repair torn labrums in both shoulders (How do you do that?) He then broke three bones in a hand in 2007. He sat the 2003 season because of a ‘grey shirt' season (see definition below). The result is a 25 year old NFL rookie who has only one season, his most recent, free of injury. The only other negative people can come up with is he played against lesser talent at Troy. That didn't seem to impact previous Troy players DeMarcus Ware, Osi Umenyiora or Leodis McKelvin did it?
Fit: Grade A
Once CB Ken Lucas was cut it was pretty obvious the Panthers would draft a DB to back fill the hole created by his departure. Though Martin spent the past two seasons at safety he has already been proclaimed the Panthers nickel CB. Yet Martins eventual landing place with the Panthers could be anywhere in the defensive backfield. As I mentioned already he is very versatile and with new DC Ron Meeks coming in there might be some shuffling of the starters at some point. I'm not saying it might happen this season but I wouldn't be surprised to see some changes. For example, Godfrey might be better suited at nickel CB and Martin plays FS. If Marshall struggles at CB either Godfrey or Martin could end up in that spot instead. There are a number of scenarios that could result based on who better at press coverage versus who is better at reading the play and breaking on the ball. If Martin shows a knack for that he could end of at FS where I thought Godfrey struggled a bit in 2008 to make big plays.
Overall I think this pick though not very sexy will turn out to be a good one similar to the selection of Richard Marshall a few years back. Martin will have time to adapt to the NFL game at nickel back and in time could move to a starters role should he stay healthy and continue to develop.
Grey shirt season defined: "Grey shirt is a term used to designate an incoming freshman who waits until the second semester to enroll rather than the fall. College athletes are allowed a five year calendar to play four seasons. The calendar begins once one is enrolled. By waiting until the spring to start college, a player will be playing his last season in the sixth year after high school rather than the fifth. "