2014 NFL Draft: Panthers showing interest in top ranked center, but why?

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Could Marcus Martin be the early round pick nobody saw coming?

Earlier this month it was reported by Aaron Wilson of the National Football Post that the Carolina Panthers had a private meeting with USC center Marcus Martin. That’s right, the Panthers met with a center, who is considered by some evaluators as the best at the position in this year’s Draft. So why would the Panthers look at another center prospect, especially when they already have Pro Bowler Ryan Kalil on their roster? The answer is simple: versatility.

Although Marcus Martin was an excellent center for the Trojans in 2013, he played at left guard the previous two years, including ten starts as a freshman in 2011. His ability to play any three of the interior positions has gotten some talent evaluators excited about his potential, including Keivn Weidl of Scouts Inc, who believes that Martin is the best interior offensive lineman in this entire Draft.

Martin's film is very solid. He rarely lost the battle off the snap at the line of scrimmage and showed excellent awareness, lateral movement and balance in pass protection. As a run blocker, Martin excelled in moving defensive players both inline and out in space with very little wasted movement. Overall, he was a very consistent player who rarely made any mental errors.

Draft analyst Rob Rang agrees:

Only a third-year collegiate player but already boasts the frame of an NFL interior lineman, possessing the naturally thick build conducive to playing in the trenches. Good quickness off the snap, showing the ability to get to the second level as well as seal defenders to create running lanes.

Possesses good core flexibility and natural knee bend to help him anchor against bull rushes. Slides well laterally to mirror pass rushers and keeps his head on a swivel to help teammates.

Plays with some nastiness. Plays to the whistle and isn't opposed to getting an extra shot in as the whistle blows. A good athlete whose flaws are coachable, suggesting that his best football is still ahead of him.

The Panthers currently have some question marks at both their guard spots. At left guard, Amini Silatolu is returning from a torn ACL suffered last October. At right guard, Nate Chandler, Garry Williams, Chris Scott and Edmund Kugbila are expected to compete for the role, but Williams, Scott and Kugbila are all returning from major injuries, while Chandler struggled for most of 2013. Drafting a player like Martin would fix some of those issues, as he’s versatile enough to step into either right or left guard and immediately start as a rookie. His experience at center also means that he would still provide excellent depth at the position.

Marcus Martin is currently projected to go in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Could he be the Panthers pick at the end of the second round? Would he be worth it? Vote and discuss below.

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