Let’s roll back the clock…
Mike Martin came into Michigan as a four star recruit, with Scout.com ranking him as a #12 DT in the nation. As a true freshman, he rotated in, collecting 20 tackles. In his sophomore season, he seized the NT position, and ended the year with 51 tackles, 8.5 for loss, and two sacks. His junior and senior years produced similar stat lines; 37-6-2.5, and 64-6-3.5. Good stats, yes, but not nearly as dominant as many top prospects.
But NFL draft scouts missed two things. First, Mike Martin was easily the best player on a bad defense; the plays he made, he made on his own. Second, he was playing the nose position in a 3-4 defense; the impact of the nose is never felt in his stats, but in how much he improves the play of those around him. And by that metric, Mike Martin was one of the most outstanding players in the nation.
If his college career wasn’t enough to put Mike Martin high on the draft boards, his combine should have. In all six drills, Martin ranked in the top four of defensive lineman: 3rd in the combine at bench press, 3rd among DTs in the 40 yard dash, 4th in the vertical jump, 1st at the standing long jump, 3rd at the three cone drill, and 2nd in the 20-yard shuttle.
Those numbers are absolutely shocking; not only did he dominate in both leg and arm strength drills (he’s also known to squat over 700lbs), he showed similar dominance in the agility and movement drills. Of those drills, the standing long jump and three-cone drill stand out the most. The standing long jump is the best proxy for raw leg power- incredibly important in stopping the run, and a fairly good proxy for pass rushing potential. The three-cone drill is nearly as valuable; it shows a players ability to accelerate from a flat start and reaccelerate after changing direction- both important proxies for explosion off the snap and raw pass rushing ability.
Any scout watching this performance should have put Martin very high on their sleeper list. If Martin was 3 inches taller and 30 lbs heavier, that performance would have made him a top 10 pick for any 3-4 team. And that, in the end, is what dragged down Martin’s stock; 3-4 teams didn’t think he was big enough to anchor their middle, and 4-3 teams worried he lacked pass rushing ability from playing nose in a 3-4 in college.
Grade: A for draft position, B+ for potential, A for first year production.