RD 4: Blake Martinez, ILB, Stanford
Why they picked Martinez
Although I feel the Packers waited too long once again to address the inside linebacker position in the draft, it’s hard to complain about landing Martinez at the end of the fourth round.
The Stanford product brings a well-rounded game to the Packers defense. His 140 tackles in 2015 led the Pac-12 and finished in the top-five in the entire FBS. This was following a junior season where he recorded 101 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a first-year starter.
At Stanford, Martinez quickly became a leader in the middle of the Cardinals defense. A self-proclaimed film-junkie, Martinez’s cerebral approach to the game helps him quickly anticipate plays on the field and be active around the ball.
Although physical and smart, Martinez is also a very underrated athlete. He ran one of the faster forty times (4.71) at the combine among linebackers, and then improved upon this by running a respectable 4.62 forty at his pro day. He also finished in the top-five amongst linebackers in the bench press (22 reps), short shuttle (4.20), and three-cone drill (6.98), highlighting his agility and ability to quickly change direction in space.
The Packers desperately needed a linebacker that can cover, and this is one of Martinez’s strengths of his game. Often, he was Stanford’s primary coverage linebacker in nickel or their lone dime linebacker, and was even asked to cover tight ends split out wide or slot receivers crossing the middle of the field.
He excelled in this role, recording four interceptions and eight pass breakups. His success is partially due to his quickness and athleticism, but should also be attributed to his work ethic and incredible film preparation.
Martinez’s role in 2016
As a rookie, Martinez should compete right away with Joe Thomas for the Packers dime linebacker spot. Playing at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, he already offers better size against the run than the 6-1, 227-pound Thomas.
He plays with better instincts and should be a more reliable option in coverage.
Best case scenario, Martinez will also compete with Jake Ryan and Sam Barrington for a starting role in 2016. However, he is a very different type of linebacker than Ryan and Barrington, which might bode well for him gaining snaps on defense.
While Ryan and Barrington are more downhill players, Martinez is purely a run-and-chase linebacker who excels out in space. He can slip blocks and make plenty of plays between the tackles, but he’s not necessarily a guy that will stack-and-shed or be a thumper in the middle.
However, his game does complement what the Packers already have at the position.
Next: Dean Lowry's fit?