For the first time since 1984, the Detroit Lions drafted a punter. This position was a big need for the team, after choosing to go a different direction than Nick Harris, who was awful in the 2012 NFL season. However, the Lions pick of Sam Martin was one of only two punters taken in the 2013 NFL Draft, and came way too early.
Spare me the arguments about the Lions taking Jason Hanson in the second round. Kickers are different and Hanson is one of the greatest kickers in my generation. Martin isn’t even guaranteed to be the Lions starting punter in 2013 as he faces a training camp battle with Blake Clingan.
The Lions signed Clingan, who has zero NFL experience, to a one year deal during the off-season. Clingan attended the University of Central Florida, but has been working as a medical sales rep for the past couple of years. Clingan has been training, but has not kicked in a game of any kind since 2010.
The Lions pulled the trigger on punter Martin in the fifth round with the 165th overall pick. Martin, who played at Appalachian State, was considered one of the best punters in the draft. I just can’t understand why he was taken here. Only two punters were drafted in this year’s draft, matching the total from the 2012 NFL Draft. This means the Lions could have taken Martin or any other punter with their seventh round pick (#245 overall) and gotten someone else here in the fifth round.
Perhaps Detroit was afraid of losing Martin. The team did meet with Martin in one of their allotted pre-draft visits. Or maybe hearing that Martin had begun practicing holding field goals for a lefty kicker after David Akers signed with the Lions showed so much determination for Detroit. The Lions also might have believed that the run on punters was about to begin after the Minnesota Vikings took a punter with the 155th overall pick.
Martin will face a different atmosphere in the NFL. At home games, Martin kicked in front of around 25,000 fans. He will be in front of 65,000 during home games at Ford Field. Martin is also sure to face tougher competition than what he did at Appalachian State, where he was an All-American.
The positive from drafting Martin is his ability to also handle kickoffs. With Akers declining in production, the team could choose to use Martin as the kickoff handler and the punter. The former high school soccer star handled both duties in college.
Detroit ranked last in the NFL in both punting average (41.4 yards) and net punt yards (37.1 yards) in 2012. The team, which finished with a 4-12 record, lost several close games and those extra yards could have come into play with some field goals being in range.