In an NFL draft class that lacks a consensus No. 2 pass rusher behind South Carolina’s Jadaveon Clowney, there are several intriguing players who have a chance to go in the early rounds. One of those guys is North Carolina’s Kareem Martin, and while he’s still kind of an unknown, he has great size and plenty of untapped potential.
To complement his 6-foot-6 frame, Martin has surprising quickness and elusiveness, along with a high amount of raw strength. However, while one would think a player of his size would rely primarily on power moves to get into the backfield, he actually relies more on crafty finesse moves to get past offensive linemen.
The primary issue with Martin is that he doesn’t really have a clear position. With UNC, he’s done the most damage while lining up in the interior at either a five or three-technique position. With that said, he’s still a bit light to be a serious candidate for one of these positions in the NFL. He’s not an ideal player to move to an outside linebacker position in a 3-4, but he would be a nice developmental prospect as a 4-3 defensive end. While he needs to develop his pass-rushing skills off the edge and increase his hip movement, he could be a weapon right away as an interior pass rush specialist on obvious passing downs.
Due to his athleticism, Martin is a guy who could definitely improve his draft stock by putting on a show during his combine and pro day workouts. Based on his on-field performance, he’s probably a late-second or early-third round pick. In my most recent mock draft, I have him going to the Denver Broncos with pick 31 of round two, where he could play a role similar to Derek Wolfe. With that said, he could definitely move up with a strong pre-draft season.
- Big, athletic body; if he could put on some weight he would be a candidate to play a five-technique position in a 3-4 defense
- Surprisingly elusive for a player of his size; tends to get into the backfield without too much physical contact
- Good change of direction ability
- Stout run defender
- A serious threat when rushing from the interior on passing downs
- Solid tackling form
- Doesn’t always get a good jump off the ball
- Though he regularly gets into the backfield, has trouble finishing the job and actually getting to the quarterback
- Not much of a power rusher, doesn’t take full advantage of his size and leverage
- Doesn’t have as much success rushing from the edge as he has from the interior
- Seems to take some plays off; slow getting out of his stance and will jog or walk it out
Martin really broke out as a senior, having by far his best statistical season and picking up 78 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 11 sacks and 14 quarterback hurries. His sack total was a pretty hefty increase over his previous high of four, which he registered during both his sophomore and junior seasons.
2014 Draft Projection: Late Second/Early Third Round