With Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel watching from the green room, the Dallas Cowboys chose to help out their veteran quarterback instead, selecting offensive lineman Zack Martin out of Notre Dame with the 16th pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.
The Cowboys are off the clock, and right tackle Doug Free is on it. The veteran is entering the final year of his contract and will be a free agent in 2015. Martin is sure to push for the starting role at right tackle in camp this year, and he also has position flex to challenge the existing Cowboys guards Ron Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau.
Ever since head coach Jason Garrett became a principal in the war room in 2011, the Cowboys have used their first-round pick to address a position of immediate need. They drafted tackle Tyron Smith in 2011, when they returned only two starting offensive linemen; they drafted cornerback Morris Claiborne in 2012 after losing three corners in the offseason; they drafted center Travis Frederick in 2013, after a dismal showing by the entire interior offensive line the year before.
With the offensive line playing pretty well down the stretch in 2013, and the Cowboys returning all five starters, the Martin pick breaks a three-year pattern of using first round picks on immediate needs. Perhaps the value was too great to ignore. Few mocks had Martin slipping as far as the Cowboys at pick 16. Martin played mostly tackle while at Notre Dame, but CBS Sports ranked Martin the top offensive guard in the draft
Here is the scouting report on the newest Dallas Cowboy:
STRENGTHS: Very good at keeping his feet underneath him while keeping his butt low to handle both speed and power. He does play with good quickness (but not explosiveness) off the snap, showing knee bend and core strength to anchor, as well as the lateral agility to mirror more athletic defenders. He also shows better athleticism than you might think when blocking on the move, demonstrating above average straight-line speed to get to the second level, as well as the nastiness to bury his target into the ground.
WEAKNESSES: With less than ideal length and lateral range, Martin’s NFL future may lie inside at guard, where he never played in college. The move to guard is necessary because Martin does not possess great height, arm length or foot speed. He chucks his way back (rather than sliding) for an effective if not aesthetically-pleasing form of pass protection.
COMPARIES TO: Logan Mankins, OG, New England Patriots – Mankins has been one of the NFL’s most valuable offensive linemen since being selected by New England in the first round of the 2005 draft, and has anchored the Patriots’ front line with top-notch instincts, toughness and versatility despite lacking elite athleticism. Martin exhibits many of the same traits, and should draw first-round consideration.