A depthless defensive front seven and offensive line really showed during the 2015 season for the Green Bay Packers and they addressed that situation in the 2016 draft. One player in particular that they drafted was inside linebacker Blake Martinez from Stanford with the 131st pick, which came late in the fourth round.
Who is Blake Martinez and What Does He Bring for the Packers?
Standing at a solid 6 feet and 2 inches and weighing at 240 pounds, saying Martinez was a standout in his college days at Stanford would be an understatement. In his 2015 campaign with the Cardinal he led the Pac-12 with 141 tackles and 10 tackles per game. In fact, his 141 is 84 more tackles than the next leading tackler on the team. Because of that, along with 6.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, and two forced turnovers, Martinez earned All-American honors and was named first-team all-Pac-12.
Martinez fills a significant need of the Packers as they were lacking at the inside linebacker position; even at times resorting to starting Clay Matthews at the inside and rookie Jake Ryan. The pick of Martinez should facilitate the move of Matthews back to the outside, where he is one of the best pass rushers in the league. With Mathews and veteran Julius Peppers on the outside the Packers should have decent depth with a healthy Sam Barrington and Jake Ryan.
Along with his solid physique, Martinez was known in the draft for being a physical, productive, downhill tackler in the middle. He is also known to be a business-minded machine against the run being able to plug gaps and back-side cutback lanes. This is good news for the Packers as they had trouble stopping the run last year, giving up 119 rushing yards a game and a lot of that was due to missed tackles from the linebacker position. In his 2015 season, Martinez also showed his ability to work in man coverage, being quick to close out throws and limiting yards after the catch. If he doesn’t start in the first game of the season, fans will see him as he offers instant special team value because of his skill of tackling along with his ability to easily find the ball.
If he led the Pac 12 in tackling and has the size to be an NFL linebacker, why did he drop to the fourth round? Leading up to the draft a lot of scouts were concerned about his speed. This is a very interesting concern because he ran a 4.71 40 time at the combine, which isn’t very fast but it is far from being atrociously slow. It’s actually a solid speed for an NFL linebacker, even though many teams in today’s era are looking for quicker players on defense. This is also an interesting concern because the scouts praised him on his ability to tackle and find the ball. Another interesting concern is that he has slow hands when it comes to jabbing and separating from offensive linemen. This is interesting because the scouts praised him on how physical and powerful he his, with his heavy hands at the point of his attack. A big concern that he has is that he is easily fooled into vacating his positioning by play-action. What makes it more problematic is he doesn’t have the reactive athleticism to quickly recover back into his duties after being fooled into the fake, if it’s blitzing or more importantly covering. Another big concern, but maybe less so of the Packers because of the presence of Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers and potentially Kenny Clark, is that he isn’t a serious blitzing threat. Lastly, because he only did some coverage at Stanford during his senior year he is an average zone coverage guy and his situational awareness needs work.
The Bottom Line
Blake Martinez is a throwback linebacker with his size and tackling ability. Unfortunately, the league covets speed over power in today’s game. He has all the potential in the world and he’s the perfect project for the Packers to develop into an every game starter because he has that power and tackling ability.