Back in February, the Green Bay Packers released offensive lineman Greg Van Roten.
In an interview with ESPN.com, Van Roten's agent, Bill Baldini is quoted as saying, “I spoke to them, and they felt like they wanted to get bigger.”
The Packers' running game finally became an effective weapon this past season with the emergence of Eddie Lacy, and if they want that trend to continue, maybe they'll try to get bigger and pursue a player like USC center Marcus Martin in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Martin is the second-ranked center in this year's draft class, according to NFLDraftScout.com, and the 75th rated player overall.
With the starting center position up for grabs this offseason, the Packers could consider selecting one as high as the second or third round. To do so, however, they'd have to break tradition. Directing nine drafts as Green Bay's general manager, Ted Thompson has never selected a true center.
Relatively speaking, Martin is inexperienced as a center with only one year at the position under his belt—but what a year it was. After playing left guard his first two years at USC, Martin started all 13 regular season games for the Trojans in 2013 and ended up being named first-team All-Pac 12.
"I was really focused and concentrated on developing my game, learning how to snap, trying to understand our offensive scheme as best as possible," said Martin at the NFL Combine. "And it was something that played a pivotal role with me being successful this year at center."
The results were so good, Martin decided to forego his senior season and declared for the NFL Draft as an underclassman.
At 6' 3" and 320 lbs., Martin is bigger than the Packers are accustomed to at center. Their past three starters at the position—Scott Wells, Jeff Saturday and Evan Dietrich-Smith—each hovered around 6' 2" and 300 lbs.
Now that Dietrich-Smith left the Packers for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency, quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be on his fourth different center in four seasons.
Last year's fourth round draft choice, J.C. Tretter, figures to be among the top candidates to land the open gig, but head coach Mike McCarthy wouldn't rule out other candidates at last month's NFL Owners Meeting, including Don Barclay and T.J. Lang.
Despite his limited experience, Martin would prefer not to sit behind another player for a season.
"I wouldn’t say it would be disappointing," said Martin. "It would be a great learning experience and an opportunity for me to soak up the offense and really assimilate into the team and get to know the coaching staff and things like that. I would like to come in and take a starting job."
First things first for Martin, he has to put his recent injury issues behind him. In USC's final regular season game against rival UCLA, Martin both dislocated his kneecap and had a high-ankle sprain that prevented him from playing in the Trojans' bowl game.
At the NFL Combine, Martin was limited to participating strictly in the bench press (23 repetitions), and while he was able to run the 40-yard dash (5.22 seconds per NFL.com) at his university's pro day, he still was not able to take part in broad jump or three-cone drill.
Martin, however, is no stranger to adversity, having been part of a USC team that fired head coach Lane Kiffin at mid-season last year.
"Learning from my coaching situation is, you gotta persevere," said Martin. "No matter who the coach is, you gotta overcome. Things happen. You have to understand as a team and an individual. As a leader, you have to convey that across to the offensive line and the rest of your team. You have to learn how to pick up the slack and keep the ball rolling."
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email [email protected].
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