Going into the 2016 NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers needed to get an inside linebacker, especially one that is strong in coverage. And with the selection of Stanford’s Blake Martinez, the Packers filled that need.
In the fourth round of the 2015 draft, the Packers selected Michigan linebacker Jake Ryan. And in his rookie season, Ryan showed plenty of promise. However, coverage isn’t his strong suit, but thankfully, it’s an area where Martinez excels.
According to Pro Football Focus, Martinez had their highest coverage grade of any linebacker in the draft and during his past two seasons at Stanford, Martinez intercepted four passes. He also notched six pass breakups in 2015.
However, Martinez can do much more than cover. He’s athletic and rangy and he’s good against the run too. In fact, last season, he finished with 138 tackles, seven tackles for loss and two sacks. His career numbers are also stellar with 255 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, six sacks, five interceptions and five forced fumbles.
While Martinez may not the run the fastest 40 time, he makes up for it with his incredible football instincts. He has a clear nose for the football and sometimes, guys just have a sixth sense about finding the ball and being able to make plays around it.
With Ryan already in the fold, along with Sam Barrington, who started for the Packers in 2014 and played well, but missed all of last season due to injury, Green Bay should be set with Martinez joining the depth chart.
The rookie from Stanford might not be able to crack the starting lineup in Week 1, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he saw some snaps in sub packages right away. Of course, he will have to earn those opportunities in training camp and the preseason, but there is no doubt that the Packers are excited about him.
Here’s what team executive Elliot Wolf had to say following the draft about Green Bay’s newest linebacker:
“I like everything about him,” Eliot Wolf said. “He’s athletic…He played big time football at Stanford. He can cover. He can blitz…he’s a pretty versatile guy. He can bend. He can change direction. I don’t see coverage being an issue with him at all.”
Martinez’s impact on the defense could be two-fold. For one, he can help solidify the inside linebacker spot, especially when it comes to coverage. And if he can do so, it would allow Clay Matthews to move back to outside linebacker on a more full-time basis, which can only mean good things for the pass rush and the defense as whole.
So while the Packers may not have selected an inside linebacker early in the draft, they still found one in Martinez, who has a great chance to make an impact immediately.