The NFL Draft isn’t just about optimism and speculation, there’s also a slightly cruel element that reminds us how disposable these athletes are to the organizations that spend every day stacking cash on top of gold bullion on top of Apple stock. The 49ers took running back Carlos Hyde in the second round, a signal to every running back on the roster that they are imminently replaceable.
The 49ers’ first third round pick (70th overall) was the last guy in the green room, Marcus Martin. Martin, 20, is a 6’3″, 320 center from USC with the ability to move to guard. “This was the No. 1 center on my board. This is a big-bodied kid who fits exactly what San Francisco is … a big, powerful, run-the-football kind of team,” said Mike Mayock. If it’s true that he’ll fit right in, that’s great news for the 49ers and bad news for Daniel Kilgore. And fans who hoped the team would keep Mike Iupati as long as it looks like they’ll employ Anthony Davis.
It appeared Kilgore was handed the starting center spot when the 49ers decided against re-signing Jonathan Goodwin. Now Kilgore has competition in the form of a player who’s a little bigger and was drafted two rounds earlier. Kilgore has a three-year head start on learning the offense, but if he needed any extra motivation this offseason he received it today.
Iupati is an established starter, one of the more well-respected left guards in the league. Motivation isn’t the problem for Iupati, who’s entering a contract year. It’s health. Iupati is still recovering from the broken ankle he sustained in the NFC Championship Game, and has suffered a lot of nicks and bruises over the years. With so many players coming up on possible extensions, I question whether the 49ers prioritize the guard position enough to give Iupati a lucrative extension.
However, Martin is another 49ers draft day special — a guy who is dealing with injury concerns of his own. He dislocated his left kneecap and suffered a high ankle sprain against UCLA that knocked him out of the Las Vegas Bowl. He didn’t perform any drills at the combine due to his left knee injury.
“My knee and ankle are 100 percent, and yes I am healthy enough to play right now,” Martin in his introductory press conference. He apparently grew up a 49ers fan, too.
“I had some bias to the 49ers growing up as a little kid. It’s my mother’s favorite team as well.”
Martin scouting reports
DRAFT PROJECTION Rounds 2-3
BOTTOM LINE Outstanding-sized, barrel-chested finesse pivot with center-guard versatility. Grades out highly as a position-sustain blocker and possesses untappped strength and power in his body. Lacks desirable grit, toughness and finishing strength to maximize his talent and is stronger than he plays. Has instant-starter potential as a center or right guard, but could stand to benefit from some time to be groomed.
COMPARES TO: Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns — Mack was among the more polished and talented centers in recent history when he left Cal and was selected by the Browns with the 21st overall pick of the 2009 draft. Martin isn’t yet at this stage but his upside is clear, as is his grit and physicality. With dedication to his craft, Martin could emerge as a quality starter in the NFL.
Player Comparison: Jonathan Goodwin. Martin is nearly indentical in size to Goodwin (6-3, 318), and they have similar styles of play. Both are athletic and quick for centers with plus size. They are heavy centers, yet move well and are able to get to blocks on the second level. Goodwin has had a good career with the Saints and 49ers after being a fifth-round pick by the Jets in 2002 out of Michigan. Martin will probably go a round or two higher, but in the NFL, I could see Martin being a quality center similar to Goodwin.