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Player Profile #1: Markelle Martin, Free Safety

The off-season brings the same thing for the Baltimore Ravens as it does every other NFL franchise: planning for the future. This means looking at rosters, lots of X’s and O’s (although not so much of the "O’s" around these parts if you catch my drift) and projecting future NFL players straight down to the grades they received on their finger-paintings in Pre-K.

In all seriousness though, projecting future NFL stars has become big business and is a huge part of professional football nowadays. And there’s good reason for all of the hoopla: Some of these future NFL’ers could be the next all time greats. That’s what makes the NFL draft so exciting. Maybe within this draft lies the next Peyton Manning or the next Ray Lewis. It’s a lot like Christmas morning; you don’t know exactly what you’re getting because you haven’t unwrapped it yet, but you have an idea what it could be from snooping around the house and taking a look at the shape and size of the gift, however all you do know is that you hope it turns out as great as you think it will.

I thought with this series that I would focus on some of the "under the radar" college players that might fall into the later rounds, and if lucky enough, maybe fall to the Baltimore Ravens.

Markelle Martin is a Free Safety out of Oklahoma State University. Currently, he is either the #1 or #2 ranked Safety in the upcoming 2012 NFL Draft depending on who you ask or where you look, but the general consensus is that he will be plucked off the board sometime in the 2nd round behind fellow draftee, Alabama’s Strong Safety: Mark Barron, who is projected to be chosen towards the end of the 1st round. Here are some numbers on Martin:

Height: 6 ft. 1 in. / Weight: 203 lbs / High 40 yd dash: 4.58 seconds / Low 40 yd. dash: 4.38 seconds

Markelle Martin combines phenomenal athlesticism, with brute force. Typically, he is playing center-field and relies on his quickness to get to the ball, but does not hold up well in run support. Since this is the case, his place in the Ravens’ defense would be clear: learning from the best in the business, Ed Reed. In the Ravens’ defense it’s rare that the Free Safety will come up in run support with the Strong Safety taking most of those duties. The fact that Martin relies on football smarts with elite speed makes me wonder if he could be a candidate to take over once future Hall of Fame inductee, Ed Reed, decides to hang ‘em up because the two sound very similar at the core of how they approach the game: football smart, reading offenses and trusting instincts and athleticism.

Here are some of the things I took away from watching a little bit of film on Martin:

- He doesn’t shy away from contact and will put big hits on ball carriers, but his tackling isn’t extremely sound. Instead of wrapping up, sometimes he’ll go for the K.O.

- Against the run, he doesn’t seem comfortable at bringing down the ball runners and occasionally his iffy tackling will lead to a few extra yards gained. Instead of squaring up and bringing down the ball carrier he tries to knock them to the ground.

- He definitely breaks on the ball quick, and that might be an understatement. He seems like the kind of player that a QB wouldn’t want to test repeatedly.

- He’s versatile. I’ve seen him pick up man coverage, one-on-one situations as well as blitz off the edge.

- He’s great at reading what the offense is doing and making his break before the offense does. He has immense speed out of the backfield coming down to break up plays.

The time may be coming where the Ravens have to, at the very least, consider trying to find a suitable replacement for Ed Reed. Frankly though, that's a pretty impractical task. Replacing an all-time great like Ed Reed or Ray Lewis is virtually impossible. These are players that come along once in a generation. However, I am high on Markelle Martin and am hopeful that he may become a Raven.

For more information on Martin, please see this link.