Sometimes, the pundits are right.
The Dolphins’ interest in Zack Martin is one of those cases.
A slew of mock drafts have the Dolphins taking Martin, a versatile offensive lineman from Notre Dame, with the 19th overall pick.
The thinking: Miami still has two holes on the offensive line; Martin would fill one of them, allowing the team to take either a guard or tackle later in the draft. (Most likely, Martin would play right tackle in Miami, however.)
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Now, most of the time, these make-believe drafts are more educated guesswork than anything else. But the reality is, the Dolphins would be ecstatic if they were right.
Although the Dolphins, as one scout put it, would “fall all over themselves” if Michigan’s Taylor Lewan somehow slipped to them, multiple sources in the know firmly believe Martin is the team’s first-round target on May 8.
But will he be there when the Dolphins pick at 19? ESPN’s Mel Kiper last week said no. The Giants, Rams and Ravens all pick ahead of the Dolphins. They all have needs at the position.
“He can go anywhere in the top 17,” Kiper said.
“What helps Martin is that he can play left tackle, right tackle or guard. He’s been out there for 50-plus games.
“The kid is a reliable, consistent player,” Kiper added. “He will come in right away and help you. He’s a safe pick.”
So who is Zack Martin? The 6-4, 308-pound tactician is actually older than most of his contemporaries.
Martin, 23, redshirted his first year at Notre Dame and then exhausted his eligibility.
He played his final year as a graduate student, earning his degree in management entrepreneurship the previous spring.
Martin was wise to return for his fifth season.
He was informed after his junior year that he would be a second- to fourth-round pick if he came out then, Martin told reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine.
By sticking around for one more year, he likely made himself hundreds of thousands of dollars in guarantees alone.
In all, the Indianapolis native started 52 games for the Irish, most ever by a Notre Dame lineman, and was on the Sun Life Stadium field for the team’s BCS Championship Game loss to Alabama in January 2013.
His final season ended far better; Martin was named the Pinstripe Bowl’s MVP in December — the first time any offensive lineman took home such an honor in a bowl game since 1959.
Irish coach Brian Kelly called Martin the best lineman he has ever coached — a long, accomplished list that includes three-time All-Pro Joe Staley.
“I don’t know if Coach was in the moment, but he’s coached some good ones,” Martin told the Miami Herald at the Senior Bowl.
“The biggest thing is the team could count on me. The team knew I was dependable, knew I was going to be out there.”
Martin said he would be happy to play either tackle or guard in the NFL, but was a bit bemused over the fact that if his arms were just an inch longer, he would be a slam-dunk tackle and a possible top-five pick.
“I know people put stock in it,” Martin said.
“I don’t put much stock in it. My philosophy is, if you can play, you can play.”
The Dolphins certainly believe he can — but might not get a chance to have him play for them.
And if he and Lewan are off the board as Kiper expects, don’t expect them to just take the next best lineman.
Sources say Miami has first-round grades on just five tackles: Martin, Lewan, Jake Matthews (Texas A&M), Greg Robinson (Auburn) and Ja’Wuan James (Tennessee).
In their eyes, there’s a drop-off to the next level, which includes Virginia’s Morgan Moses.
The Dolphins will not spend a first-round pick on Alabama’s Cyrus Kouandjio, whose injury red flags have the team concerned.
Martin, who never missed a game because of injury in his college career, has no such issues.