Kareem Martin | 6'6, 265 pounds | Defensive end | North Carolina
2012 stats: 40 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, eight quarterback hurries
At first glance, North Carolina defensive end Kareem Martin has the look of a starting 4-3 defensive end in the NFL. He has a pro-ready frame, a good amount of athleticism and quickness.
But Martin doesn't always have it locked on. While he had 15.5 tackles for loss last season, he had just four sacks. While it's true college sack number don't equate to NFL success, it would help Martin if he finished more plays off. He's athletic, but doesn't have quite the same athletic upside as someone like Dion Jordan or Ezekiel Ansah. And in the NFL Draft, the ceiling on potential could be the difference between the first and second rounds (or worse).
Because of that ceiling, it could be crucial for Martin to show better production this season.
What he does well:
Although it didn't necessarily equate to sack numbers, Martin has an optimal first step. For a defensive end at 260-plus pounds, he shows a good burst off the line. Maybe just as importantly, he shows the flexibility to bend and dip around the outside.
North Carolina likes to switch up its defensive front, thanks some to Martin's versatility. He can play the left and right side, though he's most often lined up on the right in four-man fronts. He plays end when North Carolina moves into a three-man front, and will occasionally kick inside to tackle.
In the run game, Martin excels at backside pursuit. Working unimpeded to the ball carrier, Martin shows nice speed to track down the runner. He's a sure tackler once he gets his hands on the ball carrier. Martin shows good effort. He hustles when the play is going away from him and keeps his legs moving when blocked.
What he needs to improve on:
At his size, you wouldn't expect Martin to have too much trouble with power. But he does. He's not the type of defensive end that can drive linemen backward. When a lineman locks into his frame, Martin can be stonewalled. If for no other reason, Martin's strength issues are why his sack numbers have been so low. When he doesn't win with his initial speed move, he doesn't have the power to follow through on a secondary technique.
The strength issue also shows itself in the running game. When a play is coming in Martin's direction, he struggles to slip off blockers and make a play. At times he'll stand up to locate the ball and that neutralizes his strength even further.
Martin is intriguing as a pass rushing prospect because he has one absolutely known trait: a quick first move. For a pass rusher, it's an essential. But this season, Martin needs to start showing the ability convert that quickness and speed into power. If he does that, he's a top 64 pick. If he doesn't, he could drop in the draft like Damontre Moore or Sam Montgomery did this year. Martin is similar to those two in that on paper he has the frame and athleticism. But on the field, he's not consistently putting it together and finishing on key plays.