Scouting Report: Blake Martinez Is Not A.J. Hawk
The Stanford linebackers currently in the NFL – Washington’s Trent Murphy, San Francisco’s Shayne Skov, and Buffalo’s A.J. Tarpley – reads like a ‘who’s who’ list of tackling specialists that Martinez is primed to join.
Blake Martinez’s nickname in college by his teammates was “Machinez.” The interior linebacker from Stanford was a tackling machine, recording 141 in his senior season. He led the Cardinal in tackles by a margin of over 80.
"You know you're going to get a tough, smart kid who's been well-coached for four years," NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said of Stanford players in the NFL Draft. "And they're not always 5-star players, but they come here and they get coached up and you know what you get when you draft a Stanford kid. And I think there's some power to that."
Martinez’s legendary work ethic
Martinez, a three-star high school tight end and linebacker, is not the biggest, fastest or strongest guy on the field. Or even in his position group. But, put everything together and sprinkle in his intangibles and you’ll discover why the Packers selected him in the fourth round of the NFL Draft.
"He's one of the most infectious leaders I've been around," Stanford teammate Ronnie Harris said. "He commands the front end and the back end of the defense."
Growing up in Tucson, Martinez was not initially offered a scholarship by his hometown Arizona Wildcats. Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State and Boise State all offered Martinez a scholarship, and he quickly committed to join the Cardinal. Being slighted during the scholarship process put a chip on Martinez’s shoulder, much like quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Stories from his past border on legendary:
- As a child, his first job was picking up nails with a magnet at his father’s construction sites.
- By age fourteen, Martinez was playing defensive line and weighed 265 – a full twenty pounds heavier than his combine weigh-in.
- He was a meticulous note taker during Stanford’s film sessions, estimating he had twelve notebooks filled through his senior year.
- His favorite hobby is playing strategy games, including Settlers of Catan, Risk, and Dota. Martinez will fit right in with the Packers’ avid Settlers of Catan culture.
- Martinez does not drink soda or alcohol or eat sweets. He told the Pac-12 Network last year that he hasn’t had a dessert in four years. (Here’s some advice, Blake: stay away from Culver’s.)
- Fellow Stanford teammate and Packers rookie tackle Kyle Murphy says of Martinez, “I’ve never seen him eat any bad food, drink anything bad.”
- Martinez’s mother predicted Green Bay would select Blake before the start of the NFL Draft.
If you were asked to describe the perfect student and teammate, you’d come up with something like that list. Blake Martinez will have no issues adopting the work ethic of an NFL player, because he is already operating with the work ethic of an NFL player.
Blake Martinez is not A.J. Hawk
The middle rounds of the NFL Draft have produced top-level linebackers in the past. Both rival Cal’s Hardy Nickerson and Texas Tech’s Zach Thomas were selected in the fifth round and compare favorably, either physically or intangibly.
Nickerson in particular is an apt comparison on paper to Martinez, despite their alma maters’ bitter rivalry. Both are similarly built, Nickerson at 6-2, 230 lbs and Martinez measured out at 6-2, 239 lbs. Nickerson led his Golden Bears in tackles when on the field by a wide margin, much like Martinez.
Zach Thomas was a full three inches shorter than Martinez when he was selected by the Miami Dolphins. A variety of scouting reports on Blake Martinez compared his intangibles to those of the legendary Thomas. Phrases like “nose for the football” and “tackling machine” show up regularly.
Stanford coach David Shaw still remembers the very first time he saw Martinez play. “The first time I saw him in a drill — plant and drive and initiate contact with another human being — I said, ‘This is the middle linebacker. This is the guy.’”
Green Bay fans will be quick to compare Martinez to long-time middle linebacker A.J. Hawk. While the two share a number – Martinez will wear the number 50 for the Packers – the similarities end there.
"They gave me like 12 options and I was just kind of going through it and not really thinking the No. 50 and I was like, '50's a great number,'" Martinez said of his jersey number choice. "Then all of a sudden, everybody's like, 'Oh, you've got A.J. Hawk's number.' I was like, 'Ohhhh, yep, here we go.'”
Hawk’s 2006 NFL Draft scouting report from CBS Sports describes him as having “explosive range out of the box,” “impressive weight room totals,” and “a quick, controlled backpedal.” At the combine, Hawk ran a 4.53 in the 40-yard dash. The majority of Hawk’s scouting reports praise his pass coverage.
Martinez joins the Packers with a different skill set. The NFL.com scouting report calls Martinez a “productive tackler,” with “slow twitch with borderline play speed.” CBS Sports scouts criticized Martinez, saying he “too often catches ballcarriers and falls backwards rather than driving through his target.” At the combine, Martinez ran a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash. Scouting reports focus more on Martinez’s run stopping abilities.
Martinez’s role in Green Bay
Blake Martinez continues the trend of interior linebackers selected by the Packers in the fourth round. For the past two seasons, the Packers have taken Arizona State’s Carl Bradford (originally an outside linebacker and moved inside last year) and Michigan’s Jake Ryan in the very same round.
Any fan who has watched HBO’s wonderful Hard Knocks documentaries, which follows an NFL team during training camp, knows the best way for a rookie to see the field is by performing on special teams. It’s as if covering and blocking on kicks and punts is a right of passage for those who wish to see snaps on offense or defense.
Most recruits at high profile programs like Stanford redshirt their freshman year. Martinez was one of the rare freshmen who did not. A contributor in all four years, teammates raved about his ability on special teams. There is no doubt the Packers will expect Martinez to contribute in this area.
It’s been a few years since the Packers have had steady, consistent production from the interior linebacker position. As a result, defensive coordinator Dom Capers has had to creatively use superstar Clay Matthews at both inside and outside linebacker. Martinez’s shortcomings can be disguised in Green Bay’s 3-4 scheme, much like they were at Stanford. A strong showing from Martinez inside can free Matthews to continue his relentless pursuit of the quarterback.
Capers has famously avoided playing rookies throughout his career as a defensive coordinator. However, given the way general manager Ted Thompson builds his roster with undrafted free agents and a general avoidance of free agency, Capers has had to evolve and grant playing time to rookies.
Martinez’s rookie year could compare favorably to last year’s rookie linebacker Jake Ryan. Ryan was expected by many to be an immediate contributor on defense. After incumbent starter Sam Barrington was lost for the season in week one, many thought Ryan would take his place. In the following four weeks, Ryan saw six defensive snaps. Of his 260 snaps at linebacker in his rookie year, 83% came in the second half of the season.