From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today, I’ll be profiling Troy LB Carlton Martial.
#2 Carlton Martial, LB, Troy – 5073, 210LBS
|Player||Ht/Wt||Hand Size||Arm Length||Wingspan|
|Carlton Martial||5073 210lbs||9 1/8||29 7/8||71 7/8|
|40-Yard Dash||10-Yard Dash||Short Shuttle||3-Cone|
|Broad Jump||Vertical||Bench Press|
— Stronger than his size profile would indicate
— Clearly possesses a high football IQ
— Natural instincts keep him in close proximity to the ball
— Sure tackler, usually wraps the feet of the ballcarrier
— Naturally keeps a low pad level, allowing him to win most one-on-one blocks with smaller players
— Has the athleticism to avoid the grasp of offensive linemen in the open field
— Fluid hips in coverage, reads the quarterback’s eyes well
— Not as fast as his size profile would indicate; is very undersized for the NFL
— Limited to a Will linebacker in an NFL defense
— Gets engulfed at the line of scrimmage, causing him to lose the ball carrier even if he isn’t blocked
— Wise and athletic offensive linemen will lay down on him if he attacks low on a block
— Block shedding techniques are wild, doesn’t use conventional technique to get away
— Will naturally struggle to cover tight ends one-on-one or in zone
— Not a prominent blitzer
— Birthday: April 11, 1999 (24 years old at the NFL Draft)
— Mobile, Alabama native
— Walked on at Troy in 2017, earned scholarship in 2018
— Five years of playing experience, 59 games played
— FBS All-Time leading tackler with 577
— Career Stats: 577 tackles, 50.5 for loss, 10.5 sacks, 6 interceptions, 8 forced fumbles, 2 recovered
— 2022 Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year
Carlton Martial is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s NFL Draft for those that dive into the Day 3 prospects. The FBS all-time leader in tackles measured in at just 5’7” at the Senior Bowl. That sentence shouldn’t be, but it’s the truth.
And when you flip on the tape and see that it’s not a complete fluke, it gets all the more interesting.
Martial is an overachiever; his size profile matched up with his production says that much clearly. He overachieves by understanding his limitations and working to overcome them on a down-by-down basis.
Keeping a low pad level is naturally easy for him, which is one of his biggest benefits when going for a tackle. His go-to attack style is to get to the runner’s legs, wrap them up together and lower his body weight to the turf. You’ll see him do that throughout the breakdown.
Getting to the ball carrier is going to be his biggest hurdle in the NFL. He has a handful of ways to avoid would-be blockers in the open field, usually by dipping under the initial punch. He’s not afraid to engage the block and scrape to make the play, though, as he does here against Ole Miss.
The danger for Martial, however, is that at his height he can lose his gap integrity and the ball carrier in the mess at the line of scrimmage. He doesn’t make a lot of plays in the backfield as a result.
That’s not to say he’s incapable, thanks to a high Football IQ. He reads and reacts to the play in front of him quickly, diagnosing and projecting himself toward the ball carrier naturally. See here against Western Kentucky as he reads this QB keeper and disrupts it in the backfield.
He’s not the hardest hitter, and he’s not a proficient blitzer. Still, he’s not afraid to mix it up within three yards of the line and attempt to shed blocks. What can happen to him, however, against a wiser offensive lineman is the blocker planting him on the ground once he dips down. He tends to avoid it, but it does happen, as it does here against Ole Miss.
As a result, it’s often better for him to use his athleticism as the Will linebacker and chase down with solid pursuit. Here’s an example of him weaving through the zone mess to reach the ball carrier for a modest gain against the Rebels.
You’d like to see him arrive at the ball carrier sooner here, attributing to one of his weaknesses that he isn’t the most explosive athlete. Still, he reads, reacts, chases and makes the play.
One final note on his run stopping ability: I watched three games and only counted two missed tackles, one of which resulted in the ball carrier being forced out of bounds. This one is the worrisome one for me. He gets low, but he doesn’t continue driving his feet and as a result, gets bowled over by the UTSA running back. It’s a rare occurrence, but NFL running backs can get this low, and it’s a noteworthy cause for concern.
In the passing game, Martial is serviceable. He intercepted at least one pass in each of his five playing seasons, three his freshman year, and knocked away 15 total passes. His body is comfortable in his drop into zone and he reads the quarterback’s eyes very well while keeping a sense of the route of his nearest receiver.
These next two clips against Western Kentucky display this. In the first clip, he’s dropping to a deep flat, reads the quarterback’s eyes and breaks back inside to break up the pass. In the second, he drops into a hook zone and takes advantage of an ill-advised throw, coming away with the interception.
He flips his hips well and mirrors the quarterback’s eyes well. He’s fairly solid in zone. He wasn’t called to do too much man coverage in the games I watched, and when he did, it was usually on a back headed to the flats. Not much to take away there.
It goes without saying, but Martial will absolutely struggle to cover tight ends, in man or zone. He has the linebacker’s disadvantage (speed) and the defensive back’s disadvantage (size) against tight ends, which puts him in a pretty precarious spot as a guy who can only play Will linebacker at the next level.
Here’s an example where he’s tight to the big tight end for UTSA in zone coverage, but with good ball placement from the quarterback, there’s no way he can make a difference on the play.
Carlton Martial is the Mightiest Mouse. For any team that takes a flyer on him in the NFL Draft, they know what they’re getting: a guy who’s going to give everything he has as a special teamer. The problem is, conventionally, he’s much too small to play Will linebacker on run downs and he’s much too small to cover tight ends on passing downs. Moreso, I didn’t see enough speed to convince me he could make a slow transition to strong safety at the next level either.
However, I’d caution anyone that doubts him. He’s proven everyone that’s ever doubted him wrong in the past, he’s prone to do it in the future. A large portion of this game is mental, and that part I don’t question about Martial whatsoever.
Still, I don’t think he’s an option for the Steelers unless they strictly want him for his special teams potential and sign him as an undrafted free agent – but even still, he wouldn’t be a viable option to compete with Mark Robinson and whichever off-ball linebackers that return to Pittsburgh or sign in free agency in the base or nickel schemes.
That said, a 4-3 team that feels very good about its Mike backer and has the capital to spend in the late 6th or 7th rounds would likely be intrigued to take a shot on him.
Projection: Late Day 3
Depot Grade: 6.5 (End of Roster/ Practice Squad)
Games Watched: Ole Miss ‘22, W. Kentucky ‘22, UTSA ‘22