North Carolina has an impressive tradition of athletes and that has really shown up in its defensive linemen. The next in that line is Kareem Martin, another impressive athlete who has been able to have a productive senior year for the Tar Heels. The Tar Heels have used him all over their defensive line from a traditional defensive end to playing a 4-technique head up over the tackle to a 5-technique to playing a 3-technique defensive tackle in situations. They constantly moved him around and allowed him to be a mismatch, stop the run and find ways to harass opposing quarterbacks. Martin had some big games this year with his sacks coming in bunches.
Going to the NFL, Martin is a player who flashes greatness but is inconsistent. He has tremendous length, athleticism and functional strength for the position and has shown he can be a dynamic pass rushing threat from a number of different spots as well as showing good fundamentals in the running game. In what appears to be a combination of stamina and motor, Martin can show some underwhelming effort where he gets taken out of plays too easily and is trying to catch his breath. Much of the work Martin needs to do is in getting more consistent with his pad level, but if he can just use the talent he has in a larger percentage of snaps, teams will get a nice player. Martin projects as a top 100 pick because of his athletic upside and looks like a rotational defensive end early where he can always play at a higher effort level, but there is certainly the ability to develop into a starter and big time contributor.
Vitals & Build
Martin is listed at 6’6” 265lbs and really looks the part for his position. He has a long, lean build with solid functional strength. Martin demonstrates impressive quick twitch movement skills, a good burst and solid overall speed. At times, he can appear stiff and have some trouble bending. His motor and stamina are questions as there are times when he is as dynamic an athlete as there is on the field but too often he just looks exhausted or giving up on plays too early. Martin still has substantial room on his frame to continue adding strength and while he can gain a ton of weight, where he ultimately tops out will depend largely on what position and scheme he plays. He looks like he could get to 275lbs without losing a thing athletically.
Snap Anticipation & First Step
Martin does a nice job anticipating the snap and getting a nice release into the play on a pretty consistent basis. He has a solid first step and is able to cover a decent amount of ground as he fires off of the ball.
The big issue for Martin is how often he ends up standing up out of his stance. In addition to the fact that he makes himself far easier to block with how tall he is already, he wastes a lot of energy going up instead of going forward. The times he is able to fire out lower, he has a great burst, natural leverage and more momentum. Martin really needs to try to eliminate the times where he stands up out of his stance. This becomes a bigger problem when he is tired and he ends up standing up without really going anywhere.
Martin can really do a nice job when it comes to using his arm length and power to keep opponents out of his body and then throwing them out of his way. He has shown he can do a nice job in winning with his hands, even though he does not necessarily do it with a number of nuanced moves. Martin just tends to grab opponents and move them out of his way. He is extremely proactive with his play and does everything to take the action to his opponent as opposed to the other way around.
Martin can do a nice job using his hands and extending his arms to keep opponents out of his body. He can do a great job of controlling opponents while filling his gap and then diagnosing the play and reacting accordingly. Martin has the strength where he can hold his ground while reading the play with the ability to occasionally collapse the pocket.
Pad level proves to a huge key with Martin in the running game. When he comes out too high, not only is he at a disadvantage with his power, but often he is tall with a narrow base, so opponents can make him lose his balance and get him out of the play. When he plays low, he has a good base and excellent power that allows him to stack and shed opponents, disrupt plays and make tackles.
When Martin is fresh and his motor is running, he has the ability to chase down plays from behind, the ability to slide down the line of scrimmage and the burst to get through the line of scrimmage and blow up plays they get started. The times where he is tired or just not going all out, he plays too high, gets pushed out of the way or put on skates and does not do much when it comes to supporting plays from behind.
Everything about Martin depends on how much energy he is playing with on a given play when it comes to his ability to rush the passer. When he wants to be, he shows great burst off of the edge, the ability to work the corner, shed blocks and can has good closing speed. Martin has shown the ability to create separation with his hands, the ability to push pull, and has shown an effective bull rush.
Martin can do a solid job of bending at the angle, uses his arms to attack the shoulder of the opponent, turning his body to square to the quarterback as he works around the edge, putting him in a great position to make the sack when he is in reach. He is not afraid to attack inside or right at the opponent. Martin shows the ability to be a dynamic pass rusher who can be a huge threat to get to the quarterback and secure the sack.
Too often he is lethargic looking and either tired or the effort is not there. In these situations, he tends to come out too high, allowing opponents to get their hands into him, control him and stop his momentum early. When that happens, Martin will just roll with it and start looking to cut off scrambling angles and try to knock down passes in an effort to catch his breath.
Martin has great burst and he can lull quarterbacks into a false sense of security when he is being blocked and they are rolling out in the pocket. There have been a number of examples where he looks contained, but has his arms extended on the tackle and shows explosion to close on the quarterback almost instantly.
Martin can play defensive end on either side of the defensive line but he seems more suited to be a full time power end. There is no question he can rush the passer, but he has a great build and skill set to help lock down the running game. His length and athleticism make him a nice pass rusher on that side as well. Ultimately, he could see time at both spots and be fine at either one.
Martin could also get some looks as a 5-technique defensive end. He needs to add more weight to do it, but that should not be a real issue. His length and ability to hold up against the run as well as his athleticism make him an intriguing player for that scheme and he has experience lining up in that spot within the Tar Heel defensive scheme as well playing a rush tackle.
In a number of ways, Martin resembles Mathias Kiwanuka of the New York Giants. Kiwanuka has the same kind of length as Martin coming out of Boston College with the ability to put up some big games, but was not a consistent player. As a member of the Giants, Kiwanuka had not put up flashy number but has just been a productive player that has been effective part of the rotation and the ability to help out at a few different spots on their defense.
Kareem Martin at his best is one of the more impressive players in the country. He has shown he can be a terrific run stopper and pass rusher with the ability to take advantage of his arm length, stack and shed and can create penetration. The issue with Martin is his motor, stamina and ability to be consistent. He can also work to improve his pad level and how he comes out of his stance. If a team can just get more of those high level plays out of Martin, he can be a good player for a long time. Martin projects as a top 100 pick because of what he can do now in addition to his upside, looking like a player who should be a nice asset in a rotation initially, but could develop into an effective starting defensive end.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com