Nick Martin: Atlanta Falcons draft profile

Nick Martin anchored the Notre Dame Fighting Irish offensive line the last few seasons. Will the Atlanta Falcons draft him at No. 50 in the 2016 NFL Draft?

The Atlanta Falcons definitely have some areas on their football team that need improvement, most of which are on the interior of either side of the football. While Atlanta will likely target either an inside linebacker, a defensive tackle, or maybe even a free safety, will the Falcons look for an upgrade over Mike Person at center in the second round?

The first name to consider when thinking about drafting a center in the 2016 NFL Draft is Notre Dame’s redshirt senior Nick Martin. Martin is 6’4″, 295 pounds and has played in several big games over the years for the Irish.

It also helps that his older brother is Dallas Cowboys offensive guard Zack Martin, playing on arguably the most talented offensive line in football with center Travis Frederick and left tackle Tyron Smith, among others.

Atlanta vastly overachieved on the offensive line in 2015 in offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan‘s zone blocking scheme. Offensive line coach Chris Morgan had a tough job of replacing one of the best in the league in Mike Tice, but did a marvelous job in year one in Atlanta, being named Pro Football Focus’ offensive line coach of 2015.

While Atlanta had the No. 4 overall graded offensive line in football according to Pro Football Focus, it did have its issue on the interior, especially at center. Atlanta opted to move on from 2013-14 starter Joe Hawley in favor of going with former reserve guard in Mike Person, most notably of the then St. Louis Rams.

After suffering an ankle injury during the Atlanta Falcons’ thrilling overtime victory against the Washington Redskins in Week 5, Person’s play regressed considerably, making center a primary need for the Falcons front office to address either in free agency or the NFL Draft.

It is rare to get fired up like head coach Dan Quinn certainly can over the idea of upgrading at center, but I haven’t been this impressed by a center in the college game since Weston Richburg of the Colorado State Rams, who went in the second round, No. 43 overall, to the New York Giants in the 2014 NFL Draft. Nick Martin seems like the real deal at center as he enters the 2016 NFL Draft.

Expect the Atlanta Falcons to stand as one of the teams that will actively interview Nick Martin during the draft process. They will want to know how similar of a player his is to his older brother Zack and if his big frame will fit in nicely in Kyle Shanahan’s zone blocking scheme. At 6’4″, 295 lbs., it seems that Nick Martin compares favorably to both Hawley (6’3″, 302 lbs.) and Person (6’4″, 299 lbs.).

While selecting a center in the second round would some like reaching to some, keep in mind that the Atlanta Falcons’ need for one and Nick Martin’s pedigree and big game experience may end up making him the first choice for the Atlanta Falcons in the second round, assuming that he is available at No. 50 of course.

Should Martin be available at No. 50, Atlanta would have to have a pretty good reason not to select the starting center out of Notre Dame with that draft selection. Improving the interior of the offensive line will allow both the running game and the passing game of the Atlanta Falcons to really take off in the second season of Kyle Shanahan’s West Coast system.

Obviously the NFL’s Scouting Combine and Notre Dame’s Pro Day will either inflate or deflate Nick Martin’s draft stock. However if the NFL Draft were to occur this week, it’s hard for me to get my head around the Atlanta Falcons not picking Nick Martin in the second round to help upgrade their offensive line, becoming a building block up front alongside left tackle Jake Matthews and right tackle Ryan Schraeder.