Pro Day Tour '14: Centers of Attention II

At USC's pro day on Wednesday, the noteworthy performer was Trojans standout Marcus Martin. The three-year center might be the best center in this year's draft. Plus, a talented safety showed his skills.

From the Green Bay Packers' perspective, the key players at USC's pro day on Wednesday were center Marcus Martin and safety Dion Bailey.

The Packers might need a center, depending on the free-agent fate of Evan Dietrich-Smith. Martin and Colorado State's Weston Richburg are jockeying to be the first center off the board.

Other than the bench press, Martin didn't test at the Scouting Combine after sustaining a disclocated a knee cap and high-ankle sprain on Nov. 30 against UCLA. On Wednesday, Martin (6-3, 318) ran his 40-yard dash in 5.35 seconds with a 22.5-inch vertical. The 40 time would have ranked among the slowest of the centers at the Combine and his vertical would have been among the worst among all players.

The NFL, of course, isn't a track meet. And that's especially true at center.

"I always say, more than anything, throw out the Combine, throw out pro day and sit and watch film when it comes to interior blockers," the NFL's longtime head scout, Dave-Te Thomas, said. "Center and guards look like construction workers that were made trying to combine a Krispy Kreme into a Subway sandwich. You know any pretty-boy centers in your life? Me? Give me an ornery Olin Kruetz/Tim Grunhard eat-glass-for-breakfast-type center any day. Besides, fancy-pants athletic centers end up being NFL guards. Martin is the best center."

Martin, an early entrant in this year's draft, started at left guard as a freshman and sophomore. He moved to center in 2013, was named a team captain and captured first-team all-Pac-12 honors with his 119 knockdown blocks.

"The wide-bodied drive blocker has shown that he is quite effective using that massive wing span (82 3/8 inches) to wall off and seal defenders, along with displaying the loose hips needed to get out in front on traps and pulls," reads his bio in Thomas' NFL Draft Report. "Martin is quite nimble stalking defenders when working in the second level. He is a smart, alert player who does a nice job of keeping his head on a swivel and hands active to stave off the blitz and bull rush maneuvers. As a pass protector, he has the low pad level and strong anchor to keep his opponents away from the pocket and with his thick thighs and calves, proved he is highly capable of winning battles with a nose guard lined up over his head."

With the free-agent crop of safeties practically wiped clean, the Packers will enter the draft with a dire need at safety. One intriguing possibility beyond the top tier of performers is Bailey (6-0, 201). He ran in 4.66 with a 34-inch vertical leap at the Scouting Combine. On Wednesday, he duplicated his vertical, put up 14 reps on the bench and held firm with most of his other numbers.

"A lot of people get all hyped about the testing and things like that. I mean, we play football," Bailey told reporters after his workout. "I'll just let my tape speak for me. I've done a lot of things, and I'm proud of what I have displayed on tape and I'm confident in my abilities. I'm just hoping and praying that the team that takes a chance on me is the right team, so I can have a long, successful career."

Bailey started at linebacker in 2011 and 2012 before moving into the secondary for 2013, his junior season. It was a smooth transition, with Bailey ranking fourth on the team with 61 tackles, including 6.5 for losses, and a team-high five interceptions.

With just one year of experience in the secondary, Bailey knows that scouts want to see how he can handle deep-coverage responsibilities. To that end, he gave himself a B-plus for Wednesday's performance.

"The big deal with me was, I didn't play a lot of deep-hole safety, so a lot of them wanted to see me move in the drills and wanted to see what I knew about the back end of things," Bailey said. "A lot of people were pleased with the way I was able to open my hips and things like that. It's a lot better than a lot of people expected, because I played linebacker for two years. I'm satisfied with everything, to this point."

Two outside linebacker prospects could be in play early in Day 3 with Morgan Breslin (6-1, 250) and Devon Kennard (6-3, 249). Breslin had 4.5 sacks and eight tackles for losses in five games before needing season-ending surgery on his hip. Breslin ran in 4.63 with a 35.5-inch vertical and 26 reps on the bench — all significant improvements over the Combine — but sustained a minor groin pull, which prevented him from doing position drills. Kennard had team-leading figures of nine sacks and 13.5 tackles for losses.

A third outside linebacker, Kevin Greene — no relation to the former Packers outside linebackers coach — worked at tight end after playing sparingly throughout his career. He opened eyes with a 4.54 in his 40. Guard John Martinez put up 42 reps on the bench.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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