Exactly like last year, the Green Bay Packers waited until the fourth round to draft an inside linebacker.
The Packers continued their needs-based draft by selecting Stanford linebacker Blake Martinez with the first of their two compensatory draft picks on Saturday.
With the second of their fourth-rounders, they added Northwestern’s dynamic and productive defensive lineman, Dean Lowry.
Martinez was an all-conference player in each of his two seasons in the starting lineup. As a senior, he was first-team all-conference, second-team All-America and a semifinalist for the Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker. He piled up 141 tackles (75 solos) — nobody else on the team had more than 57 — with at least 10 in nine of his 14 games. He ranked third in the nation in tackles among Power 5 conference defenders. He added 1.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for losses, one interception and one forced fumble. His play and leadership was key for a defense that had to replace eight starters.
Eliot Wolf, the Packers’ director of football operations, thought Martinez could be a four-down player. While not an electric athlete in the mold of Ohio State’s Darron Lee, he had a strong Scouting Combine with a 4.71 in the 40-yard dash. His 20-yard shuttle time, which measures change-of-direction agility, was 4.20 seconds. That was tied with Lee and beat Alabama’s Reggie Ragland by 0.08 seconds.
“I think this last year, they left it all up to me,” Martinez said of coverage responsibilities. “I’d go out and cover the tight ends, the running backs. I think I improved tremendously on that.”
At 6-foot-5 3/4 and 296 pounds, Lowry had an electric Scouting Combine with a 4.87 in the 40-yard dash, 32.5-inch vertical and 30 reps on the 225-pound bench press. His 40 time tied first-rounder Robert Nkemdiche for fastest among the big guys.
Lowry, a three-year starter, was second-team all-Big Ten as a senior with 51 tackles, 13.5 tackles for losses and three sacks. In a star-studded group of defensive linemen, Lowry led the way with 17.5 stuffs, which STATS calls a tackle on a running play made at or behind the line of scrimmage. He tied for ninth with 31 run disruptions and tied for 10th with 23 quarterback pressures. Of his 13.5 TFLs, a whopping six came against Nebraska. That was the most by a Big Ten player in 10 years. So what’s the problem? He’s got incredibly short arms (31 inches) and small hands (9 3/8 inches).
“It’s cliché, but he’s a blue-collar guy, probably an underrated athlete,” Wolf said. “Disruptive, run and pass. Lined up all over the line.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.