Pro Day buzz: Hidden gem DB

This cornerback-safety blew away scouts, including the Packers, with a fast 40 at his pro day. Who is he, and could he be in their plans?

Troy University, while not exactly a football factory, has churned out a few big-time football players in recent years. DeMarcus Ware and Osi Umenyiora are Pro Bowl talents and Leodis McKelvin was Buffalo's first-round pick last year. Packers reserve defensive lineman Alfred Malone also played at Troy.

With that sort of track record, it's no surprise that the Packers trekked to Troy, Ala., recently for Troy's pro day. The top talent this year is defensive back Sherrod Martin.

No doubt, they liked what they saw.

At 6-foot-1 and 198 pounds, Martin has the size to match up against the NFL's ever-growing receivers. Martin played safety at Troy, but his elite speed and athleticism make him a prospect to be either a full-time corner or a safety who can cover slot receivers on passing downs.

"For the most part, I've had teams talk to me about both," Martin told Scout.com's Ed Thompson recently. "They've been testing my knowledge and how I move at both positions."

Martin had a productive career as a four-year starter, but as a player who did not compete in a BCS league, scouts needed to know more. Plus, in Troy's games last season against Oklahoma State, Ohio State, LSU and Southern Mississippi, he had 25 tackles but only one pass defensed and no interceptions.

Martin responded with a strong week at the Senior Bowl, where he played some safety and cornerback against elite competition. At the Scouting Combine last month, he was among the top performers in the 40-yard dash and three other drills. Finally, the Packers watched him turn in a 4.45-seconds 40-yard dash and a 37-inch vertical jump at this pro day.

Beyond questions about level of competition, scouts worry about Martin's ability to stay healthy. He sat out the 2006 season after surgery on both shoulders, and he missed four games in 2007 with broken bones in a hand. But in 2008, he played every game and earned first-team all-Sun Belt Conference recognition after intercepting four passes.

With those questions, it's not surprising that the jury is out on Martin. Some insiders think he could be selected late in the second round or early in the third because of his potential and versatility. Our Chris Steuber, however, thinks Martin is a fourth- or fifth-round prospect.

"Martin is a productive defensive back who's viewed as a tweener," Steuber said. "He has a big frame, a little lanky, but tough. He's more quick than fast, although he has good timed speed. He stays low in his backpedal and transitions fluidly with receivers. He's always around the ball and looks to create turnovers. But he plays overly aggressive at times and gets caught out of position. He lacks upper-body strength and struggles to get off blocks. He takes bad angles in pursuit and doesn't consistently wrap up the opposition. Durability is an issue."

The Packers have two third-round picks as well as a fourth-round selection. Assuming they don't draft Malcolm Jenkins in the first round, Martin, with his raw ability, could make sense to a Packers team that values versatility and could use some youth in the secondary.

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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 Lambeau Level forum. Bill also is giving Twitter a try. Find him at twitter.com/packerreport


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