‘A lot of upside’: Lions rookie Brodric Martin oozes with potential

Detroit News

Allen Park — Plenty has been made about how early the Detroit Lions selected running back Jahmyr Gibbs, even surprising the player himself, but he still had anticipated being drafted at some point in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Brodric Martin was also taken earlier than everyone expected, but things were a bit different for the relatively unknown defensive tackle out of Western Kentucky, via North Alabama.

Martin was close to home, at a Tuscaloosa hotel that Friday night, preparing for a draft party the following day with family and friends. He was looking forward to hearing his name called eventually, but given his relatively light credentials, he hadn’t dared to dream it would be any earlier than the draft’s third and final day.

But, as the third round wound down Friday evening. his phone rang. It was coach Dan Campbell, letting Martin know the Lions were coming to get him, trading back into the round to select the behemoth interior lineman. On the sixth floor of the hotel, Martin raced to the elevator, but lacking the patience to wait for the doors to open, the 330-pounder hit the stairs in hopes of breaking the news to his mother, Karen, before she heard it on the television.

“I ran down six flights of stairs, just to get down to the TV and to my momma. She was down there setting up for the party for the next day,” Martin said. “… Look, I’ll tell you. I ain’t never seen my momma jump. Never, ever in my life. My momma jumped at least this high off the ground (pointing to his knees). And I was like, this is probably the best feeling in the world.”

The Lions had gone into the draft recognizing a need to add a defensive tackle, but their board didn’t fall that way through their first five picks, where they felt Gibbs, linebacker Jack Campbell, tight end Sam LaPorta, safety Brian Branch and quarterback Hendon Hooker offered better value than the interior linemen available at those spots. Yet as the third round neared completion, general manager Brad Holmes felt a surge of urgency as the options the team liked at the tackle position were dwindling. So, the GM made a deal to get into the back end of the round and snag Martin.

The physical gifts, particularly Martin’s 6-foot-5, 330-pound frame, with the biggest wingspan of any prospect at the position, is the foundation of the appeal. And there’s also unmistakable athleticism, paired with high football character and an undeniable passion for the game. Despite all that, Holmes has been quick to temper early expectations for a player in need of significant development.

“He was just a favorite for me and Dan, in terms of not what Brodric is right now — we were so excited about what Brodric can become,” Holmes said in an interview with 97.1 The Ticket last week. “When you identify a guy at that size, that’s that powerful, is that athletic, and has that kind of rare length that he has — and look, there are a lot of defensive linemen that are big and have length and are powerful, but he plays hard. He plays like how we want to play. He’s relentless, he chases the ball, he’s instinctive, he can find the football. It’s all those things (that) really kept moving Brodric kind of up the charts for us as the process moved along.”

Assistant GM Ray Agnew echoed those sentiments this weekend, ahead of the team’s second rookie-minicamp practice

“There’s a lot of upside with the guy,” Agnew said. “First of all, he’s big, powerful and strong. And he’s got some technique stuff (to work on). Everything about him is fixable. I think our D-line coach (John Scott Jr.) will do a great job teaching him how to play the game. But, he’s a big, powerful man that, when he strikes blocks, you see the offensive lineman go back. There’s a lot in that body. We’re excited about him.

Martin isn’t in denial that he needs a lot of polish this offseason, but he’s also not ready to accept he can’t have an impact as a rookie. He’s been studying some of the best interior linemen in the game, guys who share a similar body type, such as Fletcher Cox and Chris Jones, and Martin is eager to tap into his potential and make plays from the jump for the Lions.

“I want to play this year,” Martin said. “I want to do this now. I know I came from a small school and all that, but I’m looking to play each and every time. Nothing about waiting. I don’t want to wait to play. I want to play now. I want to be in Kansas City on the first day.”

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

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