Pre-Combine notes: Zack Martin's NFL position still TBD

Pre-Combine notes: Zack Martin's NFL position still TBD
February 18, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Zack Martin started every one of Notre Dame's 52 games from 2010 to 2013 at left tackle, though his future at that position in the NFL isn't certain.

That's not a bad thing, though. Martin, who's projected to be selected somewhere around the No. 20 pick in May's NFL Draft, has plenty of flexibility if teams would rather not see him play tackle.

"The beauty in this kid is he can play all five positions in the NFL," Mike Mayock, NFL Draft analyst (and NBC Notre Dame broadcaster), said in a teleconference Tuesday. "Some teams view him as a Pro Bowl guard, so playing him at tackle doesn't make much sense."

[MORE: Notre Dame feels its championship foundation is in place]

It's a belief that stems from Martin not possessing prototypical length for an NFL tackle, so the assumption has been he'll move inside at the next level. But Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has said the same thing about Martin, that if necessary he could play anywhere on the offensive line, which stands as a testament to his football I.Q.

More pre-Combine notes:

— Mayock sees Troy Niklas as a sure-fire second-round pick who could "be the best blocking tight end in the NFL in two or three years," if he commits to becoming a better in-line blocker. In comparing him to Notre Dame's last two tight ends to turn pro, Mayock said Niklas is a better blocker than Kyle Rudolph (Minnesota) but a worse receiver than Tyler Eifert (Cincinnati).

— Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix are "lightning rods" heading into the Combine, as Mayock put it. By that, he means scouting reports for both players are all over the place due to both players' success in 2012 and inconsistency in 2013. Nix should wind up a first-round pick, but Mayock said Tuitt could wind up being selected anywhere from picks No. 25-50.

[MORE: Is Stephon Tuitt's draft stock slipping?]

— Despite some issues with his knee, Chris Watt could go as high as the third round and wind up starting at left guard in the NFL, Mayock said.

— George Atkinson's only chance at being drafted is as a kick returner, per Mayock. Expect Atkinson's speed to impress at the Combine, but that can only go so far with sub-par skills as a running back.

— Mayock has Bennett Jackson as late-round pick, possibly as early as the fifth round, though.

— One guy that wasn't discussed during Mayock's marathon teleconference was wide receiver T.J. Jones, who's been touted as a first-round pick by his former coach but likely profiles more as a mid-to-late round selection. If you're looking for a sleeper from Notre Dame's NFL contingent in the coming years, it could be Jones — while his measurables aren't off the charts, he has a excellent feel and knowledge of the game and is adept at leveraging his body on quality routes to generate positive plays. Keep an eye on him going forward, even if he doesn't make a splash at the Combine.