INDIANAPOLIS -- - When Notre Dame traveled to New York to play in the Pinstripe Bowl in December, the team spent some time practicing at the Giants' facility. Offensive tackle Zack Martin said he was so focused on beating Rutgers in his final college game -- he wound up doing so and earning MVP honors -- that he didn't stop to assess whether the practice grounds might make a nice home for him when his professional career began.
"But it was pretty cool going to an NFL facility," he said. "Especially the Giants'.''
Martin is one of the players the Giants will be paying a lot of attention to at the NFL Scouting Combine this week as they begin the process of rebuilding their offensive line. They've already met with several of the blocking prospects and will continue to weed through the possibilities. There should be plenty of linemen with first-round grades in one of the deepest drafts in recent memory.
But if the Giants think they found a mold for their linemen of the future in last year's first-rounder, Justin Pugh, then the closest comparison in this year's draft probably is Martin. And he's all but guaranteed to be there when the Giants are on the clock with the 12th pick of the first round on May 8.
Like Pugh, Martin has position versatility. He's played tackle exclusively, but many teams project him as a guard. Like Pugh, Martin is lacking in some important measurements. His arm length was 32 7/8 inches, longer than Pugh's 31 1/2 but still below typical NFL reach. Martin (6-4, 308 pounds) said extra studying and technique can "make up for a little bit of lack of size."
Unlike Pugh -- and the record-setting number of young players in this year's draft who have forfeited their remaining college eligibility -- Martin stayed in school for an extra year. He was projected as a second- to fourth-round pick last year (so was Pugh until late in the pre-draft process, by the way) but decided to return to Notre Dame for one more year.
"I think I grew a lot this year," he said. "I became more of a complete player. I think [coaches] saw a growth in my technique and consistency. I thought I had a pretty good year in 2012, but from a consistent standpoint, 2013 was my best year yet."
He also gained one other valuable experience by sticking around for a fifth college season: the visit to the Giants.
"They have a pretty cool facility," he said. "You can see the city from the practice field."
Whether Martin or the Giants can see him on that practice field will be determined.