As the days ticked off in the countdown to the 2014 NFL draft, USC center Marcus Martin wasn’t quite sure when he’d be taken.
Some analysts projected Martin as a first-round pick. Others had him going in the second or third round. It was such a deep draft that many players with first-round talent had to wait their turn.
Martin, in fact, was invited to New York to attend the draft, and was still waiting – the last player present – when he was selected by the 49ers in the third round, the 70th overall selection.
But when NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced his name, Martin showed no disappointment. He seemed overjoyed, hugging those around him backstage, putting on a 49ers cap and then going out to wrap the commish in a bear hug.
Now, the 6-foot-3, 320-pounder – who played just one season for the Trojans at center – is being projected as a possible 49ers starter in 2014. Gregg Rosenthal, the Around the League editor at NFL.com, published his projected starting lineups for San Francisco this week and has Martin penciled in over veteran Daniel Kilgore, who is currently No. 1 on the team’s depth chart after the starter of the past three seasons, Jonathan Goodwin, was not re-signed after his contract expired.
Kilgore has played well as a backup guard, center and extra blocker for the 49ers since being selected in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of Appalachian State, and he was signed to a contract extension this offseason. But Rosenthal believes two of the 49ers’ 12 drafted rookies – Martin and safety/nickel corner Jimmie Ward – can earn starting spots.
The NFL Network’s Mike Mayock also said before the draft that he believed Martin was the top center in the draft and capable of starting immediately. The scouting report on Martin indicates he's physical, athletic and very effective as a blocker.
Martin certainly has the credentials – and the long arms (34 inches) loved by general manager Trent Baalke. Martin started at guard as a freshman and sophomore, then switched to center for his junior (and final) season at USC. In 2013, he was a team captain, voted USC Offensive Lineman of the Year and selected as a consensus All-Pac-12 Conference first-team honoree.
Martin – who’s still only 20 years old -- seems eager to work hard, prove himself and become a contributor. On Tuesday he tweeted, “I’m grinding so hard won’t nothing stop me!!”
Martin will get his first opportunity this week with the 49ers’ three-day rookie minicamp that begins Friday.
“I’m going to do whatever the coaches ask me to do,” Martin told Bay Area media.
There’s been some speculation that if Kilgore wins the center position, Martin could fill in as a backup at guard or center as a rookie. Martin says he’s comfortable playing at both guard spots or center.
“Whatever position that they need me to play I’m going to be willing to play," he said. "I’m going to come in and compete and represent the organization the best way I can.”