While Roberto Aguayo is Chuck Zodda’s top kicking prospect in the 2016 NFL Draft, Duke kicker Ross Martin is a specialist who has caught the eye of many scouts over the past season as well. A four-year starter at Duke, Martin possesses a strong leg, though some questions remain for the young kicker. Where does he rank on Zodda’s board? Read on to find out.
After coming into Duke as one of the top kicking recruits in the country, Martin had a strong freshman campaign, going 20 for 23 on field goals and earning Freshman All-America Honors from Sporting News, CBS Sports, and Phil Steele while being an Honorable Mention All-America by Sports Illustrated. His sophomore campaign saw some difficulties, with him connecting on just 13 of 19 field goals. But Martin proved that season was an outlier, going 45 for 51 over his final two seasons to mark a strong end to his collegiate career.
The four-year numbers for Martin show accuracy of 83.8%, which would have ranked him 11th in the NFL during that time for kickers with attempts in at least 50 games. One of Martin’s greatest assets is his leg strength and accuracy at distance, as he connected on 8 of 10 kicks from 50+ yards during his career. This power and accuracy was also on display during cold and windy Senior Bowl practices in January 2016, as Martin knocked a 60-yard attempt through the uprights while other specialists struggled to adjust to the conditions in Mobile, Alabama.
One area of concern for Martin is his ability to hit kickoffs deep, as he had just 72 touchbacks on 234 kickoffs during his college career, good for 30.7%. Martin did show a stronger leg in warmups during Senior Bowl practices, and his leg on field goals suggests this is an issue that was likely caused by one of coaching strategy from the Duke staff or a mechanical issue that he has since been corrected. With the NFL moving the starting yard line for touchbacks out to the 25-yard line in the 2016 season, this is also less of an issue than it was previously for Martin.
Clean and Simple Technique
Martin uses a no-frills setup and approach that is easily repeatable and gives him the most stable platform of any kicker in this year’s class. Facing Wake Forest in 2014, this technique is on display:
Martin sets up from 45 yards out on the left hash. Although the kick is angled, he properly steps off his approach still targeting the center upright, using the same steps and getting himself to the same spot on a consistent basis. Much like a golfer trying to set his base so he can generate the same swing every time. Martin establishes his pre-kick position with little variation, providing him a good foundation for his approach.
As the ball is snapped, Martin takes a jab step, starting his move toward the holder:
The jab step has grown in popularity over the past decade, as more and more kickers employed it as a way to roll into their plant more smoothly than with a basic two-step approach. The technique works for Martin, as he has a consistent length of six-to-eight inches that builds momentum towards his plant.
This is a wider setup than what Aguayo shows, and helps to provide Martin with more stability through his motion than what the Florida State prospect demonstrates. While Aguayo takes a violent skip-step to his left immediately after his kick, Martin’s skip-step is far more controlled and closer to a 45-degree angle than Aguayo’s sideways hop. Martin puts himself in a great position to be successful, and the result is an easy 45-yard make for the kicker.
Do It Again
Kicking from 42 yards in a tight game against Virginia Tech during the 2015 season, Martin lined up in a pressure situation in the fourth quarter:
Martin shows the same pre-kick setup that we saw earlier against Wake Forest, with a relaxed posture with little body lean prior to the ball being snapped.
The step is the same size as the one Martin showed earlier, with the same path to the ball as he begins his approach. The ease with which Martin repeats his mechanics is one of the keys to his success, as it is a free-flowing approach with little wasted motion or stiffness.
The wide base gives him a great platform to operate from, even though he is slightly off-balance to his left here. This produces a slight amount of hook on this kick as his foot wraps the ball slightly, but the strength in mechanics through the rest of the kick makes this nearly a non-factor as he booms the ball through to put the Blue Devils up by eight.
Martin has all of the skills necessary to be a successful kicker in the NFL. More importantly, his ability to bounce back from the struggles he faced during his sophomore season shows outstanding mental toughness and ability to move on from missed kicks. Every kicker will experience failure at some point in their careers, whether it is the high school kicker who realizes he cannot kick in college or the critical playoff misses we saw from Blair Walsh and Stephen Gostkowski in the NFL this year. The key is how those players rebound from the issues they faced. While Martin does not have the raw talent of Agauyo, I have greater confidence in his mental game due to the fact that he has already shown how he reacts to difficult times, while Aguayo has not faced struggles of that magnitude. As a result, Martin is my second-rated kicker in the 2015 draft class, and presents good value for a team drafting in the fifth round.