TWENTYMAN: Lions host top center prospect

Posted Apr 21, 2014

Marcus Martin is an interesting prospect for the Lions because the team is on the lookout for Dominic Raiola’s eventual replacement at center.

It’s not often a wide-eyed freshman earns a starting spot on the offensive line at a major collegiate powerhouse like USC. But that’s exactly what Marcus Martin did in 2011. Martin earned a starting spot for the last 10 games in 2011 at guard, making him the first true freshman to start at guard for the Trojans since 2004.

“It was hard trying to get a starting opportunity at USC,” Martin told while on a pre-draft visit to Detroit on Monday. “I had to dedicate my time and really learn our offensive scheme and allow myself to assimilate into the college environment.

“I actually didn’t start my first two games, but I ended up starting the rest of the season and it was cool and something I’ll never forget. It helped me develop as a player and helped me develop as a person because you’re put in situations as a 17-year-old seeing these 300-pound lineman coming at you and these athletic linebackers and defensive ends hit you and there’s a mindset you start to establish.”

Martin went on to start every game he played at USC, including 13 at center last season. He was a first-team All-Pac-12 selection at center in 2013 after playing guard his first two seasons at USC.

Martin has only one year under his belt playing center but is still NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock’s No. 1 center available in next month’s NFL Draft.

The fact that Martin has only played the position for one season and is already considered a top prospect shows how truly talented he is. It also means his ceiling could be very high.

“The sky is the limit,” Martin said of his potential at center. “I’m just really starting to get there at center."

"Whether my 10-year career is at center or left guard or right guard, it doesn’t matter, I’m going to be a dominant player in the NFL.”

Martin said the transition from guard to center last year wasn’t too difficult other than learning the shotgun snap.

Martin’s an interesting prospect for the Lions because the team is on the lookout for Dominic Raiola’s eventual replacement at center. Raiola, 35, signed a one-year contract this offseason, but the future of the position has yet to be addressed.

Martin, 6-foot-3, 320 pounds, considered by most to be a second- or third-round pick, might have the ability to come in and start at either guard or center early in his professional career. At the very least he would be the heir for Raiola.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for me to learn,” Martin said of potentially joining the Lions with Raiola in tow. “I think it provides an opportunity to learn my role as a rookie.

“Sometimes rookies come in with big heads thinking they run the show. I’m first round this and I’m first round that. If I come in and I have to sit behind this 14-season vet, I will. It’s a great opportunity to learn and develop as a player.”

The Lions also hosted one of the biggest cornerback prospects available in next month’s draft in Stanley Jean-Baptiste.

Stanley Jean-BaptisteDB Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Photo: AP Images)

The former Nebraska Cornhusker measures in at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds during his Nebraska pro day. It was an important pro-day time for Jean-Baptiste after running 4.61 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. He said he simply over-thought the 40-yard dash at the Combine.

Jean-Baptiste is an interesting prospect who combines good athleticism and a more desirable frame. He had a vertical jump of 41.5 inches at the Combine.

He had 41 tackles last year and was tied for the most interceptions on the team (4) as a second-team All-Big Ten selection. He led Nebraska with 12 pass breakups.

A former receiver turned cornerback in college, most analysts consider Jean-Baptiste a second- or third-round prospect with room to grow.

“My size has a lot to do with it,” Jean-Baptiste said of his advantage over receivers. “My arm length. I can put my hands on receivers quicker than they can touch me. It gives me a chance to cover more ground. I can out-physical most of the people I go against because I’ll taller and bigger than most of the people I go against.”

Jean-Baptiste said teams consider him a cornerback at the next level, but his frame leaves the possibility of playing safety if teams ultimately think that’s best.

He is big, physical and fast and played a lot of man defense at Nebraska. He could be an interesting prospect for teams that play a lot of man or press coverage.

The Lions have added a number of big-body cornerbacks to their roster the last few years with the likes of Chris Greenwood (6-1), Rashean Mathis (6-1), Darius Slay (6-0) and Jonte Green (6-0). The team likes big cornerbacks and Jean-Baptiste fits the bill.