When the Detroit Lions drafted Brodric Martin out of Western Kentucky in the third round (No. 96 overall) last year, general manager Brad Holmes talked about his rawness, upside and the need for him to develop.
"He just has, like we say, he's got a lot of meat on the bone," Holmes said at the time. "He's got a lot of upside. He's a big man, he's athletic, he plays hard. He chases to the ball. I don't think I've seen many 330-, 340-pound guys run to the ball like he does and so when you get that – he's got some rawness, but we're really excited about his upside."
Barnes made the diving interception to send the Lions to the NFC Championship Game for the first time in 32 years. Melifonwu's interception Week 16 in Minnesota clinched Detroit's first NFC North title in 30 years.
Barnes developed into a consistent and productive performer this season in his third year. The same for Melifonwu, who like Martin, was a third-round draft pick out of Syracuse in Holmes' first draft in 2021. He made the move from corner to safety midseason last year and this year was a main contributor down the stretch once given the opportunity to start in his third season. All that sack production from Melifonwu late in the season was developed after he arrived here in Detroit with this coaching staff.
The Lions are hoping Martin can take a big leap forward in his second season after mostly being inactive on gameday. Outside of game action Martin was able to practice and develop on the 53-man roster all season.
He also got to sit in the same room and watch veteran defensive tackle Alim McNeill have a breakout season in his third year after McNeill's decision to trim body fat and gain quickness and bend.
Martin said he plans to take a similar approach to his body and his craft this offseason.
"It's a big transformation he made," Martin told detroitlions.com about the work McNeill put in last offseason. "Going into Year 3 it was a huge transformation for him. Obviously made him a better player. So, it's something I'm definitely going to hone in on and try to do."
There's no denying Martin's physical gifts. He is a massive load inside at 6-foot-5, 330 pounds with athletic traits and power. When it's developed, which this coaching staff has proven they can do with players, Martin's skillset could really pop.
"He was just a favorite for me and Dan (Campbell) – not in terms of what Brodric is right now, we were so excited about what Brodric can become," Holmes said after the draft.
If Martin puts in the kind of work this offseason as McNeill did last offseason, maybe there's a chance that promise the Lions see in Martin can potentially turn into production in 2024.
"Every week. Every week." Martin said of his goal next season to play a bigger role in the defense. "Be an impact player."