The Green Bay Packers made their two fourth-round compensatory selections this afternoon, and they have found a pair of players who just might be able to fill gaping holes on the roster in time.
First, the Packers used the 131st overall pick on Stanford inside linebacker Blake Martinez, who was a tackling machine as a starter over the last two years. Martinez is not an elite athlete, being knocked down a few pegs by less-than-impressive showings in the vertical and broad jumps, but he certainly appears to have enough speed (4.71 40 at the Scouting Combine) and short-area quickness (6.98-second 3-cone) to be an effective player in the middle of the Packers' defense.
What makes the Martinez pick so intriguing is specifically his ability in coverage. In fact, he was Pro Football Focus' highest-graded inside linebacker in the entire draft class last season in terms of pass coverage. Over his last two years as a starter, he recorded four interceptions and added a fifth as a rotational player his sophomore year. He also added six pass defenses as a senior.
This ability may be Martinez' way onto the field as a rookie for the Packers. If he can demonstrate this coverage ability at the NFL level, he should be an immediate upgrade over Joe Thomas as the linebacker of choice in the Packers' dime defense on third downs. Martinez also takes pride in his special teams contributions, which he discussed with Acme Packing Company at the NFL Scouting Combine, and he will almost certainly be a member of those units as a rookie.
The second of the two picks was Northwestern defensive end Dean Lowry, who projects as an ideal 5-technique defensive end. Lowry is one of the most impressive athletes in this year's defensive line class, running a 4.87-second 40-yard dash at 6 feet 5-3/4 inches tall and 296 pounds.
He also brings solid, consistent production over three years as a starter, recording between 3 and 4.5 sacks each of the last three years. He also has a knack for batting passes down at the line of scrimmage, recording 17 passes defensed (and three interceptions!) in his collegiate career. As a senior, he was named second-team All-Big Ten.
Overall, these two picks continue the overhaul of the Packers' defensive front that began on day one of the draft and continued on day two. Four of the five picks Ted Thompson has made so far address positions on the front seven, with two linemen and two linebackers. Furthermore, each one of these defensive players - including first-round pick Kenny Clark and third-rounder Kyler Fackrell - has some impressive athletic numbers to fall back on.
Get ready to cheer on some new names and faces on the defense this year.