It surprised some observers earlier this week when it was announced that USC center Marcus Martin was invited to New York for the draft, but news that Martin worked out for the New Orleans Saints is leading to speculation the team could be targeting him late in the first round.
Martin (6-foot-3, 320 pounds) worked out for the Saints, who pick 27th in the first round, earlier this week. New Orleans needs a new starting center after the free-agent loss of Brian De La Puente to the Chicago Bears; he had started for New Orleans the past three seasons.
Martin and Colorado State's Weston Richburg are considered the two best centers in the draft, but Martin might now be in the best position to come off the board first at the position.
His versatility is a selling point. Martin started at guard in his first two seasons with the Trojans, then moved to center as a junior in 2013.
There have been just nine centers drafted in the first round since 2000, and 16 drafted in the second round. Wisconsin's Travis Frederick was a surprise first-rounder last season, by Dallas, and played well as a rookie. He was the first center taken in the first round since 2010.
Martin left USC after his junior season and started 33 games in his Trojans career. He missed his final college game, a Las Vegas Bowl win over Fresno State, because of a dislocated kneecap. He appeared fully healthy when running the 40-yard dash twice and doing position-specific drills at USC's pro day March 12.
New Orleans also would seem to be in the market for a cornerback and an edge rusher in the first round. This is a relatively good draft for corners, and one of the top five players at that position could be in play when the Saints pick 29th. But taking an edge rusher probably would require a "reach" pick -- the same kind of pick that some would say the Saints would be making if they chose Martin. The difference would be that Martin almost certainly will be at the top of the board at center, whereas an edge rusher could be as far down as fourth or fifth at that position.
Mike Huguenin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.