Explosive. Hilariously entertaining. Strikes without warning.
A description of a knockout college prospect? No, it's actually just the description of Tony Sparano's upcoming firing.
Anyway, I am painfully aware that this college-player series will likely turn into a quarterback free-for-all once it's confirmed that our current regime is getting the boot (and we're talking "when," not "if"), which means we should probably take a look at some other holes on this team (safety, outside linebacker, right tackle) while it's still acceptable to do so. Once the draft-a-quarterback talk starts, it's not going to stop (understandably), so let's get to it.
Chris Clemons and Reshad Jones fans should probably avert their eyes, because it's about to get real in here. A big problem with our safety position is that it is plagued with players who have all the physical tools, but no instincts or savvy to tie those skills together. Clemons could probably keep up with a Kawasaki crotch rocket for most of a quarter-mile stretch, but he's late to diagnose plays. Jones is aggressive, physical and a gambler in coverage, but he's late to diagnose plays. Yeremiah Bell, while old, is a thumper with freakishly huge arms (his biceps look like they are in their third trimesters) ... but he's late to diagnose plays. Noticing a trend here? Our opponents certainly do, and it's not going to get better anytime soon.
The fix? How about a safety who is as smart as he is an explosive athlete; a leader who excels at protecting the seam; a play-maker who doesn't blow assignments and then stand around with the Urkel "Did I do that?" look on his face.
We need a premier safety in Miami. Nothing less will do.
Markelle Martin, S Oklahoma State
Who is he? A game-changing free safety
Markelle Martin is arguably the best college safety to come out since Eric Berry, possessing an excellent blend of speed, strength, size (6'1", 203 lbs), instincts, awareness, and the ability to simply go up and make tough interceptions (he tallied three picks in 2010, one of which he returned for a score). Martin has gone up against some high-end quarterback talent during his time playing in the Big 12, and his aggressive, relentless approach to the safety position will serve him well at the next level. Martin has very good recovery speed, as well as the ability to defend and cover a large amount of real estate in the secondary. He's also more than happy to shoot in and drop the ball carrier (he already has 21 total tackles and one forced fumble this season).
There's plenty to like about Martin's speed and physicality, but his mental prowess is what sets him apart from many of the other safeties coming out in 2012. Martin does his homework when it comes to sussing out opposing offenses, and he knows what to look for in coverage. He also consistently gets a good jump on throws, and isn't afraid to take on bigger receivers and tight ends.
What does he have that our current safeties lack?
Are you kidding me? To paraphrase the movie Blade, Martin has all of their strengths, none of their weaknesses. He's not about to outrun a bullet train or take on the Ultimate Warrior in a super pose-down, but he has the instincts and awareness to get into the quarterback's head, and the speed to provide immediate help over the top ... or clean up the cornerback's mess. If that's not enough to convince you, ponder this: Clemons, Jones and Bell all do one or two (perhaps even three) things well; Martin is, at worst, average in maybe one or two areas. I like those odds.
But is he better than University of Miami (Fla.) safety Ray-Ray Armstrong?
I expect this question to be asked about a billion times between now and next April, so here's the short answer: Armstrong is the better physical specimen and has plenty of upside, but Martin is the total package at safety and will become an immediate cornerstone in the secondary he inhabits at the next level. It simply comes down to which scenario you most prefer.
Verdict: If the Dolphins want to continue hemorrhaging passing yards up the seam, they should stick with the safeties currently on their roster. If the Dolphins want to lock up the middle-third of the secondary and give Vontae Davis and Sean Smith a reason to show up to work every day, they need to draft a safety early in 2012. It doesn't have to be in the first round, but even waiting until the third round would be pushing it.