Cornerback or free safety?
That is the question teams have to kick around when they consider Sherrod Martin. Versatility is a good thing to have and the Troy defensive back is an intriguing prospect for a number of reasons, not the least of which is his 6-1, 198-pound frame and the 4.38-second time he turned in for the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Consider Martin the latest in a line of productive NFL players that are coming out of the Alabama program. DeMarcus Ware, Osi Umenyiora and Leodis McKelvin have gotten the attention of scouts in recent years and now the Sun Belt school is a can't-miss stop.
"It's a big help,'' Martin said of the players who came before him. "But you have to be able to play the game. It just shows that those guys are competitive players and real talented and Troy is producing guys who can play in the NFL. It's on the map.''
The Bears certainly didn't miss Martin. As we reported here, the Bears put Martin through a private workout on campus April 3. It was one of four workouts Martin has had. He's also taken two official visits to AFC teams, and he's expected to be selected in the second or third rounds. New secondary coach Jon Hoke put Martin through the workout and then they went to the classroom where they did some X's and O's work on the board before watching film and talking about the difference in schemes.
Martin played free safety at Troy but got some work at the Senior Bowl at cornerback. He might not be quite thick enough for NFL standards at free safety but as Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News pointed out, Martin measures as one of the top five biggest corners in the draft, an asset against bigger wide receivers.
"We've talked internally about it,'' Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said about Martin's position when we inquired about him this afternoon. "We like the player. He certainly has outstanding athletic ability, he's got a good makeup but again that is beauty in the eye of the beholder."
To Martin, it doesn't matter where he winds up.
"I'll be comfortable anywhere in the secondary,'' he said. "I have more experience at safety but at corner, I'm a fast learner. At safety in the NFL there would be more things for me to learn. Coming into the NFL, it's going to be a learning period anyway. Each day I am there I am going to get more comfortable. I feel comfortable playing either spot.
"For the most part, they are going to let me determine where I am going to play. They'll try me at corner and if I am good there, I'll play corner. If not, I'll try safety. They're looking at me as a versatile guy.''
One concern about Martin is his health. He had surgery on his right shoulder in December 2005 and then there was a surgery on his left shoulder 14 months later. He took a medical redshirt in 2006 came back and broke his hand requiring surgery.
The hand isn't an issue but no team wants to draft a player with a couple of bad shoulders, especially anyone they are considering at safety. The Bears require their cornerbacks to contribute so much in run support, he'd be a difficult match for them with bad shoulders.
"That is something I knew everyone was going to look into,'' Martin said. "Going through the physical, having my shoulders X-rayed and with the MRI's, nothing has come up with my shoulders since then. They were curious about it before I got there and wanted to evaluate me. It all went well.''
The Bears have a meeting directly after the combine when they have finished gathering all of the medical reports on players. It's at that point that they eliminate players from consideration who fail their medical grade. That Hoke was dispatched to work Martin out is evidence the Bears feel comfortable with his health and durability. To get Martin, the Bears would probably have to act in the second round with their pick at No. 49 overall. He's unlikely to make it all the way back to No. 99 where they select again with the second-to-final pick of the third round.
Angelo said size was a very real issue when it comes to Alabama free safety Rashad Johnson.
"We have a player profile at each position and that comes into play strongly, particularly at the safety position," Angelo said. "It's not just Bear-related, it's collectively around the league the durability has become a real concern there. With size, durability is a part of that."
The Bears have sent their free safeties through a revolving door in the Lovie Smith era and Angelo's words makes you wonder if the Bears would work Martin at cornerback most.
"It doesn't matter to me where I play,'' Martin said. ``My intention is to come in, earn a job and be able to contribute quickly. That is a goal I have for myself.''