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2015 NFL DRAFT

Finding the Fits: Titans hope 3rd-round pick Mike Martin helps clog running lanes

By Rob Rang | The Sports Xchange/CBSSports.com
Martin should help improve a run defense that finished 24th last season (US Presswire)

Over the next several weeks, NFLDraftScout.com will be reviewing some of the more intriguing picks made during the 2012 NFL Draft through a series called "Finding the Fits." The goal of the series is to identify one relatively unheralded player per team who appears to be a good schematic fit and therefore more likely to be a surprise contributor early in his pro career.

New Tennessee Titans general manager Ruston Webster and head coach Mike Munchak systematically checked off the needs for his team as the 2012 draft unfolded. Need a playmaker to take the place of the oft-injured Kenny Britt? Check, the Titans selected standout wideout Kendall Wright at No. 20 overall. Need more speed at the weakside outside linebacker position to pair with intriguing second-year standouts at middle linebacker Colin McCarthy and strongside linebacker Akeem Ayers? Check, the Titans handled that with the speedy Zach Brown in the second round.

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Perhaps the duo's most intriguing pick, however, was Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin in the third round, especially considering the Titans' struggles at defending the run.

Tennessee finished 24th in the NFL a year ago in terms of average rushing yards allowed, allowing 2,053 yards (or 128.3 yards per game) and even worse when it came to defending the run on third down. No team in the NFL finished worse than the Titans when it came to stopping the opponent on third down against the run, as they allowed 52 runs up the middle for first downs. The Titans like their young defensive tackle rotation of Sen'Derrick Marks, Shaun Smith and Karl Klug but with Peyton Manning moving on to the Denver Broncos, the division title requires stopping the Texans' Arian Foster and Jaguars' Maurice Jones-Drew. That's where the high-effort, run-plugging Martin comes in.

The 6-1, 307-pound Martin hardly looks like a run-stuffer but as Titans' fans already know with the 6-3, 275-pound Klug, who incidentally led the Titans with seven sacks a year ago, size is overrated. Martin, just like Klug, proved against quality competition the throughout his career as well as at the Senior Bowl that stuffing the run is more of a comment on physicality, effort and leverage than just size.

Martin is a high-effort run-defender whose use of leverage and explosive strength due to his championship credentials as a prep wrestler and shot putter, make him all the more effective than his size would indicate. If the Titans are to earn a playoff spot in 2012, they'll have to improve against the running game.

Martin, while not necessarily as physically imposing as several of the defensive tackles drafted ahead of him, will help them do them do just that.

The rest of the Titans' picks:

1st Round - No. 20 overall - Kendall Wright, WR, Baylor
2nd Round - No. 52 overall - Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
3rd Round - No. 82 overall - Mike Martin, DT, Michigan
4th Round - No. 115 overall - Coty Sensabaugh, CB, Clemson
5th Round - No. 145 overall - Taylor Thompson, TE, Southern Methodist
6th Round - No. 190 overall - Markelle Martin, FS, Oklahoma State
7th Round - No. 211 overall - Scott Solomon, DE, Rice

Read more about all of the Titans' picks here.
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