Tavares Martin Jr.’s departure from Washington State didn’t exactly go like everybody probably wanted it to. Depending on who you believe, he was either cut between the Apple Cup and the Holiday Bowl or he asked for his release before being given the boot.
However it went down, it wasn’t pretty and Martin Jr. opted to declare for the NFL draft rather than transfer somewhere else.
He finished the 2017 season with 831 yards receiving on 70 receptions and nine touchdowns. The 831 yards and nine touchdowns led the team, and he was one reception off the team lead. He never redshirted and contributed right away as a true freshman in 2015. He finished his three-year WSU career with 150 receptions for 1,683 yards and 17 touchdowns.
So, will he hear his name called at the NFL Draft, or will he be a free agent signing?
What We Like
Athleticism: As I said earlier, Martin Jr. saw the field as a true freshman, so he obviously has the tools to play. He returned kicks and lined up as a wide receiver, proving he has some versatility if needed. He even had a career long 51-yard kick return. He made it look easy, and when the Pac-12’s most prolific quarterback was throwing your way, perhaps it was easy. His overall athleticism leads us to the other thing we like about him, and that’s....
His moves: Martin Jr. often showcased his athleticism after the catch:
That catch-and-run against Stanford in 2016 came on fourth down, I might remind you, in WSU’s big win in Palo Alto.
Heck, just watch this video for all sorts of fun times:
What We’re Unsure Of
Speed: This one’s kind of weird. We heard a number of times throughout his career that Martin Jr. was one of the fastest guys on the team. That’s why he was lined up on the outside and returning kicks. But then the NFL Combine happened:
Tavares Martin Jr. had a tough one today in the 40-yard dash. Ran a 4.84 and a 4.80. Not good for a 6-1 wide receiver.— COUGFANcom (@COUGFANcom) March 3, 2018
Here they are: pic.twitter.com/EFMP7JnXp1
That’s not exactly what one would expect from someone who is supposedly one of the fastest guys on the team. Martin Jr.’s best 40-yard dash time was just .01 faster than Brian O’Neill of Pitt.
O’Neill is an offensive lineman.
I’m sure Martin Jr. is faster than that, but his combine performance in the 40-yard dash wasn’t good. The rest of his workout showed what he could do, though:
His Size: Martin Jr. was listed as 6-1, 183 last season at Washington State. He’ll need to bulk up without losing speed if he wants to catch on with an NFL team. The DBs he’ll be up against in the NFL aren’t exactly the ones he went up against in the Pac-12 (though he played well opposite Quenton Meeks of Stanford the last few seasons, for what it’s worth).
The Head on his Shoulders: I know, “character issues” in the NFL is often a broad term used to avoid the full picture as to why a guy wasn’t drafted or why he was cut. But Martin Jr. isn’t expected to be a top pick, so teams might look at his last season at Washington State with a raised eyebrow. Remember: he was suspended for one game after an apparent outburst after a loss. That’s not good.
He’s still young and he has plenty of time to figure things out. But he’ll need to answer for his suspension and his ultimate departure, however it went down. Proven stars are often given a pass in the NFL when it comes to Martin Jr.’s specific issues, but Martin Jr. isn’t yet a proven star.
Martin Jr. projects as an undrafted free agent. He definitely has the skills and athleticism to compete, but his speed and size might be a cause for concern for some teams. He should get his shot, though, and that’s really all that matters. There are undrafted free agents that play prominent roles all the time.
I mean, I don’t have to remind much of this audience that Malcolm Butler was an undrafted free agent.
Martin Jr. might be better suited as an inside receiver at the next level, so if a team has a need at that position and can take a chance on an undrafted guy, Martin Jr. could get the call.