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Nick Martin vs. Ryan Kelly, who is the better fit at center for the Chargers?

Breaking down the two best Center prospects in this years' draft.

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

I didn't read the comments on the Mock draft from a week ago with trades but based on me last article when I went over players that I have as 1st rounders with a little bit of a twist I'm guessing you guys loved everything about it and couldn't have been happier. Thanks for your support!

Today I want to compare two of the better players at their position in Ryan Kelly and Nick Martin. Both play one of the most important positions of need for the Chargers, center. The Chargers offense has showed over the last couple years they can get by with average left tackle play. This year we saw just how well the offense operated with poor center play. Here is a breakdown of the 41 sacks San Diego gave up last year.

11 2 9.5 5.5 8 1 4

The revolving door at left tackle hurt more than anything. It also doesn't help that 6 of those sacks came at the hands of Von Miller and Tamba Hali and 2 others, the pocket collapsed and Philip Rivers had nowhere to step up to. The picture I'm trying to paint here is that Rivers thrives when he has a clean pocket to step up into. When there's nowhere for him to maneuver that's when the offense stalls. The good news is this draft has some very good interior lineman available. Let's take a look at how Kelly and Martin compare as prospects.

Moving Mountains

Kelly is 6'4, 311 pounds with a 33 5/8" arm length. Martin is 6'4/299 with a 32 1/2" arm length. The perception is that Martin is too small and doesn't get much movement as a blocker. People will tell you that Martin can only fit in a "zone" scheme and that's just not the case.

The first and final 2 blocks in that clip really show the type of finisher Martin is as a run blocker. What he lacks in size he executes with technique and he's a nasty finisher. Love how he plays through the whistle.

More so on double teams, but Kelly can move mountains if he wanted to. The 2nd clip below is a perfect example of this.

Kelly has more flashy plays but also more negative plays whereas Martin might not drive the 4 yards off the ball, but he's not getting reset nor is he losing off the snap to arm overs like in a couple clips above. Kelly is another very good finisher as you can see what happens when he does lock on to linebackers above. Kelly is better at double teams. Martin gets the nod in 1-on-1 situations.

Playing in space and on the move

This is weird because you can tell on screens that Kelly is a very good athlete. He covers plenty of ground and has numerous exposures where he locks on and does his job. The ground he covers below is quite impressive.

He has no business being that far downfield and the friendly fire is a cherry on top to this play. The issue with Kelly in space is when asked to move he finds a way to end up on the ground a lot more than you would like. Usually it's tripping over defenders. It doesn't make much sense how often it's happening but he's not helping out the running back when he's on the ground. It's certainly not a lack of athleticism because he has very good feet. There was a block where he reached a defensive tackle in the opposite gap of him and was able to completely cut him off, and still found a way to manage to end up on the ground.

Kelly either whiffed or ended up on the ground 10 times in the 3 games. That's not counting plays where he was simply rolled up on, which happens to every lineman. He made enough plays where he's far from a liability here, but I would say he's just a notch below average in space.

The same cannot be said for Martin.

This is beautiful, but even going back to the previous clip above Martin literally runs with the defender to ensure that he cannot cross his face. He has an easier time breaking down and locking on to defenders as they're coming at them full speed. I don't know if it's because he's not trying to go for the kill shot but he's much more under control and it shows. Martin is superb in space.

Keeping the quarterback clean

Both of these guys are very, very good in pass protection. It's ironic that Martin is smaller but is better against power rushers than speed rushers. Martin can lock out with his infant arms against bigger defenders and does a good job of sitting down in his stance and anchoring.

Speed rushers gave Martin a little more trouble but not to the point where it would be a cause for concern. This is a 1-on-1 rep in the Senior Bowl that shows him redirecting well.

He plays under control, there's so much to like about Martin.

If Martin is average against speed rushers, Kelly would be in the same boat but for different reasons. Where he lacks is having his head on a swivel in pass protection.

With Kelly this was an issue early on in the Clemson game but he didn't have that issue as the game went on. That's the only real issue I have with Kelly in pass protection. When it comes to guys trying to bullrush him or using any sort of power move it's laughable. It just doesn't work. When he is 1-on-1 as a pass blocker he is as close to flawless as it gets. He'll just lock on and extend his arms against you. You're not going anywhere. If Martin is above average against power rushers, Kelly is a blue chip prospect in this regard. He just didn't get beat 1-on-1.

Ice Cream

Choosing between the two is really like picking your favorite ice cream flavor. They are neck and neck. I have Kelly 21st overall and Martin 23rd. Here's how they graded out side by side.


Martin graded out better than Kelly in 6 of the 8 traits that he can control. He's the better football player, and that's no sleight to Kelly. Based on how well he anchored given his frame, Martin seems stronger to me. Kelly might be the better fit for the Chargers because of his size and how he'll have zero issues with nose tackles. Then factor in that Rivers will have a clean pocket with Kelly as a pass protector. If you're looking for Melvin Gordon to get to the outside more and have a chance to break longer runs where the linebacker is taken care of, Martin is your guy. Again, it's all Ice Cream flavors with these two. Both very good starters.

Who do you prefer?