Last March, NFL insider Neil Stratton told the Free Press’ Dave Birkett that “I know the Lions will be adding one seasoned evaluator who has gotten a lot of picks right over the years. Not sure of role & probably after the draft. But based on who’s coming & who’s in-house, I would be really optimistic about what Holmes is assembling”.
Shortly after this conversation, I was contacted by an NFL source and was told that said “evaluator” would be joining the Lions after the draft and would be coming from the Carolina Panthers organization, but was not given a name at that time.
This morning, we may have learned that name. According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer in his latest edition of MMQB, the Detroit Lions general manager Brad Holmes “could bring Panthers scout Mike Martin to Detroit in some sort of elevated role”.
Martin is a highly respected 18-year NFL scout who cut his teeth in the business in 2003 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after a college career at Vanderbilt. He spent his early days as a low-level scout in Tampa and earned the nickname “Young Kanye West” from Mike Tomlin (Steelers head coach) and Raheem Morris (Rams defensive coordinator) due to his tireless work ethic.
By 2006, newly hired Houston Texans GM Rick Smith hired him away from Tampa where he would play key roles in helping them establish their franchise.
Martin made his mark early on with the Texans. He was the evaluator who identified Duane Brown as a franchise left tackle and pounded the table for him in the 2008 draft, insisting he was worth their first-round pick. And then his biggest hit came the following year when he identified running back Arian Foster as a must-have for the organization and was the main player in convincing him to sign a UDFA contract with the Texans, despite heavy competition from other teams post-2009 draft. Martin is also credited with being the scout that identified A.J. Bouye as a UDFA CB in 2013—Bouye would go on to at one point the highest-paid corner in the NFL.
Eventually, Martin would work his way up to assistant college scouting director with the Texans, but when Smith stepped down from his GM role in 2017, new GM Brian Gaine cleaned house and let Martin go. He was immediately signed by the Panthers, where he remained until Holmes came calling.
The Lions have yet to confirm the hire, or what Martin’s exact role within the organization will be. But now that the draft is over, we will likely see some shifts within the scouting department as Holmes reassesses what he is working with and what he believes he needs.