Looking back at the 2023 USFL Draft Class, it was clear the Stallions were preparing for life without Alex McGough, or J’Mar Smith eventually. They selected Malik Cunningham who was later asked about his interest in the USFL, and without pulling any punches, Cunningham made it clear the league wasn’t on his radar. At the time it was a bad look for the team, the league, and to an extent the player.
Many critics including myself asked how you could draft a player without even speaking to him first. This ended up being a moot point as Cunningham stuck with the Patriots this season. Now the Stallions have made it clear Cunningham is no longer on their radar either. One player who didn’t stick with the NFL team that showed interest was Quarterback Adrian Martinez. Martinez was selected by the New Jersey Generals in 2023. With the Generals getting relieved of their duties heading into 2024, Martinez was for all intents and purposes a free agent.
Elite Athlete at QB
Martinez isn’t the biggest band out there by any stretch of the imagination, and while this transaction may not move the needle for the uninitiated, those that watched Martinez at Nebraska or KSU, know he is an elite level athlete. The 6’2 220 pound quarterback put up an impressive numbers at Kansas State’s pro-day in 2023.
Running a 4.55 40-yard dash, a 1.61 10-yard split, a 36 inch vertical, and 9 foot 7 inch broad jump. Had he been invited to the combine his 40-yard dash would have placed him 4th just behind Cunningham’s 4.53, and just ahead of Browns QB Dorian Thompson-Robinson at 4.56. His 10 yard split would have placed him just inside the top ten, while his vertical jump would have been tied for third, and his broad jump would have placed him 8th.
In one of the most athletic quarterback classes in recent memory, Martinez was near the top in almost every drill. He matches up with what Birmingham wants in their quarterbacks in terms of athleticism, but how does his production in college measure up? In 49 total games Martinez rushed for 2,928 yards and an astounding 45 touchdowns. To put that into perspective; J’Mar Smith (a 3 1/2 year starter) had 856 yards and 15 touchdowns in 43 appearances at Louisiana Tech. Alex McGough had 535 yards and 16 touchdowns in 46 games at Florida International.
How Does He Measure Up as a Passer?
Lost in all this talk of his insane rushing numbers is the fact that Martinez was a talented passer as well. Having attempted 1239 total passes or an average of 25 attempts per game over five seasons, he completed 63.6% of his attempts over his college career. This amounted to 9,752 yards or 7.9 yards per attempt showing he certainly wasn’t only using the short game to do so.
His touchdown to interception ratio could use some work, but that’s where a league like the USFL, and the reps he can get as a QB2 or QB3 through a year of practice can actually serve him well in his pursuit of a longer stay next time an NFL team signs him. Working with a quarterback guru in Skip Holtz known for helping develop Rick Mirer into a first round pick, leading Shane Stafford to third all time in passing yards at UConn, or helped South Carolina go from 0-11 in 1999 to 8-4 in 2000 thanks to making an offense that worked for Phil Petty.
The bright side for Martinez is he has signed with the USFL team that has put more players in the NFL than any other team in the league, and the ONLY team that put a quarterback in the league who has stuck for an entire season so far.
J’Mar Smith had a workout with the Panthers after the 2023 season, but wasn’t signed by any NFL team since entering the USFL. One more strong USFL season and I imagine that will change in 2024. Signing Martinez secures the future of the quarterback position in 2024 and beyond, and keeps the Stallions as one of the most athletic quarterback rooms in the new league. With Jalen Morton the only other quarterback on the roster beyond Smith, and Martinez, It remains to be seen if they stop there, or acquire a quarterback in the dispersal draft to come.