College prospects are grateful to play with any franchise once they get to the NFL, but many of them have a short list of teams they would like to play for at the next level of their careers.
For Quan Martin, the Washington Commanders were one of those teams.
"This was one of the spots I was hoping to end up at," Martin told reporters on May 24. "So, just for them to pick me, knowing I got an opportunity to come in and help this team out is big for me."
Part of that comes from the way the Commanders run their defense. The coaches began explaining some of the concepts to him during his visit during the draft process, and he "loved it from Day 1" because of the flexibility that defensive backs have in the secondary.
No matter where he ends up playing, Martin is eager to help improve the Commanders' defensive backfield.
"Wherever I may need to be at, I'll be there," Martin said.
Although he fell to the Commanders in the second round (No. 47 overall) back in April, there are several analysts who thought he could have been taken off the board during Night 1 because of the skills that make him qualified to be a moveable piece in the secondary.
A five-year contributor at Illinois with 40 starts, Martin played all over the defense, including the slot (1,012 snaps), perimeter cornerback (851 snaps) and free safety (300 snaps). He excelled at just about every position, too; he had the No. 4 tackle grade among cornerbacks in 2022, according to Pro Football Focus, and he grabbed seven career interceptions to go with 30 pass breakups.
So, while the speed of the NFL is much faster than what Martin experienced in college, bumping from one position to the next is not a foreign concept to him.
"Throughout my whole college career, I've been all over the place," Martin said. "I'm used to it now. So, just being able to move around and play different spots is what I do."
Check out the top photos of the Commanders' newest defensive back, Quan Martin, during his college career at Illinois (via The Associated Press)
Although Martin will need to learn some new concepts with the Commanders as he builds a role in their defense, there have been some shades of familiarity. The footwork, terminology and route concepts are similar, and that has helped him pick up how to operate in certain coverage situations.
It also helps that Martin prides himself on his knowledge of the sport.
"Just being able to play any position in the back end at any given moment in the game just shows my understanding of the game and my football IQ," Martin said after he was drafted.
The Commanders have not been shy about utilizing Martin's versatility in OTAs. He's mostly played in the slot, but he's already earned some reps with the starters and made some exceptional plays. During Thursday's practice, he deflected a pass that led to an interception, and he has provided solid coverage against bigger targets like Logan Thomas.
His usage is going exactly as coach Ron Rivera predicted it would.
"Quan's a heck of a football player. Played some very good football at the University of Illinois. Very disciplined football player but has position flex. And what he can do for you is he can play free safety, be in the post, be in the half, be in the quarter, and keep the ball in front of him."
Martin is still going through some growing pains during practice. The similarities from college help, but the NFL is exponentially faster than anything he experienced at Illinois. Putting that aside, though, Martin's development is coming along well, and there's a chance he could be a more immediate contributor in 2023.
No matter how much or where he plays, Rivera believes Martin's presence will have a reverberating effect on the defense.
"What Quan gives us is an opportunity to use it really with kind of a hybrid guy," Rivera said. "That's really what it is. We listed him as a safety slash nickel and he's a guy that has that kind of ability and flexibility for you … So, we have a lot of flexibility right now to do things."