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NFL Draft Profile: Martez Manuel

The hometown kid and longtime leader of the Mizzou defense now looks to step into the pro ranks.

NCAA Football: Missouri at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports


Name: Martez Manuel

Position: Safety

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 217 lbs.

Arm Length: 31 3/4”

Draft Projection: Fringe Round 4/5

NCAA Football: Missouri at Vanderbilt Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Pro Day Measurables

40-Yard Dash: 4.60 (w/ quad injury)

Vertical Jump: 34 1/2”

Broad Jump: 10’01”

3-Cone Drill: N/A

Player Comparison: Antoine Winfield, Jr.

Syndication: The Knoxville News-Sentinel Saul Young/News Sentinel / USA TODAY NETWORK

College Statistics

Games Played: 38

Tackles: 194

Tackles For Loss: 25.0

Sacks: 11.0

Forced Fumbles: 3

Passes Defended: 10

Interceptions: 1

College Accolades

  • 2019-20 SEC First-Year Academic Honor Roll
  • #3 in SEC solo tackles in 2021 (60)
  • Two-time team captain


Strengths: If any player has ever defined “sideline-to-sideline” defender, it is Martez Manuel. The Rock Bridge High School product had a dream of playing for Mizzou when he was younger, and he played like it on every snap. Manuel was consistently one of the most high-energy and effort players on the team, as he was the kind of guy that seemed to always find his way around the ball.

His compact yet built frame can hold up in collisions with most receivers and running backs. He’s explosive when he takes on contact while taking appropriate angles, and Manuel is more than willing to get his hands dirty in the trenches. His ability to challenge blockers and burst through the line of scrimmage allowed him to register 10 tackles for loss in 2022 (third on the team). His pursuit of the ball is endless, and he has proven to be an effective blitzer throughout his career, especially on delayed pressure. His knowledge of bending around pass blockers while also being able to surprise them with his physicality allows him to have success in blitz packages.

In coverage, Manuel is fluid and has solid recovery techniques. He also has shown a great ability to make adjustments in the air despite his smaller stature.

As a longtime leader of the Tiger defense, Manuel has proven himself as a mature, put-together individual with a high football IQ. Through press conferences and statements from other players, it is easy to tell that Manuel is a guy who holds himself to a high standard and is determined to achieve his goals. NFL coordinators will be thrilled to work with Manuel and his eagerness to improve as he grasps NFL playbooks and the speed of the game.

Weaknesses: Manuel’s straight-line speed can hold him back in a lot of scenarios, and it is likely that he will never be able to match up in pass coverage with most top targets in the NFL. His footwork in coverage can also use some work, and he tends to rely on his physical play to hang with receivers on breaks. That brings in a penalty risk.

On top of that, at the end of the day, a 6-foot, 217 lb. frame is not ideal for an NFL safety. At the college level, his grit and IQ made up for that. At the pro level, it remains to be seen if he can withstand blocks from some of the better linemen, tight ends and wide receivers in the league, as well as compete with larger targets in coverage.

At times, Manuel’s aggression can work against him, as he has been known to run himself out of plays in his backfield pursuit. Coaches will likely work with him to better channel his aggression in pursuit of the ball.

Injuries have also played a role in Manuel’s career as well, although he has certainly showed the willingness to play through them. He donned clubs and played through lower body nicks throughout his time in Columbia.

Outlook: There is certainly a role for a player like Manuel on an NFL roster. What that role will be will depend on his development in pass coverage and how his physicality translates to the next level.

Most scouts grade Manuel as a fringe Day 2/priority Day 3 guy, but he will need to find a place that suits his style of play. His physicality and energy make him a great option to bring in as an extra defender in the box, and he could be a blitz specialist in some packages as well. Manuel’s downhill style of play can be incredibly disruptive if he is put in the right position to do so and is not charged with many challenging coverage tasks.

To start, Manuel will likely work on special teams and in slot coverage with his size, quick feet and ability to press. In downfield coverage, he will need to work on his speed and ability to match routes in the intermediate-to-long passing game, and his size may limit him from being on the field depending on the opposing offensive personnel.

A team that struggles in run defense and is looking for more immediate help from the second level in that regard would likely take a strong look at Manuel. If he can polish his coverage up and learn not to rely on his physicality as much, Manuel can translate into a high-caliber NFL safety after a couple of seasons. His maturity and football IQ should help in his development and make him an easy player to coach at the next level.

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