DALLAS — The NFL Network ruffled the feathers of Dallas Cowboys fans this week when it released the first half of its list of the top-100 players in the NFL.
According to the list, which is purportedly voted on by the players themselves, Cowboys All-Pro guard Zack Martin placed No. 85.
Martin fell from No. 55 entering the 2020 season to near the bottom of the best entering the 2021 campaign.
The ranking isn't that inequitable when considering Martin was coming off a season where he missed six games, the most in his career, and was part of a disastrous offensive line. Even though he was the steadying force on the unit, even kicking out from right guard to right tackle when the situation called for it, the unit was dismal.
Throw in the fact that Dallas sustained a four-game losing streak following the loss of quarterback Dak Prescott on Oct. 11, 2020, and there were doubts as to whether the Cowboys could win another game.
If the list is based on input from the players, and Martin never played another down after the Cowboys' 41-16 drubbing by Washington on Thanksgiving, who is going to bother to keep throwing votes Martin's way, especially if the Cowboys were losing games?
Whose opinion matters is that of Martin's teammates. Third-year guard Connor McGovern says it is the small details that makes Martin great.
"I would just say the little things, his footwork, how every time it's almost perfect, and if he does get outside it, he's able to get right back into placement," McGovern said. "Just able to watch these little things that he sees, he takes everything so seriously."
Martin even utilizes his younger teammates to help him with self-scout.
Said McGovern: "If he comes off the field, as soon as he's done taking a rep, he's asking me, 'How was my footwork there?' Just how he approaches every single step even when we're not on the field, the little things he takes care of the right way."
For the four-time first-team All-Pro and six-time Pro Bowler, the accolades, no matter how big or small, are irrelevant. What is consequential to Martin and his teammates along the offensive line is to lay the foundation to rebound from 2020.
"I think our group up front has a lot to prove this year," Martin said. "We've got some guys coming back and we've got some guys that have played a lot of football, but we're out to prove that we can still be a dominant line in this league. So, just got to keep taking the steps necessary to get ready for the season, and we know we have a lot to prove though upfront this year."
Martin can finish 95th in 2022 so long as the Cowboys are competing for a Super Bowl.
Where do you think Zack Martin ranks among the best players in the NFL? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.