Why they drafted him: Zack Martin

IRVING, Texas -- Despite anxious moments in the Dallas Cowboys' war room, the team made the smart decision by drafting Notre Dame tackle Zack Martin on Thursday night with the 16th overall pick of the first round.

While the Cowboys need to upgrade their defense, getting the best player available -- which Martin was apparently -- was more important. Martin won't play tackle as a rookie. He'll compete for one of two guard spots.

There have been health issues with starting left guard Ronald Leary and starting right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau.

Bernadeau missed offseason workouts and the start of training camp last year with a variety of problems. And while he hasn't endured the same health problems as Bernadeau, Leary has a chronic knee condition that might cause problems.

Martin can start at one of these guard spots in 2014. He played guard during the Senior Bowl, which showed NFL teams his ability to switch positions. The Cowboys employ a zone blocking scheme that is predicated on good communication, and Martin played in this system in four seasons with Notre Dame.

But Martin's future is to play right tackle.

Doug Free, the starting right tackle, is signed through 2014 and given his age, 30, the Cowboys are committed to going younger at several positions. If things go according to plan, the Cowboys could have two starting tackles -- left tackle Tyron Smith and Martin -- in their 20s with the projection they will start for at least five years.

To have stability along the offensive line is important to the Cowboys, who want to protect Tony Romo. The 34-year-old quarterback is coming off two back surgeries within the past year.

The Cowboys like the fact Martin was also a two-time team captain and a four-year starter. Stability and respect from his teammates is important to coach Jason Garrett.