Is it too early to talk about the 2014 NFL Draft? Maybe it is, maybe not. Just hear me out and tell me what you think.
The idea for this piece came up as I was thinking about the amazing turnaround of the Saints defense: Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan are leading the whole front-seven into the opponent’s backfield. Junior Galette has stepped up and is becoming a lethal pass rusher. Curtis Lofton is monitoring the middle of the field and leads the team in tackles with 86. The trio of safeties is extremely versatile and Rob Ryan is exploiting their skills perfectly. Awesome. But how about cornerbacks?
Let’s take a look at the depth chart first:
CB1 Keenan Lewis
CB2 Corey White
CB3 Chris Carr
CB4 Rod Sweeting
IR Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson, A.J. Davis
(Oh, and the recently signed Trevin Wade – if you want more info about Wade check this out).
Keenan Lewis is, in my opinion, the biggest offseason pickup (except Rob Ryan): he has 3 interceptions, one touchdown pass allowed, 8 passes defended, one forced fumble and 31 tackles (27 solo) so far. He is a benchmark of this defense and teams don’t throw in his direction very often.
Jabari Greer’s injury is a big problem for the Saints. 2012 5th-round pick Corey White had occasional flashes of talent but he is terribly inconsistent and when he hasn’t “his head in the game” opposing coordinators tend to target him on virtually every snap (last Thursday Night against Darius Johnson he had a “rough time”, to be kind). Even if Greer fully heals from his knee injury he will be 32 when the 2014 season begins.
Patrick Robinson is on IR and will be back next season but has he proved he is your No. 2 guy? Remember last year in Dallas when he was matched up against Dez Bryant?
Veteran Chris Carr has the experience to be a good situational fill-in but nothing more than this. Rod Sweeting was acquired as an undrafted free agent the last offseason and hasn’t seen the field much (one assisted tackle in week 2).
I hope that won’t be the case this year but the lack of a quality No. 2 cornerback might hurt our beloved Saints in the postseason. How do you overcome this DBs deficiency?
Free agency? I don’t think so. The market doesn’t offer much (probably Nnamdi Asomugah is the best option but he is unemployed…) and the Saints have to work out a new deal with the best tight end in the league that will likely take away $10-15kk per year in cap space.
So, what’s left? The Draft, of course! One of the (many) upsides of having a quarterback like Drew Brees is that you can use your early picks to upgrade the defense since he will be able to work with new guys whether they are “cheaper” free agents (Ben Watson) or youngster drafted in later rounds/undrafted free agents (Kenny Stills, Nick Toon/Lance Moore). Since Reggie Bush/Robert Meachem in ’06/’07 the Saints have drafted a defensive guy in the first round every year: Sedrick Ellis (2008), Malcolm Jenkins (2009), Patrick Robinson (2010), Cameron Jordan (2011), Akiem Hicks (2012 – 3rd round, first pick due to the bounty stuff), Kenny Vaccaro (2013).
Given these facts, I think that targeting a cornerback high in the 2014 Draft is the right move to extend the success the Saints defense is having. If you want to check out some “hot” college prospects click here.