The New Orleans Saints must find ways to improve in 2012

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In the aftermath of the New Orleans Saints loss to the San Francisco 49ers, and yet another disappointing early exit from the playoffs, the Saints have to look toward to the future as they begin to try and improve the team.

One thing is somewhat troubling, and that is the production from some of the teams top tier draft picks.

In the NFL, first round picks are studs; outside of quarterbacks, you expect your first round picks to be full time starters and major contributors worthy of the large dollars their signing bonuses bring them.

The Saints have had a string of underachieving first round picks.  Cameron Jordan did a fairly poor job, not recording a sack until the final week of the season, and only totaling 18 solo tackles in 15 starts.

Defensive tackle Muhammed Wilkerson was drafted a few spots behind Jordan (and Mark Ingram for that matter) by the New York Jets, and he recorded 3 sacks and 48 tackles.

The argument that the lockout hurt Jordan would seem valid until you look at what Cam Newton did as a quarterback.

Mark Ingram was doing well before his injury.  But our first round pick history is similar.  In 2010 it was Patrick Robinson, who only picked up his game after he cut the dreadlocks out of his hair.

Until the middle of this season he was headed for the bust pile.  Malcolm Jenkins was the guy in 2009, and he needs to understand his role as free safety better.

Three seasons into his young career and he’s still not what should be expected of a first round pick, moreover from one that many thought could be a potential Hall of Fame candidate at the safety position when coming out of Ohio State.

Sedrick Ellis regressed some this season, totaling only a .5 sacks after notching a career high six sacks in 2010.

Ndamukong Suh is the gold standard at defensive tackle, and Ellis doesn’t compare after four seasons to Suh in his two years.

Putting aside the fact that what is asked of each of them is different, needless to say  the Saints need to do a better job of evaluating talent and/or “coaching up” these young prospects.

Offensively the Saints are blessed with a bevy of talent.