Draft Week: Saints Targets at Positions of Need


Apr 26, 2012; New York, NY, USA; A general view of the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL starts this Thursday. It’s so close! Every prediction, rumor, and smallest bit of speculation gets validated or thrown out the window some time from Thursday evening through whenever it ends on Saturday. The Saints have many options, may it be to trade up, down, or pick at the 15th spot. Seeing that predicting a trade partner can be maddening, lets pretend that the Saints stay at 15. Instead of saying who they will actually pick, let’s narrow the choices down by position:

Offensive Tackle

The Saints top choice here would be Lane Johnson if, for some crazy reason, he falls to the 15th spot. Most analysts don’t see him getting past the Cardinals at the 7th spot. If he is indeed gone, the Saints next best option would be Menelik Watson, a raw but gifted right tackle with the potential to move to the left side. D.J. Fluker is definitely a right tackle in the NFL who may even move to guard but is a great prospect in his own right. Don’t rule him out of the Saint’s plans.

ICYMI: Menelik Watson Draft Profile

ICYMI: D.J. Fluker Draft Profile

Outside Linebacker

Without a doubt, if Ziggy Ansah is available the Saints would have to be thrilled. He is an athletic specimen who, despite having little experience in football, soaks up knowledge like a sponge. Would be a great pick for years to come. If he is gone by the time the Saints pick, which is highly likely, Barkevious Mingo and Jarvis Jones are both athletic and capable pass rushers that would likely be available, with Jones the likely option. Mingo comes with effort question marks and is not familiar with a 3-4 defense having worked at defensive end in a 4-3 but has elite measurables and ability to back him up. Jones has a few health issues and questions with growth and bulk potential but has the production in college to back him up. Bjoern Werner, though a better 4-3 defensive end, and Alec Ogletree, a versatile safety-turned-inside linebacker, are also solid choices. They may need more work to be the pass rusher the Saints need on the outside but have the talent to do so.

ICYMI: Say No To Mingo

ICYMI: Tough as an Ogletree

Defensive Back

Cornerback Dee Milliner is almost certainly to be gone but two great options are Xavier Rhodes and Desmond Trufant. I believe Rhodes fits the Saints new defense better. He is a physical corner who closely resembles another physical corner the Saints signed this offseason. With similar speed and ability, Rhodes and Keenan Lewis could be the next best cornerback tandem in the league. Safety is also another option with Kenny Vaccaro possibly available. Vaccaro has the versatility and athletic ability to be a strong or free safety in the NFL, which could then free up the Saints to either move Malcom Jenkins back to corner or release Roman Harper. Matt Elam is likely a reach at this position but offers a possible upgrade at the strong safety position.

ICYMI: Rhodes to Success

ICYMI: Kenny Vaccaro Draft Profile

ICYMI: The Missing Elam-ent

Defensive Tackle

Broderick Bunkley is likely our next nose tackle but the Saints could use some competition at the position. A bigger space-eater is usually preferable and if Star Lotulelei is available the Saints could have their man. Athletic, versatile, and smart, Lotulelei is starting to climb back up draft boards after falling following a heart health scare. The next few options are Sylvester Williams and Sheldon Richardson, with Williams the likely selection. Williams is almost certainly a nose tackle while Richardson is more fluid and probably better suited as a 4-3 defensive tackle. Jonathan Hankins is a great choice but may be a bit of a reach for the Saints here. Also, later rounds may offer the Saints a less impressive but still solid option at nose tackle.

Wide Receiver

Sean Payton would probably have to fight tooth and nail for the chance to run up to the podium with the card for Tavon Austin if he is available here. Austin is a playmaker similar to Percy Harvin. He also reminds me of DeSean Jackson and Lance Moore. He lacks the height to go outside but he is a threat defenses will have to account for. Cordarrelle Patterson is the only other receiver with considerable talent (the term “explosive” comes to mind) here but has serious character and attitude issues. Those types of players are not usually the picks the Saints make, especially at a position like wide receiver. Keenan Allen is talented and fits the bill at wide receiver but 15 might be a little high to pick him.