Jan 23, 2013; Mobile AL, USA; New Orleans Saints general manager Mickey Loomis with head coach Sean Payton scouting the Senior Bowl north squad practice a day after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (not pictured) reinstated New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton after his season long suspension. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Everybody has a different approach heading into draft day. Team needs are to be addressed; that’s what the draft is for. When preparing for the big weekend, the New Orleans Saints have a very particular set of skills. Not like Liam Neeson from Taken, however, I still wouldn’t want to get in Sean Payton‘s way if he were heated up. The Saints are exceptional at finding the steals in the draft and turning them into excellent, productive football players, especially on the offensive side of the ball. For example, Marques Colston, Jahri Evans, Zach Strief and Kenny Stills were all picked in the fourth round or later. Even Jimmy Graham was picked at the bottom of the third. Running backs Pierre Thomas and Khiry Robinson were both undrafted. Other than Drew Brees, that’s almost the entire offense.
So, what’s my point? Keep building that army of a defense up and add some offensive weapons later in the draft.
Top team needs on defense: OLB, CB, DE
If Coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis do decide to go that route, then let’s split defense into the first few round and offense into the later rounds.
Rounds 1-3 possible prospects:
C.J. Moseley, ILB, Alabama (Mid to late first round)- Top ranked interior linebacker in the draft. A strong tackling machine that would be a great complement to Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne. 2013 Butkus Award winner (nation’s top linebacker) and All-American in 2012 and 2013. Health may cause him to slide down the board.
Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State (Mid- late first rounds)- Maybe my favorite late first-round prospect. His quick feet and explosive play off the snap would help him excel in Rob Ryan‘s aggressive-style hybrid defense. 2013 All-American. Not sure if he’ll fall to the No. 27 pick, but it’d be something to watch for.
Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State (Mid- late first rounds)- Fast, aggressive, good hands and dangerous as a blitzer. All-American in 2012. Could mold into a very productive corner learning behind veteran CB Champ Bailey.
Jason Verrett, CB, TCU (Late first round)- Undersized, but plays bigger than he actually is. His quick feet, explosive and coverage skills grants him the ability to jump routes and make the big play. First-team All-American in 2013 and All-Big 12 in 2012 and 2013.
Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech (Late first- early second rounds)- Great size, awareness and durability. Team captain at VT so he knows how to be a leader. Another guy that could grow behind the experience of Champ Bailey
Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri (second round)- A great pass rusher out of a great conference. His strength and explosiveness give him NFL starter ability from day one. Saints could use another pass rusher on the line behind Cam Jordan and Akiem Hicks. First-team All-SEC in 2013.
Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU (Rounds 2-3)- Day two prospect with first-round potential. Big muscular, quick off the snap and could can add stable pass rush ability to an already aggressive Saints team. Third-team All-American in 2011, 2012 and 2013. First-team All-Independent 2011-2013.
Team Needs on Offense: WR, C, RB (Sproles replacement)
Possible targets for the later rounds:
Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU (third round)- Ability to line up in the slot and be a zone coverage nightmare. Has the ups and hands to make highlight-reel catches. Second-team All-SEC in 2013. Could develop into an exceptional wideout.
Bryan Stork, C, Florida State (Rounds 5-6)- Visited with the Saints two weeks ago. Excellent size. Help lead FSU to a national title in 2013. Consensus All-American and First-team All-ACC in 2013. Lack of strength will cause him to plummet down draft boards. Could be late-round steal for Saints at center.
Dri Archer, RB, Kent State (Rounds 3-4)- Extremely fast and versatile (clocked just under Chris Johnson‘s 40-time record at the NFL combine). Great cutback ability. Could be an excellent replacement for Darren Sproles both in the backfield and on special teams. Could also be used in the slot similar to Rams’ WR Tavon Austin.
Ryan Grant, WR, Tulane (Rounds 6-7)- Out of New Orleans’ own Tulane University. Fast, has ups and has hands the size of Texas. Potential to excel in the slot in replacement of Lance Moore. One of the most underrated receivers in the draft. First-team All-Conference USA selection in 2012 and 2013.
De’Anthony Thomas, RB, Oregon (Rounds 6-7)- Quick sprinter speed and acceleration. Could be a screen pass weapon in the backfield and a threat in the return game. Pac-12 All Offensive Freshman of the year and All-Conference first team in 2011.
Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh (Rounds 4-5)- Nice speed and hands. Tall and lanky with room to grow. Size would be a nice complement to Marques Colston and Jimmy Graham. Third-team All-ACC in 2013 and Second-team All-Big East in 2012.
Zac Kerin, C, Toledo (Round 7- Undrafted)- Was the leader on an offensive line that allowed the least sacks in the NCAA last year. Three-time All-MAC selection.
New Orleans, we have a deep draft. This is the year to take advantage of those late round picks on offense and turn them into productive athletes. The Saints are just the team to do so. The 2014 NFL Draft is just around the corner; what does Payton and Loomis have up their sleeves this time?