With the scouting combine just weeks away and the 2015 NFL Draft kicking off at the end of April, the New Orleans Saints have plenty to think about in regards to getting the organization back on track after a disappointing 7-9 performance.
This rookie class is full of intriguing prospects from start to finish, and even with the emergence of John Jenkins at the nose tackle position for the Black and Gold, Washington DT Danny Shelton will be hard to ignore if he falls into the hands of Coach Sean Payton and GM Mickey Loomis.
Fixing the pass-rushing situation and cornerback problem are more important than spending a first-round draft pick on an interior defensive lineman. However, Shelton could actually help repair the lack of pressure inflicted on opposing quarterbacks while also plugging up the middle to stop the run, which was another weak spot in the Saints’ porous defense.
At 6-foot-2, 343 pounds, the Huskies’ First-team All-American and All-Pac 12 selection is built like a square-shaped brick wall. Even with that wide frame, Shelton is well-balanced, coordinated and surprisingly light on his feet, consistently wreaking havoc at the line of scrimmage.
Just in the past couple of weeks, he has shot up draft boards. His strength, burst and awareness as both a pass rusher and run stopper make him a top prospect at his position — he may not even make it to No. 13 overall, the Saints’ draft position in the first round.
As a senior, Shelton broke out of his cage, tallying 89 tackles (amazing for a lineman), 16.5 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks. As big as he is, the numbers show that he hustles just as hard, if not harder than anyone in his class, and that’s something coaches look for in young talent.
Shelton does lack the versatility and moves to consistently get after opposing quarterbacks. Don’t get me wrong, 9.5 sacks is an outstanding statistic for a defensive tackle, but his abilities will certainly be tested much more at the professional stage — it’s a whole new ballgame in the National Football League. However, I can guarantee you he’s up for the challenge.
As a three-year starter at Washington, he has never missed a game and has no injury history. He’s a tough, durable athlete with the tools and skill-set to excel at the next level for the long haul. The New Orleans Saints could sure benefit from a guy of Danny Shleton’s caliber to spice things up on the defensive side of the ball.
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