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The case for Tim Lelito as the next New Orleans Saints guard

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While staring at a plethora of draft picks and addressing several team needs through free agency, the New Orleans Saints 2015 squad is starting to come together.

At the NFL’s annual owners meeting this week, Saints general manager Mickey Loomis talked about some of the moves and future of the organization. Perhaps one of the best tidbits from the Loomis presser came when he shed some light as to what the team will do to compensate for the departure of guard Ben Grubbs.

If you’ve checked out any of my tweets, you should know that I’m fairly high on Tim Lelito.

A little background for those who aren’t already familiar with him.

For starters, Lelito is set to turn 26 years old in July. He entered the Saints franchise on April 29, 2013 as an undrafted rookie free agent from Grand Valley State, a university in Michigan. Fans quickly learned about Lelito, and had a ‘big man’s dream’ in the preseason finale against the Miami Dolphins. In that game, Lelito would recover a fumble and score his first touchdown of his career. His play ultimately earned him a permanent roster spot in New Orleans.

Lelito would play in all 16 games for the Saints in 2013, and was tested early on. In Week 3, he was called upon to start for injured guard Jahri Evans against the Arizona Cardinals. He’d also start in Week 12 on the road against the Atlanta Falcons.

Perhaps the craziest part of his short week was that Lelito would set aside the personal loss of grandmother to play in the Week 11 game against the San Francisco 49ers. He found out the night before that she had passed away. The significance of it all lies within the fact that his grandmother adopted and raised him since the age of 4. Lelito would attend the funeral on Wednesday, and suit up on Thursday night to start for Jahri Evans.

Heading into the 2014 season, Lelito would be a heavy favorite to start at center for the Saints offense. Veteran Jonathan Goodwin was signed on June 3, and would eventually earn the team’s starting role over Lelito. However, Lelito would play in all 16 games in 2014, and even start in two of them. Lelito would play in 294 snaps on offense in 2014, making starts against Green Bay and Carolina in Weeks 8 and 9, and play in all offensive snaps in the victories. He’d also fill in for Goodwin against Minnesota (Week 3), Tampa Bay (Week 5), and Detroit (Week 6).

Overall, Tim Lelito didn’t receive the highest of Pro Football Focus grades, finishing out as a -0.5 overall. However, Lelito fared well in run blocking (126 plays), turning in a 2.0 grade as opposed to his -2.4 grade is pass blocking (168 plays).

I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t believe the Saints have to address the guard position early in the draft. Let me show you some plays from his starts at guard in 2013 that will hopefully make you feel good about Tim Lelito as the next starting guard for the New Orleans Saints.

All images are copyright of the NFL through Coaches Pass.

Next: Week 3: Arizona Cardinals

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