Saints Draft

New Orleans Saints draft board: The case for the strongest positions of need

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Defensive Tackle

Nov 15, 2014; Tucson, AZ, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Budda Baker (32) and defensive lineman Danny Shelton (55) tackle Arizona Wildcats running back Nick Wilson (28) during the first half at Arizona Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve recently become a strong advocate for drafting a defensive tackle early. Why? Think about this. The Saints are not a traditional 3-4 team, and you can go back to last season and see that they also lined up in 4-3 a good bit. If you pan across the current depth chart, you are staring at Brodrick Bunkley, John Jenkins, and Lawrence Virgil. Personally, I don’t feel so hot about that, as Bunkley and Jenkins have missed respective time due to injury.

There are some intriguing prospects at defensive tackle, and as per my latest mock draft, I took Washington’s Danny Shelton at pick No. 13. Arguably, that may be a little early, but he’s the second best tackle in the draft, and in my eyes, a top 10 player.

Top Day One Targets: Leonard Williams (USC), Danny Shelton (Washington), Arik Armstead (Oregon), Malcom Brown (Texas)

Projected Target Round: 4-5

Cornerback

Oct 5, 2013; Stanford, CA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Marcus Peters (21) reacts after intercepting a pass against the Stanford Cardinal in the first quarter at Stanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Landing Brandon Browner was one of the best additions of the Saints offseason. After landing Kyle Wilson, who should serve as the team’s slot option, the Saints secondary is really starting to take shape. Younger prospects Brian Dixon, Stanley Jean-Baptiste, and Delvin Breaux can be true gems for the Saints if we can allow them to continue learning. There’s a ton of potential there, and they now have two of the league’s best to be mentored by.

I can’t exactly picture a scenario where the Saints take a cornerback at pick No. 13 or 31. However, I could see the Saints look for a one, particularly with the slot/nickel speciality in the later rounds. A player like Tulane’s Lorenzo Doss would be a perfect addition.

Top Day One Targets: Trae Waynes (Michigan State), Kevin Johnson (Wake Forest), Byron Jones (Connecticut), Marcus Peters (Washington), Jalen Collins (LSU)

Projected Target Round: 4-6

Wild Cards

Other considerations for the Saints to draft in the middle to later rounds include a quarterback, tight end, and possibly a running back or kicker. I wouldn’t see any of these positions addressed in the first round, or even the second round.

Of these said positions, tight end figures to be the largest need. Losing Jimmy Graham appears to be a very devastating thing for many, but Sean Payton has gushed over Josh Hill and his potential. The Saints do have a third tight end on the roster as of this moment, Orson Charles, but might look to add another at some point. However, the pickings are slim outside of Maxx Williams (Minnesota) and Clive Walford (Miami).

At the running back position, the Saints are set with their top three players: Mark Ingram, Khiry Robinson, and C.J. Spiller. With Edwin Baker and Tim Hightower set to compete for the fourth spot, there’s a real chance that Payton opts for another running back late, like a Terrance Magee from LSU, or through the undrafted rookie free agent pool.

None of these scenarios, despite how bad NFL analysts want to get under your skin, should involve a quarterback on Day One for the Saints. It’s simply not the time to look for a Drew Brees replacement or understudy, and perhaps those experts should pay more attention to Ryan Griffin.

What about the kicker position? Are we really ready to head into this season with Shayne Graham again? There’s only one kicker I’d consider drafting, and that’s University of Louisiana-Monroe’s Justin Manton. I’m still secretly hoping that we can land Florida State’s Roberto Aguayo next year. I’d say never waste a first round pick on a kicker, but the Oakland Raiders did that in 2000 when they took Sebastian Janikowski at 17th overall.

As for trading back to acquire more picks, aren’t you already happy with nine? I get that the value could help them, but there’s only going to be a team of 53 players to compete in September, and 10 to hang on the practice squad. You have to figure that at least 70 percent of the team is set for the new season. On the flip side, the argument can be made that an injection of young talent will push others.

With nearly two weeks to go, the anticipation continues to build for the New Orleans Saints and their fans. More importantly, we’re that much closer to football returning.

What positions do you feel are the most important on Day One of the draft and why?

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