New Orleans Saints: First-round NFL Draft prospects worth watching

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Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

  1. Myles Jack, Weakside Linebacker, UCLA

Age as a Rookie: 21 (Birthday in September).

Listed Height, Weight: 6-foot-1, 245 pounds.

Myles Jack is special among this year’s draft prospects but not a typical weakside linebacker.  He is not someone who will rack up tons of tackles like Danell Ellerbe (when healthy), having recorded double-digit tackles in only three career games for UCLA.  He hasn’t done that since November 28, 2014, but that’s admittedly due to his injury-shortened 2015 season.  Jack is not the tackling machine that his former teammate Eric Kendricks was last year.

Jack announced in early October that he would be forgoing his senior season at UCLA after tearing his meniscus in a non-contact practice.  He has a number of advantages on hand like his youth and unique skillset.  Many draft analysts consider Jack to be among the top ten-valued draft prospects in this rookie class, but his position is not as highly-valued as the quarterbacks, edge defenders, offensive tackles, wide receivers, and defensive backs who will be picked ahead of him.

Where He Wins:  All that said, Jack may be the best coverage linebacker to come out in years.  He spent the majority of his snaps covering opponents’ skills positions all over the field, lining up over the inline tight end, picking up receivers from the backfield, matching up in the slot, and even playing as a boundary cornerback against former USC Trojan and Philadelphia Eagles first round rookie Nelson Agholor.

Jack is a master of coverage and understands passing-game concepts better than any other linebacker and most defensive backs in this class.  That shows up when you look at Jack’s career stats — he has recorded four interceptions and 19 pass deflections over his three years at UCLA.  Those are numbers some cornerbacks would brag about.

So what would Jack bring to the New Orleans Saints?  Through the first ten weeks of 2015, 33.2 percent of all passing plays have targeted Saints linebackers in coverage. The linebackers, as a group, have given up 39.8 percent of all the team’s completions, and 34.7 percent of all passing yards came in their coverage.  Jack would immediately upgrade the defense’s ability to defend the pass on more than a third of its defensive snaps.

Next: 3. Will the offensive line ever get fixed?