The New Orleans Saints have no excuses for not upgrading defensive line in 2016

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Aug 3, 2015; White Sulphur Springs, WV, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Bill Johnson instructs defensive lineman Tyeler Davison (95) and defensive lineman Tavaris Barnes (90) during training camp at The Greenbrier. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 3, 2015; White Sulphur Springs, WV, USA; New Orleans Saints defensive line coach Bill Johnson instructs defensive lineman Tyeler Davison (95) and defensive lineman Tavaris Barnes (90) during training camp at The Greenbrier. Mandatory Credit: Michael Shroyer-USA TODAY Sports /

The New Orleans Saints should be able to upgrade their defensive line tremendously in 2016, at least if they attack it right.

Noted NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock was asked some questions by members of the media on Tuesday in anticipation for the upcoming scouting combine. One question in particular surrounding the defensive tackle class caught my attention, and should pique the interest of Saints fans.

On February 10, Mayock released his 2016 NFL Draft position rankings. His top 5 interior lineman for this year’s class:

  1. DeForest Buckner, Oregon
  2. Robert Nkemdiche, Ole Miss
  3. Sheldon Rankins, Louisville
  4. Jarran Reed, Alabama
  5. A’Shawn Robinson, Alabama

Rankins has been a very popular mock draft choice by many national media and local analysts, and would instantly upgrade the Saints defensive line. Buckner was my choice in my ‘way too early’ mock draft, but I had him more as an edge presence as opposed to an interior rusher. Reed has been available in the second round of my first two mock drafts, but I don’t realistically expect him to last.

Outside of the attractive top options, there are a ton of options available at every point in the draft.

Next: NFL Scouting Combine: 10 defensive linemen for New Orleans Saints to eye

The route to improve is twofold, meaning that the Saints could also leverage free agency for a rotational presence on the interior line. Tyrunn Walker and Damon Harrison rank among the top 15 free agent players on my wish list.

The Saints could lose veteran Kevin Williams to retirement or free agency, but was a strong presence in 2015. Despite that, the team will have several returning players: Tyeler DavisonKaleb Eulls, and John Jenkins. They have exclusive rights to Lawrence Virgil and Austin Brown in 2016, and locked up Ashaad Mabry under a reserve/future contract.

No matter how you slice it, the black and gold have to improve over their 31 team sacks (T-25th) in 2015 and 34 team sacks (25th) in 2014 to be contenders. Of the sacks from last season, only Tyeler Davison (1.5) and John Jenkins (0.5) found success.

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