Making the Case: Su’a Cravens could bring versatility to New Orleans Saints defense

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Su’a Cravens has been USC’s most versatile defender for several years, but what does he offer the New Orleans Saints as a draft prospect?

Su’a Cravens is the next name on my list of “Making the Case” series regarding prospects in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft.  Like Pharoh Cooper, Cravens is not likely to be drafted in the first round but can be a standout player from day one, and he fits the profile of the type of player the New Orleans Saints are looking to add to their locker room.  Let’s get started:

The Prospect:  Su’a Cravens, Linebacker, USC

There are a number of weakside linebacker prospects who can help the New Orleans Saints, ranging from top-tier rookies like Jaylon Smith and Myles Jack to less-heralded candidates like Blake Martinez and Deion Jones.  Su’a Cravens fits in with the rest of them as an experienced defender who is used to handling a variety of responsibilities; he lined up all over the field for USC the last few years and has the productivity to match.

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Measurements:  6-foot-1, 225-pounds, 21-years old.

Su’a Cravens has seen his weight fluctuate greatly in his collegiate career due to the different responsibilities asked of him.  He arrived on campus at around 230 pounds but was asked to slim down to 214 pounds so he could fill in at safety in his freshman year.  As his prowess in playing around the line of scrimmage emerged, he was tasked with putting on more weight to return to his original role, playing at 225 pounds in 2015.

Per Rotoworld.com, NFL teams see Su’a Cravens’ best fit as a linebacker, so he bulked up further to 238 pounds to prepare for NFL Scouting Combine activities.  Proving he still has the burst that made him a special talent at USC with a higher playing-weight will be a major key for him in the pre-draft process.

Key Stat:  Su’a Cravens has recorded 74 career “Badgers” (my in-house reference to combined tackles for loss, sacks, pass deflections, forced fumbles, and interceptions) on 134 tackles, a rate of one Badger every 1.8 tackles.

Only Kasim Edebali had a rate better than that (1.6) among New Orleans Saints linebackers in 2015, but he only made 11 Badgers to 18 tackles.  Su’a Cravens would bring unprecedented playmaking ability to a New Orleans linebacking corps in desperate need of it.

Per Ben Stockwell of the College Football Focus project, Su’a Cravens’ snap count in 2015 featured 365 snaps covering the slot, 307 snaps rushing quarterbacks off the edge, and 158 snaps in a traditional outside linebacker role defending the run or dropping into coverage.  He made a tackle on 10.5 percent of his snaps played in 2015, which is a respectable rate for a prospect at his position.

How He Fits in New Orleans:  Weakside linebacker

The biggest asset that Su’a Cravens may bring is his speed and physicality around the line of scrimmage.  New Orleans conceded more yards on the ground per carry than any other defense at the pro level in 2015.  Much of that was due to being thin at the line of scrimmage; opposing offensive lines had a field day bullying the Saints’ defensive front, and ball carriers faced little resistance streaking to the perimeter for big gains.

Cravens would nullify those plays, and, if put in the right position to succeed, blow up just about anything in front of him.  The Saints’ defense lacks for speed and his addition could be part of resolving that issue.

Pro Comparison:  Lavonte David, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Lavonte David
Nov 15, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden (20) runs with the ball as Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Lavonte David (54) tackles during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Like Su’a Cravens, Lavonte David was a safety who successfully transitioned to playing linebacker.  Both players are a bit undersized but very productive, and have shown the ability to make impactful plays all over the field.

David can also play a little recklessly at times, but that hair-on-fire nature is what makes him such an impressive player.  Cravens has the same mentality and Achilles’ heel.  However, if the Saints think that Cravens can play at a level comparable to David, they should run to the podium to get him in a black and gold jersey.

Did you like this article?  What are some things you want to see that I didn’t talk about?  What kinds of Saints-related content do you want to see from me in the future?  Drop me a line on Twitter for updates and notes about all things New Orleans Saints football.

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