New Orleans Saints must stop using early draft picks on projects
As we near the 2016 draft, the New Orleans Saints are putting together their big board, but they should be wary about “projects” compared to previous years. After finishing the 2015 season with a disappointing 7-9 record that awarded them the 12th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Saints are in desperate need of new talent.
Because of shaky free agent signings and bad draft classes (apart from the 2015 draft), the New Orleans Saints now have gabbing holes all over their roster. That is most evident on the defense that finished 31st last season, where help is needed at basically every position. Overall, the Saints no longer have a roster that gives them the luxury of picking a project player in the early rounds, as we have seen them do in recent years.
The most obvious example being Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who the New Orleans Saints picked in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Baptiste was a raw prospect going into the draft, but his potential and psychical stature led to the Saints investing big on him. It was an investment that later failed, as he was cut at the beginning of the 2015 season after only seeing seven snaps on defense as a rookie.
And to some degree, Andrus Peat, the 13th overall pick by the New Orleans Saints in last years draft, also represented the kind of prospect the team should be wary of picking. Peat has shown potential and could become a great player, but when the Saints are taking a player early in the first round, he most definitely should be a starter from day one. These decisions have contributed to the Saints now being far away from contending and even making the playoffs.
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They have been know to go by the “Best player available” strategy, but that might not be the best approach with the current roster. The Saints could instead go with the safe pick this year, instead of taking risks.
So, a player like Jaylon Smith out of Notre Dame might have been one of the best players in all of college football last year. You could argue that he would be a top-3 prospect coming into this draft before he tore his ACL and LCL in the last game of the season. He could be an appealing option and would fill a big need at the weakside linebacker spot, but the New Orleans Saints simply can’t afford to take a player who might need a “red shirt” year because of injury or lack of development.
Therefore, players like Robert Nkemdiche, A’Shawn Robinson and Shawn Oakman, who all have the physical gifts to star in the NFL but have failed to produce top-tier numbers in the college ranks, should not be on the Saints’ radar when they are on the clock. New Orleans needs evidence that the players they pick in the early rounds of the draft have what it takes to improve their team right know, instead of in the future.
As long as Drew Brees is running the show in the Superdome, the New Orleans Saints are not in rebuilding mode and should shy away from “red shirt” prospects. There are plenty prospects who could help in improving the hole-filled roster they have now.