To the chagrin of their fans, the Saints waited until their last two picks to address their pass rush. But their sixth-round pick Al-Quadin Muhammad has all the tools to emerge as a strong candidate along the edge.
Al-Quadin Muhammad is a tough player for us outside the Saints’ front office to evaluate. He doesn’t have much game tape. Due to a fight in a parking lot and a NCAA investigation into illicit payments from a car-rental company, Muhammad only played one year of football in the last three. More than a few scouting reports have him pegged as having “character concerns”. But it’s clear from even the most cursory research on his suspensions that any red flags regarding character are nothing compared to the more serious cases like Joe Mixon and Caleb Brantley.
A testament to that fact is that the leading voice in support of Muhammad is the same voice that suspended him. Miami Head Coach Mark Richt allegedly convinced the Saints that Muhammad’s checkered past says nothing of him as a person. The character traits that Richt wanted the Saints to see in Muhammad are all promising: passion, love of the game, intelligence, motor. Muhammad seems, by all accounts, to be the right sort of guy for the Saints culture.
And once the Saints saw that, evaluation became easy. Muhammad hasn’t played much football and is therefore quite a bit raw with his technique.
But he has the athletic profile to be a successful EDGE rusher. With a bit of coaching.
Granted, even without the year’s absence from football Muhammad as never going to be a first round pick. But he could have fallen somewhere within the range of the Saints other DE pick, Trey Hendrickson, in the third round.
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Muhammad is long and has some solid explosion out of his stance. He has the ability to move people with his strength. He tested well at the combine — particularly in the 60-yard shuttle agility test — and has some ability to punch offensive lineman off of him to stay disengaged.
Against the run, he projects to be a solid if undersized DE. He’ll have to earn his keep early on as a situational pass rusher. And in that regard, he has some technical work to do. He doesn’t have elite bend to dip around the edge, and will have to compensate for that with some counter moves. As of now, he’s going to try to bull-rush. He needs to be able to swim, or to rip and pull. And the Saints should be able to coach some of that up.
He won’t be ready to contribute heavily early on. But in a sixth-round pick, the Saints got a developmental player with some great upside who could emerge down the line — even in 2017 as the season progresses — as a solid rusher opposite Cam Jordan.