Lately, there has been a ton of speculation about who the Saints will take with their first round choice in this April's draft. While the decision is up for debate, and a broad spectrum of such arguments, I do not think the Saints will go for an early round offensive lineman or tackle, so to begin I'm going to talk a little bit about Charles Brown, last year's second round selection, who many believed carried a first round grade.
He's 6-5, and 300 pounds. He was a tight end when he started at USC, and ended up being converted into a tackle. Obviously his frame and athleticism intrigued the folks in Southern California, and they felt his switch would be beneficial not only to himself, but to the team. He started at left tackle for two seasons at USC, and before that he was a swing tackle that even made a spot start on the right side, proving his versatility. He wasn't dominant at USC, but he flashed the potential to be. He performed well in pass protection in college, but his strong suit was run blocking. That included opening up a hole and controlling his man, as well as attacking and mauling guys as he blocks down the field.
The Saints have been taking his development slowly, and that's undoubtedly the best route to take. During the preseason, Brown did a very nice job. Chase Daniel often had ample enough time in the pocket to make his throws, but most noticeable was Brown's effect on the run game. The great performances in the preseason by guys like Chris Ivory and P.J. Hill were due in part to Brown's efforts on the line. In fact, on Chris Ivory's 76-yard touchdown scamper, Brown was the tackle.
Now I'm not saying that Brown is by any means our savior or that he was really great, but he will probably be fighting for a starting job this off season, and has the potential to be very good on either side. If things work out and it were up to me, I'd kick Bushrod to the right side, and insert Brown on the left, while putting Stinchcomb (who in my opinion had a very poor year both run blocking and pass protecting) on the bench or outright cutting him in order to save a little money, perhaps to pay Carl Nicks and Jonathan Goodwin. It seems like a harsh move, but he's already 31 and is showing very obvious signs of decline. I think if Goodwin leaves, and Matt Tennant takes over at the center spot, then the team might go for the all out youth movement on the line and let Stinchcomb go.
I believe that even if neither Brown nor Tennant earn starting jobs next season, their competition will certainly push the other guys on the line.
So with the jump, I'll move on to position needs.The Draft is probably my favorite time of the season, I just like the different possibilities and opportunities for teams to improve, I'm not sure but something about the draft and free agency just gets me excited. The Saints don't have any giant, gaping holes like many teams, so they are allowed the luxury of drafting BPA. However, I'm going to go through each position on the defensive side for this edition.
Starting with the defensive line.
Defensive End- earliest target round (1st)
The team hasn't had a relevant threat across from Will Smith since the days before Charles Grant got overpaid. The team has managed to find stopgaps with players like Alex Brown and Jeff Charleston, but they haven't even tried to really strengthen the position other than UDFA Junior Galette who figures to be a regular part of the rotation next season. But that's the problem, the Saints need more than just a "rotation guy" to take the heat off of Smith, Smith plays with a great mix of finesse and power, so I think the team might try to find a player who can play with more power in order to contribute to the run defense. Here are some options:
- Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue (rd1)
- J.J. Watt, Wisconsin (rd1)
- Cameron Jordan, Cal (rd1)
- Allen Bailey, Miami (FL) (rd1)
Defensive Tackle- earliest target round (1st)
This spot is similar to the end position, we have one great player, but only contributors here. Sedrick Ellis deserves a big space eater more talented than Remi Ayodele. The team doesn't need another 3 technique. Ellis is a monster, and Hargrove is a very adequate backup. A big NT that can occupy blockers is desperately needed as showcased by countless runners slipping through the middle of our line during the course of the season.
- Stephen Paea, Oregon State (rd1)
- Corey Liuget, Illinois (rd2)
- Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple (rd2-3)
- Jerrell Powe, (rd2-3)
Outside Linebacker- earliest target round (1st)
It seems like we always need to make a change and are looking to get rid of Shanle, at least the fans are. Fujita went to Cleveland and virtually left us with nothing. Shanle took the SLB for a little bit until Casillas went down for the season on the weak side, but there was still much left to be desired from the two outside spots. Casillas is unproven and injury prone, but has the potential to be a very nice player. We also completely lack any pass rushers at the spot.
- Akeem Ayers, UCLA (rd1)
- Justin Houston (DE/OLB), Georgia (rd1)
- Greg Jones, Mich. St. (rd1-2)
- Kelvin Sheppard (rd2-3)
Middle Linebacker- earliest target round (6th-7th, UDFA)
Easily the strongest spot of the linebacking corps. Vilma is a Pro-Bowler and Marvin Mitchell is a GW favorite and plays his role very well. However, if one goes down, there's nothing left, so I think the team will look into some options maybe later in the draft or in UDFA.
- Alex Wujciak, Maryland
- Akeem Dent, Georgia
Cornerback- earliest target round (4th)
- Chris L. Rucker, Mich. St.
- Devon Torrence, Ohio St.
Safety- earliest target round (3rd)
It seemed like we lost a backup safety every game this season, then it got to a point where we were losing starters, too. Roman Harper played a great season in the run game at his SS spot, but struggled mightily when forced to cover. Sharper has lost several steps and may want to consider retirement. Malcolm Jenkins, who had a stellar season, needs a backup.
- Deunta Williams, UNC
- Ahmad Black, Florida
Part two (offense and special teams) coming soon!