With the 2011 NFL season in the books, the next big events are the free agency period and the NFL Draft. Aside from re-signing big names such as Brees, Colston, and Nicks, the Saints have a plethora of players that they will have to decide to either retain or let walk.
Instead of making a big splash in free agency, the draft will be the most likely area where holes will get filled. Currently the Saints have seven draft picks in the following rounds: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, two in the 6th, and 7th. As you may remember, in the 2011 draft the Saints traded away this years first round pick in order to get running back Mark Ingram. Right now, pending any free agent acquisitions or let-gos, the Saints' glaring needs are all on the defensive side of the ball at linebacker and defensive line. They do have other areas that could use a little depth such as cornerback and even wide receiver or tight end, however.
After looking at many mock drafts, I have watched highlights and game films as well as dissected stats of a few players that have been repeatedly mentioned or that have looked intriguing. I have divided my research into two pairs of players. The following pair are ones that I think the Saints should target to bolster the teams talent at linebacker and cornerback.
Sean Spence, OLB, University of Miami
Projected as a second round pick, Spence would be identified as smaller linebacker. He is listed at 5'11" and 228 lbs, which is similar to current Saints MLB Jonathan Vilma. In his four years at Miami, Spence had 170 solo tackles (318 total) with 47 being for a loss. He had 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and also an interception.
While looking at his playing style, Spence appears to be a great fit at OLB for the Saints. He is very quick for a linebacker, running a 4.58 40-yard dash. He uses great vision as the play develops and runs at good angles towards the ball carrier. Even though he might have a small frame for a linebacker, I noticed he was constantly around the ball. Another thing I saw was that Spence seemed to be a sure tackler, rarely letting a runner get away from him. As we know, the Saints struggle with tackling. Bringing in a good, aggressive tackler would be great for this defensive unit.
Jayron Hosley, CB, Virginia Tech
In another mock draft, Jayron Hosley is also projected as a second round pick. In three seasons at Virginia Tech (he is only a Junior), Jayron had 73 solo tackles (109 total) with 3.5 for loss. He was also responsible for 12 Hokie interceptions.
Hosley has been labeled as a NFL ready cornerback even at his young age. His playing style is very impressive. Listed as only 5'10" and 171 pounds, Jayron is considerably smaller than the average NFL receiver, which is 6'1". He makes up for his size with outstanding speed, running a 4.53 40-yard dash. Looking at his film, I noticed he could recover from a misstep and get back on the receivers hip. As the quarterback would release the ball, Jayron immediately looked for it in the air and went to it.
Along with being a corner, Jayron was a dangerous return man in college, getting 815 punt return yards on 68 returns, two of which were touchdowns. The Saints would get a great cover corner and an explosive returner if they could land this double-threat.