Mel Kiper Mock Draft: Saints Select Johnathan Hankins

Greg Bartram-US PRESSWIRE

ESPN's "Draft Guru" Mel Kiper, Jr. makes his initial projection for the Saints first pick. What does Who Dat Nation think?

With the 15th selection of the 2013 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select:

Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State.

These are the words Mel Kiper, Jr. predicts Roger Goodell will say when he reaches the podium for the Saints first round pick on April 25th.

A lot can and likely will happen between now and draft day, but as of today the Saints have the 15th pick in the first round of the draft and Mel Kiper projects the Saints will select one of the top defensive tackles in the draft. This pick would seem to make quite a lot of sense considering the multitude of deficiencies the Saints defense had shown this past season.

The Saints surrendered an astonishing 147.6 rushing yards per game, 292.6 passing yards per game, and an NFL record 440.1 yards per game. It is clear that the Saints need to create some pressure up front to disrupt the passing game and stop the opposition from gashing the defense through the gaps in the front seven. There seems to be no better place to start than at defensive tackle.

Here's a brief analysis on Hankins courtesy of Mel Kiper himself:

The Saints had a disappointing season, but the problem was mainly on defense. No team was easier to run against consistently than New Orleans, and they need a clogger up the middle, a player who can free up linebackers to make plays. Hankins ran a little hot and cold, and the tape doesn't show a player who will penetrate and use quickness to beat interior blockers, but he can eat up double-teams, move down the line well and make the players around him better. The Saints need help in several spots on defense, but they really need a player who can help deliver more third-and-long situations, and Hankins could be that guy.

Kiper and every football fan in America could clearly see the Saints defense desperately needs help. As Kiper pointed out in his analysis, the Saints need defensive help on third down. The Saints defense will not become a dominant one overnight, especially with the addition of a rookie DT, but if they can get off the field on third down and put the ball back in Drew Brees' hands more times per game, these bad trends should begin to reverse.

Johnathan Hankins is a 6'3, 320 lb native of Dearborn Heights, Michigan. Hankins declared himself eligible for the 2013 NFL Draft following three successful seasons with the Ohio State Buckeyes. Hankins has shown versatility and adaptability by playing both defensive tackle and defensive end at Ohio State. This type of flexibility could prove to be very intriguing to the Saints. In his three seasons with the Buckeyes, Hankins tallied 138 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 5 sacks.

Hankins started every game of his sophomore and junior seasons and has been quite tough against the run. Conversely, fatigue has seemed to be an issue for Hankins during his collegiate career. NFL.com has Hankins ranked as the top defensive tackle prospect in this year's draft followed by Utah's Star Lotulelei. Kiper actually has Lotulelei going 3rd to the Oakland Raiders in this year's draft.

The Saints cannot afford to miss on this first round pick especially seeing as they don't have a second round pick for additional depth and leverage. The Saints have already had noticeable mis-steps at DT under Loomis and Payton. The disappointing career of 7th overall pick Sedrick Ellis and underwhelming performances of free agents Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin in 2011 are still fresh in Saints fans minds, and hopefully on the minds of the Saints front office and coaching staff.

Would Johnathan Hankins be a valuable piece of a young defensive line featuring players like Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan? Mel Kiper, Jr. seems to think so and he might be onto something. Even if Hankins is not the answer, the Saints must upgrade at DT and/or DE this upcoming season. What good is another cornerback or safety this high in the draft if they are just left on an island while the quarterback has all the time in the world to pick apart the back end of the defense? The 2013 Saints need to create pressure and make stops before the opponent even gets to the linebacking corps much less the secondary.

For more information and analysis on Johnathan Hankins follow this link . What do you think Who Dat Nation? Is Mel Kiper on the right track or is he completely off course? Let's discuss!

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