What’s up Saints fans!!! I’m coming to you today with Part 2 of the Rookie Run-Down Final Thoughts. I apologize for the long delay in wrapping up this series. Anyway, I’m back to continue the cause. Today we take a look at the undrafted free agent class of the New Orleans Saints for 2013. With the season completely in our rear-view, I’ll discuss the contributions of the free agent rookies who earned a spot on the roster, whether it was the active roster or practice squad. I will also attempt to include a snippet of information about each player’s college superlatives and their path to our favorite team’s roster. Not surprisingly, Mickey Loomis and the front office were able to find some diamonds in the rough again. A couple of players turned out to be solid contributors at positions that the Saints actually have a decent amount of depth. Now - on to the grades!!!
Glenn Foster, DE – Season Grade: C
Glenn Foster played his college football with the Illinois Fighting Illini. While he was not a big-play, stat sheet filler, Foster was a solid contributor who earned 23 starts at defensive tackle, including 12 during his senior season. Foster appears to be a high motor player who works hard in the trenches to create opportunities for his teammates to clean up plays.
In 2013, Foster appeared in 12 games with no starts for the Saints, but quickly established himself as a fan favorite at CSC. True to form, his stats will not knock your socks off, but watching him play was enjoyable. Unfortunately, like many other Saints, he was in and out of the active roster with injuries. I can see Foster hanging onto a roster spot for a while, but he is firmly behind Cameron Jordan and Akiem Hicks at the defensive end spots.
Foster’s season totals (including playoffs): 7 total tackles, 3 Sacks, & 1 Pass Defended, P/O – 0 Stats
Ryan Griffin, QB – Season Grade: N/A
Ryan Griffin is a former starting quarterback from Tulane. Griffin is from Santa Monica, California and is currently 24 years old. He stands 6’5" tall at a weight of 206 lbs. While in college, Griffin completed 59% of his passes for over 9,000 yards and 56 TDs. RG4 started in 39 of the 42 games in which he appeared, only coming off the bench 3 times during his red-shirt freshman campaign. As minor as that detail may seem, experience as a starting quarterback in consecutive seasons can vastly help a player’s confidence and the Saints may end up the beneficiary.
RG4 never saw a single regular season snap in 2013 and was only promoted to the active roster from the practice squad to prevent him from being cherry-picked by a QB-needy team (St. Louis) near mid season. In addition, Griffin appeared to be firmly planted at the No. 3 QB spot for at least the 2013 season with Luke McCown ahead of him on the depth chart behind Drew Brees. Is Griffin a part of the future in New Orleans? Or is he just another face behind Brees? Only time will tell good friends.
Charles Hawkins, WR – Season Grade: N/A
Charles Hawkins attended Southern University in Louisiana and is a New Orleans native. Hawkins went undrafted in the 2013 NFL draft and was signed to the Arizona Cardinals practice squad 3 weeks later. Hawkins was waived by the Cards in August and then signed to the Lions practice squad in September. Three weeks later, Hawkins was released and signed to the Saints practice squad on Christmas day. He did not appear in any games for the Saints in 2013.
Hawkins stands 5’8" and weighs 167 lbs and is considered a speed guy who offers value in the return game because he clocked a low of 4.34 in the 40 yard dash. Though not considered a standout by any means, Hawkins could be a productive #3 or #4 WR. In college, he had his best production in his senior year totaling 31 catches for 467 yards and 7 TDs, accounting for nearly half of his career statistics. On 12 returns the same year, Hawkins averaged 25.8 yards. While the competition at WR on the Saints roster will be fierce, Hawkins may find an opportunity returning kicks as New Orleans could benefit from a boost in the return department.
Josh Hill, TE – Season Grade: D+
Josh Hill signed with the Saints as an undrafted free agent out of Idaho State. Hill’s collegiate career actually began at Boise State before he transferred after his redshirt freshman year. Hill appeared in 44 games at Idaho State and started in 16, 11 of which were his senior season. The Saints signed Hill in late April shortly after the draft was completed.
Hill is a tall player standing 6’5" and slender at 229 lbs, almost like a basketball player instead of a tight end. However, the more successful current NFL TEs have similar frames to Hill, so there is more than likely a thought process at work with his signing. Hill was very productive in college by collecting 152 catches for 1338 yards and 9 TDs. The bulk of his production was a 70 catch, 630 yard senior season. While he currently appears to be a project for the Saints, there is potential in Hill to be a reliable receiving TE. Also worth noting, Hills lone carry in college went for -6 yards (that’s right, his last 2 carries have totaled -14 yards), so maybe Payton avoids the TE reverse in 2014.
Hill’s season totals (including playoffs): 6 catches for 44 yards and 1 TD, P/O – 2 catches for 32 yards
Tim Lelito, G – Season Grade: C
Tim Lelito signed with the Saints in April after a standout college career at FCS Grand Valley State. At GVS, Lelito started in 45 consecutive games while earning recognition as GLIAC Offensive Lineman of the Year. Lelito seems to excel at run blocking, so that is a positive trait that will help the Saints in Jumbo/short yardage packages. I would also like to mention commitment that Lelito showed to the team when he attended his grandmother’s funeral on Wednesday and was available to start in place of Jahri Evans on Thursday night in a key division match against the Atlanta Falcons.
Lelito is 6-4 in height and weighs 315 lbs and appears to be a physical match for the offensive guard body type. In his two regular season starts, Lelito struggled early against the Cardinals and then played exceptionally against the Falcons. With Ben Grubbs and Evans ahead of him on the depth chart, Lelito will more than like play the role of understudy until one of them needs to be replaced. In the meantime, expect to see Lelito get plenty of work during the preseason, then hold steady on standby.
Kevin Reddick, ILB – Season Grade: C
Kevin Reddick came to the Saints from the University of North Carolina. A two-time team captain in college, Reddick signed on with the Saints in April 2013. Reddick started 43 games at middle linebacker and managed to return one of his 2 INTs for a TD. As a Tar Heel, Reddick was a tackling machine, racking up 275 tackles combined. Reddick has been a leader on his team and experienced discipline while attending Hargrave Military Academy in high school.
Reddick is another favorite of die-hard Saints fans at CSC. He put together a decent preseason with 11 tackles in 4 games and 2 forced fumbles in rotational duties. Reddick was on the active roster for all 16 games in 2013 and was a regular special team’s contributor. With Curtis Lofton ahead of him on the inside linebacker depth chart, Reddick will have to work very hard in the offseason and preseason to catapult into a starting role. As it stands, he provides solid depth at the position. Reddick will benefit from the experience of appearing in two playoff games during his rookie season (there are players who spend a career trying to get there – just ask Nate Clements, lol).
Reddick’s season totals (including playoffs): 10 total tackles, 1 forced fumble, P/O – 1 tackle vs. PHI
Khiry Robinson, RB – Season Grade: B
Khiry Robinson is listed as at 6 foot, 220 lbs but plays even bigger on the field. The West Texas A&M product surprised many Saints fans with his tough running in the preseason. In college Robinson took the path of many NFL players by participating at the junior college level before progressing to W A&M. While at Blinn JC, Robinson was an All-American RB and Safety and NJCAA national champ while sharing a backfield with Cam Newton in 2009. A hard working athlete, Robinson, propelled himself to the forefront at W A&M by leading the team in rushing yards per game and totaling 11 TDs on the ground.
Robinson had the biggest impact of all of the undrafted free agents in 2013. Statistically he wasn’t mind blowing, but his effort and tough running was wonderful to see. On the field Robinson reminded me a lot of a healthy Pierre Thomas because he rarely went down from initial contact and constantly fought for every yard. Fumbling issues in the preseason threatened to derail his quest to make the final cut, but clearly the coaching staff saw enough in the rookie to keep him around for the regular season. Though he was a healthy scratch for 6 of the 16 regular season games, he was able to contribute 224 rushing yards and a TD through week 17.
Robinson’s lack of playing time in the regular season meant he had relatively fresh legs in the playoffs and it showed. Alongside a surging Mark Ingram, Robinson carried the load on the ground against the Eagles to take the pressure off of Brees and help secure the first Saints road playoff victory in team history. The following week against Seattle, Robinson averaged over 4 ypc and added a TD. Most surprising was Coach Payton’s decision to feed the rock to the rookie in critical moments of the game. Then again, Bill Parcells gave Robinson a hefty endorsement by deeming him ‘Curtis Martin’. Only time will tell if the gold-grilled Robinson is the real deal, but my money says Parcells is right!
Robinson’s season totals (including playoffs): 54 carries for 224 yards, 1 TD, P/O – 21 carries for 102 yards, 1 TD, 1 catch for 13 yards
Rod Sweeting, CB – Season Grade: D
Rod Sweeting signed on with the Saints after a solid collegiate career at Georgia Tech. In four years at GT, Sweeting appeared in 54 games including his true freshman campaign while starting every game (27) in his junior and senior seasons. Sweeting is 6 feet tall, 187 lbs and is a speedy CB. Sweeting does not appear to be a ball hawk, but is decent in coverage and very good at tackling. In his senior season, Sweeting was named 2012 Sun Bowl MVP.
After joining the team, Sweeting survived camp and the preseason and remained with the team into the regular season. As a special teams contributor, Sweeting appeared in 9 games but also played spot duty in the secondary after Jabari Greer was lost for the season to a knee injury. Though he contributed in a minimal capacity, Sweeting was active for both playoff games. The Saints lack depth at CB so there may be an opportunity for Sweeting to work his way into a regular role in the defensive backfield. Greer has been released, Patrick Robinson’s status is somewhat unknown, and Corey White did not exactly set the world on fire, so a strong camp could find Sweeting at the #2 or #3 by opening day. Free agency and the draft are still ahead, so only Loomis and Co. knows what the plan is at the CB position.
Sweeting’s season totals (including playoffs): 2 solo tackles, 1 assisted, 3 total tackles, P/O – 3 solo tackles
Over all, it appears that the Saints have again done a very good job of sifting through the UDFAs and found some talented players. Based on the 2013 season, I believe that the front office hit on 5 of the 8 UDFAs that I have reviewed. Foster, Hill, Lelito, Reddick, and Robinson have all shown that with an opportunity and some good coaching that they can be solid players. As for Griffin and Hawkins, I need to see more to make a judgment. In Sweeting’s case, he may benefit from his rookie season and tutelage of Keenan Lewis. At least I hope so! In the end, the 2013 rookie class was a good mix of good players and potential and I’m excited to see how these careers play out in the near future.
Until next season - Thanks For Reading!