Going in to the final day of the NFL Draft, the Saints had already covered two of their greatest needs that were still left on their roster with their selections of Brandin Cooks and Stanley Jean-Baptiste in the first and second rounds, respectively. More so than ever, that would mean that their remaining selections in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds would be purely based off of depth needed at particular positions.
While I was content with the selections of Khairi Fortt, Vinnie Sunseri, Ronald Powell, and Tavon Rooks it would be a lie for me to say that I didn't question each of these picks, namely Powell as he was coming off of a largely disappointing and injury plagued career at the University of Florida. Disappointing not in the sense that he was a scrub of a player, but that he didn't meet the expectations that were pinned on him for being the consensus number one overall recruit for the class of 2010 coming out of Rancho Verde in Moreno Valley, California by 247 sports.
While his two ACL tears are definitely a cause for concern, Powell proved that he could produce in a highly-competitive conference before and after the injuries. In 2011, he totaled thirty-two tackles, nine of which were for a loss, and six sacks. In 2013 (2012 was the year that he missed), he made 26 tackles, seven of which were for losses, and four sacks.
While those statistics might not be something that will 'wow' many fans, keep in mind that Powell will not be counted on as seeing a vast amount of playing time in 2014 due to the evolution of Junior Galette as a pass rusher and Victor Butler's return from injury. In my eyes, the Saints' management snagged Powell because he is the definition of a project pick, meaning he is a guy that is very raw at the moment, but can turn into a high-impact player with a little seasoning and experience. And what better a team for Ronald to land with than the Saints, who has a defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan that prides himself in using outside linebackers to get after the quarterback on a play-by-play basis?
Taking a look at Ronald, he immediately passes the eye test. At 6'3", 237 lbs., he possess a chiseled, lean body that he uses to bend around the edge and attack the quarterback. He also has good speed, as he ran the fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL combine out of all outside linebackers (4.65 seconds). Other positive traits commonly given to Powell are having a high motor, great power and moves, and what may be the most exciting for Saints fans: terrific potential.
As I stated earlier, Ronald Powell need not be rushed into a large role on this defense. With the talent on the Saints' roster that is ahead of him, he will have time to not only learn the scheme and his particular role, but the ways of the NFL in route to being developed into a prolific pass rusher. In my opinion, Powell has the skill set and potential available to be the next Aldon Smith (minus the off-field issues of course). That may be a tall order seeing as though he is pretty unproven to this point, but I am willing to throw all of my chips on the table and gamble that it will happen.
For a guy that has been humbled by two serious injuries since once being on top of the football world in 2010, I don't expect Ronald Powell to disappoint his fans, this time for the New Orleans Saints, again.