I was once told that in music, a great drummer will go unnoticed. They keep the beat and let melody guys grab the attention and make statements with their own instruments. Flawless, reliable and steadfast are the qualities that help them fade into the background, despite their utmost importance to the grand scheme of almost every song.
Those aren't bad qualities to have in a good defensive tackle either and after my conversation with Poseur of SB Nation's LSU blog, And the Valley Shook!, that seems to be what the Saints got in fan favorite Al Woods. Everything from the position he was drafted - 123rd overall, just four and a half spots from the absolute middle of the total number of draft picks - to his performance on the field all highlight a player who does his job loyally yet anonymously. And that's just fine with me.
So make the jump and read on to learn more about the Saints newest defensive tackle, the always solid yet remarkably "unremarkable" Al Woods. Because a lot of you also follow LSU closely, I am interested to hear whether you agree with Poseur's assessment and look forward to your comments and even more information.
Dave: Personally, what did you feel about the position Woods got drafted? Did you think he'd go earlier or are you surprised he was drafted as early as he was?
ATVS: I thought he was a middle round pick given the NFL's unrelenting demand for defensive tackles. Fourth round seemed about right for a good, not great, SEC defensive tackle who contributed for three years.
Dave: Why do you think the Saints traded up just to get Woods? What do you think they see in him that they just had to have?
ATVS: Familiarity. The Saints always seem to take LSU players to fill out the back end of their roster, probably because they are a known quantity. I don't really think it was an "Oh my God, we have to get Al Woods" sort of trade, but at the 123rd overall pick, it is pretty difficult to find viable defensive tackles. It was a need for the Saints and it seemed like a trade to prevent someone else from moving up. Really, he was the last DT on the board without huge question marks. Woods is a solid player, though sort of unexciting.
Dave: What will Woods need to improve on to be successful in the NFL?
ATVS: I think Woods dropping weight to become quicker was a mistake. He shed some pounds so he would play quicker, hopefully to help with his pass rush, and it didn't really work. The problems on the pass rush were probably not with Woods, but schematic with LSU. It seems someone just needs to teach him better pass rushing technique. Yeah, that's a shot at our coaching.
Dave: Does Woods have any history of injury?
ATVS: The good news: no. Woods has no history of injury. The bad news: everyone who plays on the interior line is one chop block away from injury. You can't guarantee future health for the obvious reasons.
Dave: Woods has a reputation for not living up to the hype or the expectations. Should that be a concern at the next level?
ATVS: Obviously. Then again, you did get him in the fourth round, so it's not like there's a huge investment in the guy. Woods was in the rotation as a sophomore but wasn't a starter until his senior year. He actually seemed to regress in his junior year. He had a nice senior year, but Woods' career was wholly unremarkable. Okay, he blocked a field goal once. But Woods just seemed like a quality player who did his job quietly and now is getting rewarded with an NFL paycheck. Nothing about him screams "star" but he doesn't scream "bust" either.
And here comes the double edged sword of potential. If a player maximizes his ability in college, he's downgraded because he has no upside. But if he does too poorly, he's already a washout. Woods has room to get better, but he was a solid player in college. I wouldn't call him a disappointment, I'd just call him a good player. Not everyone gets to be a star, particularly interior linemen.
Dave: What's Woods' reputation off the field? Any trouble?
ATVS: Absolutely none. Say what you will about the Miles Era, but LSU players have certainly stayed out of trouble under his watch as a general rule. And those who do get in trouble aren't long for the team. Woods didn't generate headlines, he just went out there and played hard.
Dave: Any random, interesting facts about Woods? Tell us something about him that not many people would know.
ATVS: See, that's the crazy thing about Woods. He might be one of the most unremarkable players to ever come through LSU's program. I don't mean that as a negative. After our recent run of DT greatness, Woods can be labelled a disappointment I guess, but that would be unfair. Failing to be Lavalais or Dorsey is not a failure as those are two of the best players in LSU history. He just had a good career. People wanted it to be great.
Dave: Where do you see Al Woods in three years?
ATVS: In the defensive line rotation, anonymously doing his job. He'll be a good run stuffer primarily and he'll be just one of the guys filling out the roster, maybe even a starter. Hopefully, he'll have a Super Bowl ring from a Saints team on which he made a decent contribution. I can't predict greatness for him, but I think he'll have a solid career as a decent defensive tackle. The shelf life for linemen isn't exactly long, so he'll probably be out of the league in five years once he suffers the inevitable injury. Boy, that sounds pessimistic. I like Woods, but let's not kid ourselves, there's a reason he was available in the fourth round. And the career of an interior lineman in the NFL is hard and usually short.
And I know you didn't ask, but I love Harry Coleman's upside. My random prediction is that Coleman actually has the better NFL career due to his ability to play both linebacker and safety. And Coleman is a guy who has the reputation of being willing to cut off his right arm to help the team.