In the past two years, seven quarterbacks were drafted before the fifteenth pick in the NFL Draft. Many of those guys were picked higher than expected heading into that year's selection process.
So that begs the million dollar question in the Big Easy: How many quarterback-needy teams are going to reach on a player in the Top 10 and which defensive studs fall as a result of that?
Geno Smith, Mike Glennon, Ryan Nassib and Matt Barkley could all be surprise names called before the Saints select at No. 15. Whether they are worth that high of a pick is irrelevant. But the more that come off the board, the better chance Mickey Loomis has at getting a dynamic, Day One starter in the first round.
Sharrif Floyd's sudden and meteoric rise the past few weeks will also help the process of moving players that are the best fit for Rob Ryan's defense down to New Orleans.
There's no doubt in my mind that Loomis and Sean Payton will take the best defensive player on the board regardless of position. This team needs playmakers and depth all across this new defensive scheme.
Let's take a look at who the Saints could be targeting this April in the first round.
Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
This move instantly upgrades the back end of your defense and raises the play of the young players around him in the rest of the secondary. He is the total package you would want in a safety. He can play free or strong in Ryan's defense and even cover the slot or a flexed out tight end. Oh right, did I mention that he's pretty good in coverage, among other things?
The Saints may be parting ways with Roman Harper this off-season. A young duo of Vaccaro and Malcolm Jenkins would be the envy of the league for the foreseeable future. That tandem would definitely help Corey White, Patrick Robinson and Johnny Patrick to be better players at corner.
Star Lotulelei, NT, Utah
Lotulelei would be a longshot to fall to the Saints, especially with Carolina and Tampa Bay both right before New Orleans and needing a defensive tackle. But if he were there, I wouldn't mind seeing the Saints pass on Vaccaro for him. Despite questions about his motor, Lotulelei's athleticism and size would be a welcome addition on a defensive line that would be young, dynamic and full of potential. Imagine a line of Lotulelei at nose tackle with Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan at the ends to have for the next 7-10 years together? That would be an amazing start to a new defensive era for the Black & Gold.
Barkevious Mingo, OLB, LSU
Mingo is the only other prospect that I think is worth passing up Vaccaro. The LSU Tiger was made for Ryan's attack-style of defense and would excel in space or rushing the passer. This also seems like a longshot of a pick, but you just never know.
Mingo might not have been as productive as his athleticism and speed would suggest, but he has all the tools, if used right, to be a force at the rush 'backer position. If he gets past Cleveland at six, "KeKe" could fall right into the Saints' lap like Cameron Jordan did a couple of years ago.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
This might be just a little high for Trufant in the eyes of some, but to me he is the second-ranked cornerback in this draft behind Dee Milliner of Alabama. He was a four-year starter at Washington and was first-team All Pac-12 last season as a senior. He uses his hands versus receivers really well and is not afraid to get his nose dirty in run support.
He is a more talented version of Corey White, the corner taken in last year's draft. Both rely heavily on their natural abilities and often lose sight of the fundamentals when losing a battle versus a receiver. That causes them to gamble and leaves them susceptible to giving up big plays. That being said, his recovery and closing speed help him overcome those tendencies and limit those big plays.
Dion Jordan, OLB, Oregon
Jordan is a very dynamic athlete who could have a higher ceiling than Mingo at OLB. There is one play that sticks in my mind when talking about him, and it was in a game against Keith Price and Washington. Jordan beats his man with a swim move and, as Price is trying to get away, gets horizontal to the ground, in mid-air, and slows Price down behind the line-of-scrimmage.
He didn't get credited for the sack on that play, but he should have. That is the kind of crazy athleticism that Jordan brings to the table. He is projected anywhere from eight to twentieth. If he is there at 15 though, there would have to be a major talent fall in the draft for Loomis not to pencil him in as his first rounder.
Alec Ogletree, ILB, Georgia
This is highly dependent on what the Saints front office does with the injury-prone David Hawthorne. The former Seahawk has only started a full season once in his career, and his salary cap number will be $4.8 million in 2013. If New Orleans decides to cut ties with him and have Jonathan Vilma (at a reduced salary) fill-in next to Curtis Lofton temporarily then yes, I could see them taking an ILB with their first round selection.
LSU fans would like to see Kevin Minter in the Black & Gold, but not at 15th overall. Arthur Brown is also a favorite of Who Dat Nation, but he is a little too thin to play inside in a 3-4. Ogletree is a freak of an athlete who would be the perfect compliment to Lofton on the inside. With the weak crop of ILB's in this year's draft, it wouldn't be a shock, in this scenario, that the Saints would go with Ogletree if he is their highest player left on their board.
Ogletree hits like a ton of bricks and can track plays down sideline-to-sideline. His elite speed allows him to be deadly on delayed blitzes like he was used in at Georgia.