Following roster cuts to get down to the league-mandated final 53 roster cutoff, the New Orleans Saints claimed LB Michael Mauti and rookie DE Obum Gwacham off waivers, per Evan Woodbery of NOLA.com. Let's have a look at each of these guys and speculate what their role may be, if any, on the team this year and going forward.
Michael Mauti (age 25) played high school ball in Mandeville, Louisiana, before graduating early and enrolling at Penn State where he was rostered from 2008-2012. He was productive with the Nittany Lions from the outset, playing in every game as a true freshman. According to Sports Reference, Mauti racked up 183 total tackles(12.5 for loss), 5 interceptions, and 3 fumbles forced from 2010-2012. Unfortunately for the linebacker, he also suffered 3 ACL tears over his college career, causing him to miss significant time which possibly affected his draft position.
Mauti was selected in the 7th round, 213th overall, by the Minnesota Vikings in the 2013 NFL draft. Below is Mauti's draft profile from NFL.com. Mauti played in 23 games over 2 seasons for the Vikings, where he has only 15 tackles to his name as a pro.
STRENGTHS - Tremendously instinctual player who is poised in both the run and pass game. Thick build throughout, which helps him stand his ground against lineman blocks inside. Rips off those attempts, keeping his shoulders square to the line and his feet moving until finding his way through trash to get to the ballcarrier. Occasionally bursts through the line with some quickness to bring down backs before they get started. Secure tackler who drops his hips and shows agility to break down and corral backs trying to elude him. Recovers quite quickly from cut blocks, getting up fast to get back into the play. Aware defender in coverage, dropping deep when needed, finding his man in zone and looking agile enough to come off a crosser to stick to the next receiver through. Keeps one eye in the backfield to ensure he knows when the ball is away. Possesses strong leadership qualities; after his injury in 2011, spent his time coaching up the younger defensive players.
WEAKNESSES - Lacks exceptional straight-line speed; hustles to reach either sideline or quarterbacks on bootlegs but will need help to track them down at the next level. Doesn't have the explosive element to his game that you'd like out of an outside linebacker. Some NFL-caliber running backs will set him up in the open field and cut past him. His injury history is extensive, and is sure to scare a lot of teams.
For the Saints purposes, I see a player who provides necessary depth behind rookie MLB Stephone Anthony, as well as a young, former standout defensive player who has a lot of valuable (and sought after) traits. His injury history is concerning, but the Saints didn't shy away from selecting rookie Hau'oli Kikaha in the second round of this year's draft, who had himself suffered 2 ACL tears during his college career. The Louisiana native lands in a favorable position playing for his hometown team, and has a realistic shot to earn some playing time given the Saints defensive woes.
The 6'5", 250 pound Nigerian born Obum Gwacham (O.G. (24 years old)) moved to the U.S. when he was 7. Obum, pronounced "oh boom", played college ball at Oregon State - Making him the 4th Beaver on the Saints this year (not something I ever thought I would write). Obum is extremely raw at defensive end, a position he played in only his senior season at OSU - The first 3 of which he played WR. Per Sports Reference, in 2014 Obum had 28 tackles (5.5 for loss), 4 sacks, and a fumble forced playing in a reserve capacity. Here's a bit from his NFL Draft Profile -
STRENGTHS - Transitioned from wide receiver to defensive end in 2014. Elite explosion traits. Reached 7-foot-1 as a high-jumper and was also a triple-jumper for Oregon State track team. Can unlock hips for sudden change of direction in open field. Locks quarterback in his sights once he shakes free as pass rusher. Has length and foot explosiveness defensive coordinators salivate over. Proved to be effective dropping into space on zone blitzes. Exceptional personal and football character with a desire to learn his new position. Is relentless and dogged in pursuit of the play and will come from across the field to capture a loose running back. Has immediate value on kickoff coverage.
WEAKNESSES - Play strength is below the necessary levels to play every down. Must continue body transformation for new position. Despite early jump into gap or upfield, is easily redirected out of the play by most tackles who get their hands on him. Needs more upper-body strength and better footwork to become an adequate edge-setter. Basic pass rusher relying on edge burst that is set up by inside head fake. Doesn't have true go-to pass-rush move. Lacking a counter move when initial rush stalls out. Fights hard but lacks ability to hold up at point of attack against base blocks.
Gwacham was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the 6th round, 209th overall in this years draft but was subsequently released as part of the cuts. A few quick observations about Obum that I'd like to highlight:
- The Seahawks are loaded with defensive ends, between Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Frank Clark on the bench, it was a considerable uphill struggle for someone with as little defensive experience as Obum to win a roster spot on that team this early in his career. With the Saints, it could be a different story.
- Pete Carroll described Obum as one of the hardest working Seahawks.
- A tall, former WR who is super athletic but raw and who switched to defense... What's he think of playing TE? Also, his arms are really, really long (34 3/8").
- The last part of his NFL.com draft profile -
"This guy is going to blow some people away with his explosion numbers and teams will love him in interviews because he's a genuinely good guy. As a player, he still needs a lot of time to develop and you better set aside time for that and have a plan for him." -- NFC South area scout.
NFC South area scout, eh? Welcome to the Saints, Obum. Welcome to the Saints, Mike.