The good news is the cap situation in 2017 will be the best in recent history. It's estimated they'll have about $80 mil in cap space. Don't get too excited. That's with only 29 players and no Drew Brees on the roster. It's probable they will extend Drew, eating up a fair percentage of this cap. They will also have to fill many spots on this roster, so let's be conservative and estimate $25 mil to $30 mil in cap space.
What does all this have to do with this years draft you may ask. Well it means they have to pick correctly in this years draft to fill as many holes as possible and obtain the biggest bang for the buck. I'm going to devote this post to the Saints top needs. Defense is the main concern and where we need to make the wisest decisions.
The Front 7, D-line.
I've already covered 2 positions of need. Number one is a pass rush. I placed defensive end as the highest priority, closely followed by a defensive tackle that can plug the middle and stop the hemoraging against the run. In my opinion these two positions must be filled first.
While I have high hopes our 2nd year linebackers will improve enough to make major contributions, in coverage, by an improved pass rush, and in run support, we still need to make this one of our next priorities. Here are some of the top prospects hoping to raise their stock at the 2016 NFL Combine. Follow the link for the draft tracker by position.
Tracker grading chart:
GRADE TITLE 9.00-10 Once-in-lifetime player 8.00-9.00 Perennial All-Pro 7.50-7.99 Future All-Pro 7.00-7.49 Pro Bowl to All-Pro Ability 6.50-6.99 Good NFL Starter with Pro Bowl Potential 6.00-6.49 Chance to become good NFL starter 5.70-5.99 Could become early NFL starter 5.30-5.69 Backup or eventual starter 5.15-5.29 Developmental prospect or special teams potential 5.01-5.14 Back end of the roster
Myles jack: UCLA: Grade: 7.5 Link
To grab this one he'd have to be available and we'd have to use our 12th pick to grab him. In 2014 Myles had 88 tackles, 8 TFL, and 1 INT. He also rushed for 113 yards and 3 TDs. The biggest flag with him is he only played 3 games in 2015, his Junior year. He managed 15 tackles and an INT before being lost for the season. He decided not to risk further injury and declared early for the draft. Too bad. He would have really benifited from another year for the knee to recover and I would question if he can be 100% in 2016. Just follow the links for the analysis on these players.
Jaylon Smith: Notre Dame: Grade: 7.16 Link
Another major flag with this prospect is he tore both his ACL and MCL in the game against Ohio State during the Fiesta Bowl. Despite having surgery done on his knee on 01-07-2016, Smith also decided to declare early for the draft. Jaylon had 112 tackles, 9 TFL, and 1 sack and 5 passes defended in 13 games. He also caused 1 fumble and recovered 2. I would consider grabbing either of these 2 players only if they fell to the 2nd day because of the injuries.
Leonard Floyd: Georgia: Grade: 6.52 Link
Floyd missed the teams bowl game in 2014, damaging his knee in the teams final game of the season. Coming back from surgery in 2015, Leonard managed 10.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks. He also defended 3 passes and had a fumble recovery in 72 tackles. Listed as an OLB, the 6'4" linebacker is only 231 lbs. He is 2 years removed from his surgery and proved himself in 2015 before declaring early for the draft.
Reggie Ragland: Alabama: Grade: 6.5 Link
I already wrote about Reggie after the Senior Bowl, and would have no hesitation at grabbing him with the 12th pick. The 6'2", 159 lb linebacker is listed as an ILB. Ragland had 97 tackles, 6.5 TFL, and broke up 6 passes earning SEC defensive player of the year.
There is good depth at the linebacker position this year as well and you can visit the Draft Tracker to view others who may be available in later rounds.
Next highest position of need is with the secondary. Namely the cornerback position. While we have Delvin Breaux and a hopefully healthy returning P.J Williams and Keenan Lewis, we still need to improve here. I have serious doubts whether Damion Swann can or should return to the NFL. Unfortunately as in most years, the depth at this position is rather shallow.You either grab one of the top candidates early or take a shot at a prospect in the later rounds. None of the candidates should be taken with the 12th pick unless you find a value in them for need over BPA.
The top 4 listed are:
Jaylen Ramsey: Florida State: Grade: 6.83 Link
Vernon Hargraves: Florida: Grade 6.7 Link
If I was going to grab one, this is the one. Some consider him under sized at 5'11" and 192 lbs, but he has great body control and instincts.
Mackensie Alexander: Clemson: Grade: 6.22 Link
Would definitely grab Alexander on the second day. Had no INTs the past 2 seasons but allowed only a 29.6 completion percentage in 2015 and no TDs.
Kevon Seymour: USC: Grade: 6.01 Link
Someone may overvalue Seymour in the draft and his stock may rise after the combine, but I'd not draft him any earlier than the 4th round.
Next highest priority would be at the guard position depending on what the Saints do in FA. Depth is fairly good with the O-line candidates and guards are not usually drafted very highly. We could grab a quality OG in the 4th or 5th rounds. Follow this Draft Tracker link to view the prospects. Depth for a center can be found with this link as well. Many centers go undrafted so I don't place this as a high need.
The least important positions of need are wide receiver and tight-end.
Drew Brees can make most WR look better and drafting for depth would be the only need. Follow this Link to look at the prospects.
TE has a slight edge over WR as a need in my opinion, but this is a later round need as well. Follow This Link.
If the Saints can draft well in 2016, they can fill many positions of need as well as get the best value for their buck. Hope this excites the fans and that we can get it right. I've discussed my positions of need but you may think your order is better. I've stated my case so make yours in the comments section.