This year’s NFL Draft is one loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, especially on the defensive side of things. I mean, heck, check out any mock draft if you don’t believe me. Experts are predicting that at least six of the top ten picks will be defensive players. And this is good news for New Orleans. Actually, I take that back. It’s GREAT news for New Orleans.
The Saints find themselves right in the thick of things with their number 12 overall pick and should look to draft a defensive player, specifically a linebacker or D-Lineman. One thing the Saints did not do well last year was get after the QB. In fact, NOLA ranked 27th out of 32 teams last year for fewest sacks recorded as a team, sacking the quarterback a mere 31 times. That figure was well below the league average of 37.1 sacks. Sure, it could be worse (i.e. the Atlanta Falcons) but that number has to go up if the Saints want to vie for a playoff spot.
Unless you hold the number 1 overall pick in the draft, it’s hard to plan out who you’re going to draft. You can make a list of guys you would like, but there’s always that chance one of the teams ahead of you takes him. But, if he’s available, I honestly think the Saints need to make a play for Alabama’s A’Shawn Robinson.
The guy has a lot of raw talent and he’s young, meaning he can still be molded to fit the Saints’ needs on defense. You watch him play and the first thing that jumps out at you is that his IQ is off the charts. The guy really has a nose for the football. Not to mention, he’s a big, mean dude as well, but he’s also good on his feet and very athletic. Plus, he has fairly fresh legs. He’s only played 2 seasons at ‘Bama, totaling 46 tackles and 3.5 sacks this past year while being named an All-American and finalist for the Outland Trophy. We know Saban is a pro at creating NFL-ready D-Linemen and Robinson has all the tools to be the next in a line of great ones.
Of course, if Robinson, who will be a hot commodity come draft day, is gone, there is another player New Orleans should have on their radar, and he comes right from the same place that Robinson is coming from.
I touched on it ever so briefly above, but I’ll say it again. The Saints need linebacker help, too. They brought in James Lauranitis for a visit on Thursday, but there is no word on whether or not the Saints are going to sign him. Nonetheless, New Orleans could use a young, physical LB to help boost that core and, while a stretch at 12, Reggie Ragland could be the right man for the job.
First off, you watch any tape on this guy and he’s a natural-born leader. His teammates look up to him, and most importantly, they listen to and trust him. From a stats perspective, this guy is impressive and only getting better with age. He missed ten tackles in 2014, but, in 2015, he dropped that number down to just three. He was the team leader this past year with 97 total tackles and is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Year. And, he’s a great community presence to have as well. He’s an old-school type player, one that could revitalize that Saints defense in a way it desperately needs. True to typical Saban coaching, he doesn’t overcommit and he doesn’t mind to get down in the trenches and mix it up. Using the 12th overall pick on Ragland would most definitely bolster the defensive side of the ball and you could expect that pick to pay immediate dividends this coming year.
Whatever the Saints opt to do, defense must be the main focus early on. This draft is littered with potentially great future defensive players and that has been the area that needs the most work for this team. When you can’t stop anyone, it makes the offense’s job a lot harder, no matter who the quarterback is. Having that number 12 pick is big for the Saints because it puts them towards the front of a very talented class, but they must use it smartly and not waste it.
All Stats Courtesy of NFL.com