The 2016 NFL Draft comes to its conclusion today in Chicago with Rounds 4-7 beginning shortly. The New Orleans Saints have two picks remaining, one in Round 5 (152) and one in Round 7 (237). The Saints still have plenty of needs to fill and these picks may represent that "diamond in the rough" the Saints have been lucky enough to find in the past.
Here are three players that just may make a difference at positions of need in today's draft:
Matt Judon - Defensive End - Grand Valley State (6'3", 275)
This Michigan native earned just about every honor he could for his play in 2015. He won the Gene Upshaw Trophy as Division II's top lineman and was named the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference's (GLIAC) Defensive Lineman of the Year and Associated Press Little All-American squad. He led all of college football with 20 sacks among his 23.5 tackles for loss, made 81 total tackles and forced three fumbles. Judon showed promise beating D2 tackles off the edge with length and speed as a junior, as well, winning first team All-GLIAC honors with 19 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, and four forced fumbles. All of this success came after losing four games in the middle of the 2012 season (seven TFL, 3.5 sacks) and all but the first seven plays of the 2013 season with injuries.
STRENGTHSMassive production after pulverizing his competition this year. Finished with 20 sacks, 23.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. Chiseled body with natural power baked into his compact frame and exceptionally long arms. Was too powerful for many of the tackles he faced. Rushes passer with a plan. Uses rip moves around the edge and ties an inside counter with it. Keeps track to the quarterback tight along the arc. Has inside club move to clear up space.
WEAKNESSESSquare shouldered rusher who can be run up and around the quarterback by tackles with decent feet and strength. Will miss out on some finishes due to some lower body stiffness. Cruises along without making proper use of hands. Level of competition along offensive line is substantially lower than what he will see in pros. Tore an ACL two years ago and missed East-West Shrine Game invitation due to "tweaked meniscus."
DRAFT PROJECTIONRound 5
NFL COMPARISONRyan Delaire
BOTTOM LINESmall-school wonder with monster production over the last two seasons despite an admitted stretch of "timidness" after returning from an ACL tear that robbed him off his 2013 season. Judon has an NFL frame and rushes the quarterback with a plan, but he is still very raw from a technical standpoint and is still a project at this juncture. Judon has enough talent to warrant a draft pick, but will need time to find his way as a pro.
Connor McGovern - Guard - Missouri (6'4", 306)
One of the strongest players in college football, McGovern has broken weight room records at Mizzou (like a 690-pound squat) and actually tore his pectoral muscle trying to bench 515 pounds. The Gatorade High School Player of the Year in North Dakota in 2010, McGovern's not just all muscle. He's started for three years at right guard, right tackle, and then left tackle as a senior. Though McGovern was solid for the Tigers at tackle, scouts consider him a better interior prospect due to that strength and his underrated movement skills. He hopes to move up boards throughout the process, just like his teammate, Mitch Morse, who was picked in the mid-second round by Kansas City in the 2015 draft.
STRENGTHSHas broad waist and possesses outstanding strength. Broke school record with six squats of 690 pounds and partially tore his pectoral muscle during one off-season attempting to bench press 515 pounds (did not miss any games). Takes good angles up to second level on zone plays targeting the outside shoulder of the linebacker. Solid short area foot quickness and adequate athleticism. Able to make quick step inside to catch stunts and inside pass rush moves. Smooth, well-balanced pass sets out to defensive ends. Plays with ready hands. Has potential to land heavy punch in pass protection. When he gets on top of edge rushers, understands how to crowd them and take away their options. Mindful of twists and stunts and sees "games" early.
WEAKNESSESStill a little raw in his pass sets. Relies on opening gate and chasing edge rusher up the field rather than trusting footwork. Gets a little loose with his feet on high side of the arc and might open up inside counter moves to the quarterback (as a tackle). Has shorter arms than teams desire from tackles. Will get too cute with his hands at times rather than landing a big punch and snatching his target. Top heavy, barrel-chested build. Needs to play with better bend and wider base in space. Gets caught on skates and unable to change directions quickly when forced to adjust to moving targets on second level. As a guard, must be careful not to over-commit to first block T/E twists.
DRAFT PROJECTIONRound 3
SOURCES TELL US"He has some holes in his game right now, but I think they are all correctable. I'm looking at him as a tackle because I would like to use his power and athleticism to help spring our running game outside. I love that he's played on a line with (Mitch) Morse and (Evan) Boehm. Those are two great leaders." -- Southwest area scout
NFL COMPARISONZane Beadles
BOTTOM LINEThree-year starter who has played guard and both tackle spots. While he has the power and frame of a guard, there are some teams who may give him a shot at right tackle first. McGovern still has some work to do in pass protection, but shows potential to be a starter in the league. He is an ascending prospect whose stock should rise thanks to his power and multi-position diversity.
Christian Westerman - Guard - Arizona State (6'3", 298)
Westerman was a top national recruit who attended Auburn for his first two years, losing most of his redshirt freshman season due to injury before deciding to return to his home state of Arizona to finish his career. He excelled last fall in his first season as a starter for the Sun Devils, earning honorable mention All-Pac-12 notice for his stout play and mobility at left guard. Westerman's play his senior campaign did not disappoint, as his attitude, stoutness, mobility, and solid technique made him a second-team all-conference performer.
STRENGTHSOutstanding athleticism and movement skills. Is quick off the snap and able to beat defenders to the spot. Can get to difficult cross-face blocks using timing, technique and footwork. At his best when on the move. When pulling or climbing to second level, has a terrific connect rate against moving targets in space. True technician. Plays with desired balance and base and his feet rarely stop chopping and working after contact. Approaches target with bend and rolls hips up under him after contact. Has massive bear paws for hands and is a weight room freak daddy. Has hand placement and upper body strength to lockout pass rushers if he gets extension first. Father was a three-year starter at guard for Arizona State. Should test off the charts at the combine.
WEAKNESSESWhile he moves stacks of weights with ease, his play strength doesn't always match that when matched up against interior power players. Short yardage push will not be an NFL strength. May need more mass on his frame to handle NFL defensive tackles. When asked to base block, becomes more of a stalemate blocker than block-winner. Could use a more authoritative punch in pass protection. I question whether he can effectively redirect interior pass rushers once they get into the edge on him.
DRAFT PROJECTIONRounds 2 or 3
NFL COMPARISONAlex Mack
BOTTOM LINEQuick-twitch, athletic guard who comes from a football family and has been working on his strength and athleticism from a young age. Offensive line coaches will appreciate Westerman's technical savvy and zone scheme teams will covet his fluidity and blocking ability on the move. A move to center is not out of the question thanks to his body type and quickness and his draft stock may be helped by a potential ability to offer roster depth at several offensive line positions.
Obviously, I like many of you, really hope the Saints take a Guard with one or both of their two remaining picks today. But more help at Defensive End would be appreciated as well. You never really know what you're going to get in the draft, especially here in the later rounds, but two of these three may just be players that could provide some much needed depth at positions of need this season.
*bios courtesy of nfl.com*