After three straight 7-9 seasons of mediocrity, the New Orleans Saints are looking to ditch their sub par ways. Various outlets are naturally counting out Sean Payton’s squad for the new season, and the team is absolutely flying under the radar in both the NFC and NFC South. The Saints will be tested out of the gate and put under a microscope for their opening Monday Night Football date with the Vikings, and then have to host the defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots the very next week. Needless to say, they’ll need their absolute best.
The NFL changed the ruling during the offseason that eliminated a roster cutdown to 75 players, meaning after the final preseason contest the Saints will making a plethora of cuts along with the rest of the league to get down to their 2017 squad. It goes without saying, any attempts at projecting a final 53-man roster is purely speculative and based on a combination of factors. However, that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt to try.
QB: Drew Brees, Chase Daniel
RB: Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson, Alvin Kamara, Daniel Lasco
FB: John Kuhn
WR: Michael Thomas, Willie Snead, Ted Ginn Jr., Brandon Coleman, Corey Fuller
TE: Coby Fleener, Michael Hoomanawanui, Josh Hill
OL (Starters): Ryan Ramczyk, Andrus Peat, Max Unger, Larry Warford, Zach Strief
OL (Reserves): Senio Kelemete, Landon Turner, Bryce Harris, Jack Allen
Offensive Line: Before you blow a gasket, I’d fully expect the Saints to place Terron Armstead on the PUP list to open the season. This would mean he wouldn’t count towards the team’s 53-man limit. Assuming Unger is ready to go for Week 1 as he expects to be, I wouldn’t see the need to keep Josh LeRibeus. However, that can quickly change.
Quarterback: Call it my personal preference, but I’m all for the Saints just rolling with two quarterbacks. Garrett Grayson is out of chances, so he’ll have to completely blow everyone away to even get in the conversation for a spot on the roster.
Running Back: Marcus Murphy and Travaris Cadet could enter the conversation as a potential fifth option if the Saints choose to go that route, but I don’t see it. Even if they did, Cadet would have more value than Murphy. Trey Edmunds could be a much better option and upgrade over both. John Robinson-Woodgett shouldn’t beat out John Kuhn for the fullback spot.
Tight End: Veteran Clay Harbor could make the tight end competition interesting, if anything. Out of the group, there’s concerns with injuries, so a player like Hoomanawanui could get unseated by Harbor. Garrett Griffin and John Phillips are also legitimate considerations.
Wide Receiver: There’s hardly a debate surrounding the top three wide receiver spots. Brandon Coleman is the early frontrunner for the fourth spot, and then it’s hard to say what will happen. While Coleman could also lose his roster spot, Corey Fuller could rise up the charts. Then there’s the sleepers like Jake Lampman, Jordan Williams-Lambert, and Travin Dural. Tommylee Lewis, Rashad Lawrence, and Justin Thomas will have to have almost perfect camps to climb up the ranks.
DE: Cameron Jordan, Alex Okafor, Trey Hendrickson, Hau’oli Kikaha, Darryl Tapp
DT: Sheldon Rankins, Tyeler Davison, David Onyemata, Tony McDaniel
LB: A.J. Klein, Craig Robertson, Alex Anzalone, Dannell Ellerbe, Nathan Stupar, Manti Te’o, Stephone Anthony
CB: Delvin Breaux, Marshon Lattimore, Sterling Moore, P.J. Williams, Ken Crawley
S: Kenny Vaccaro, Vonn Bell, Marcus Williams, Rafael Bush, Erik Harris
Defensive Line: Darryl Tapp received some looks on the inside in addition to his customary edge presence, so I believe that could play a big part in him making the final roster of someone like Obum Gwacham. Alex Jenkins and Al-Quadin Muhammad are intriguing players to watch along the line, but at this point there’s no reason to place them on the final roster.
Linebacker: This might be my favorite battle in training camp. I’m not totally convinced that Dannell Ellerbe makes the final roster, given his injury history. If there’s one dark horse candidate to keep an eye on for the linebacker competition, it’d be Adam Bighill. Sae Tautu, an undrafted rookie free agent from BYU, would have to climb the depth chart. Also missing from the conversation is the potential for Michael Mauti to return. He’s worked hard to get back into football shape, so it’s something to keep an eye on.
Cornerback: I’m not totally sold on the Arthur Maulet hype enough to put him on the final roster, but he’s one to keep an eye on as camp progresses. De’Vante Harris isn’t someone that will just willingly give up his spot after playing in 10 games for the team last year. Taveze Calhoun looks to make an impact after being a practice squad guy in 2016, but that remains to be seen.
Safety: There’s not much debate here, unless you believe Erik Harris won’t make the final roster. Of course, if the Saints would only roll with four safeties for the new season, then that would make things interesting. Chris Banjo and Robsenson Therezie are likely nothing more than camp bodies.
Special Teams (3)
K: Wil Lutz
P: Thomas Morstead
LS: Thomas Gafford
The long snapper battle is anyone’s guess, and I went with Gafford over Chase Dominguez because of veteran experience. As far as returners, the early nods would go to Alvin Kamara and Ted Ginn Jr. Lutz and Morstead are some of the easiest projections on the Saints roster.