New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan had the best season of his underrated career in 2017. Jordan had 13 of the team's 42 sacks, and earned the first All-Pro berth of his seven year career. One of the difficulties that the Saints defense has had in recent seasons is the lack of a defensive playmaker on their line opposite Jordan. Alex Okafor, a free agent signee a year ago, was having the best year of his career before a torn Achilles ended his season. He teamed with 2017 3rd round pick Trey Hendrickson, Hau'oli Kikaha, and late season signee George Johnson to give the New Orleans defense an effective rotation on the other side of their defensive line. Coach Sean Payton has spoken multiple times this offseason about the team's desire to add another pass rusher to the Saints improving defense. The answer may come in today's draft profile, and a player from a very familiar collegiate powerhouse to Saints fans.
Sam Hubbard, DE/EDGE (Ohio State)
Hubbard attended Archbishop Moeller High School near Cincinatti, OH, where he was not only a 5-star football recruit but also a lacrosse star that was offered a scholarship to Notre Dame. Despite a deep and talented defense at Ohio State, Hubbard contributed immediately as a freshman in 2015, rolling up 6.5 sacks, an interception, and 8 tackles for loss. He finished his 3-year career with the Buckeyes with 30 tackles for loss, 17 career sacks, and second team All-Big 10 voting in 2017 after a 7 sack and 13.5 tackles for loss performance. He answered any questions about his athletic ability at the NFL Scouting Combine in March. His 6.84 second 3-cone drill and 4.32 20-yard shuttle ranked first among all participating defensive linemen, and showed short-area quickness ability.
Hubbard sets the edge effectively, keeping a good pad level while setting a wide base to maintain good balance and positioning. He has an excellent football IQ, and plays with a non-stop motor. He can play either weak side or over the tight end, and keeps constant hand movement to prevent offensive tackles from locking on him. Hubbard has good bend around the edge, and uses spin moves effectively. He sets up opposing tackles well, then beats them to the backfield with inside moves. Good play recognition allows him to make plays against play action, and he has enough athleticism to move out into short coverage or in the flat. Hubbard is a good run defender as well, able to crash inside to make a play or contain a running back in space. He is a fundamentally sound tackler, able to overwhelm with his initial hit then wrapping up effectively.
Nfl.com comparison: Mario Edwards Jr. (Raiders)
Hubbard will need to get stronger at the point of attack. He isn't able to overpower blockers with a bull rush, and can get pushed around at times in the running game. Considered an average athlete, he beats his opponents more often with sustained effort than initial burst.
Various scouts have called Sam Hubbard one of the more well-rounded edge defenders available in this draft. Some have called him a "safe" pick, someone that has the look of a solid but unspectacular pro player with a limited upside. Hubbard saved some of his best performances in Ohio State's biggest games, including 2.5 sacks of U.S.C. quarterback Sam Darnold in last year's Cotton Bowl. He has the physicality and football intellect to potentially thrive in a blitzing/stunting defensive scheme similar to the style that Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen typically employs.