The New Orleans Saints showed clear regression in both pass rushing and run stopping last season.
After losing David Onyemata, Shy Tuttle and Marcus Davenport to free agency - the Saints’ defensive line went from subpar to almost nonexistent.
the Saints allowed RBs to gain 1.6 yards before contact per early down rush— Warren Sharp (@SharpFootball) March 13, 2023
that ranked 24th in the NFL & was a huge decline from the prior several years
they needed more from the defensive line even before losing David Onyemata
now, a massive need https://t.co/bu8jK8eFYB
Carl Granderson showed a lot of promise last year, specifically during the back-half of the season. The jury is still out on Payton Turner due to health issues, but I do think he could become a real factor. So, with Cam Jordan being the only clear starter on the roster, the Saints should address the D-line in the draft at pick 29 or 40. This along with getting active in free agency would be ideal.
Here’s a few guys they should consider grabbing if/when on the board.
Pittsburgh DT Calijah Kancey
In 2022, Kancey tallied 7.5 sacks in 11 games, proving to be one of the elite interior pass-rushers. At 6 foot and 280 pounds, he also led all defensive tackles across the nation with 14.5 tackles for a loss.
Kancey clocked an official 4.67-second 40-yard dash at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine, the fastest time for a defensive tackle at the event since 2003. 40-yard speed doesn’t always translate to game speed but that does look to be a testament to his innate explosiveness, which is shown on the film.
Calijah Kancey is gonna get endless comps to Aaron Donald, and there ARE plays on tape where it makes a lot of sense:pic.twitter.com/KPWZDz4eh6— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) March 6, 2023
Some Calijah Kancey All-22 (EZ view) for your Monday perusing #H2P pic.twitter.com/P03mLcmahw— Cameron Blackburn (@CamBlurn) March 13, 2023
That explosiveness will help him win at the next level. Instant help.
Michigan DT Mazi Smith
Two-time All-Big Ten selection Mazi Smith is the prototype of a lane clogging defensive tackle. At 6-foot-3, 337-pounds, Smith shows elite quickness on top of exploding off the snap - he’s far from your everyday player at his size. He clocked a 4.41 shuttle time, which would be the fastest time for any defensive tackle over 310 pounds in the past decade. He vertical-jumps 33 inches.
He close-grip benched 550 pounds. That strength seems to translate directly to the field.
Mazi Smith initiates contact and stands up with the Center, keeping him close as Smith identifies the play type and then the ball carrier. Smith then sheds the Center off and makes a solid tackle on the ball carrier. pic.twitter.com/Yf9jpoNnrS— Mase Riney (@caliking49er17) March 13, 2023
Mazi Smith lined up over the center. Displays quickness & athleticism as he swipes the hands of the guard to get clear, then powers through the push from the center & buries the QB— Anthony Cover 1 (@Pro__Ant) March 11, 2023
Mazi Smith (#58) chucking a 305 lbs guard like he’s nothing. He has the ability to really gum up the works on the interior— Anthony Cover 1 (@Pro__Ant) March 9, 2023
Smith tallied 49 tackles last season, along with a sack and forced fumble. Smith often demands a double team in the running game and more often than not, he holds up. He has the size, strength, lateral quickness and technique to be a day-one starter. Instant help.
Notre Dame DL Isaiah Foskey
2022 Consensus All-American Isaiah Foskey would thrive as a complimentary edge rusher to Cam Jordan. In ‘22 - Foskey tallied 33 total pressures, three QB hits and 12 sacks.
Speed, forceful & instinctive describes Foskey. He clocked a 4.58 40-yard-dash time. He’s strong at the point of attack and rarely gets beaten off the ball. He’s effective with his hands and plays with leverage. He converts speed to power and knows how to get in on stopping the run.
The play strength of Isaiah Foskey Forcefully sheds the OT, takes the RB head on....doesn't give an inch pic.twitter.com/bPykvc8mfr— EJHolt_NFLDraft (@EJunkie215) September 28, 2022
Isaiah Foskey (@IFoskey) strikes & reads run, then transitions to his pass rush as he uses the rip to clear the OL’s hands. Gets to the QB for the sack! #passrush #goirish #nfldraft pic.twitter.com/DOhdDy3CV2— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) November 27, 2022
He’s an underrated talent and very well could fall to 40, which would be a steal. That’d open up the opportunity for the Saints to deepen the offense (RB/WR) in the first round. Carr gets another toy on offense; Cam gets a running mate on the opposite edge. Everyone wins, instant help.
The NFL Draft starts Thursday, April 27th.
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