Wednesday, August 17, 2011
KD's NFL Draft Grades - New Orleans Saints
Just a year after knocking off the Colts in the Super Bowl, the Saints were eliminated in the wild-card round by the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks. Granted, Marshawn Lynch broke one of the greatest runs in the history of football, but still, to lose to Seattle is embarrasing. New Orleans re-dedicated itself to improving it's running game and their offseason moves reflect that. They also wanted to add some youth on the defensive side of the ball and spent 5 of their 6 picks on defense players. These moves, in my opinion, should help the Saints in the quest to recapture the NFC South title away from the Atlanta Falcons.
1st round, 24th overall) Cameron Jordan - DE - California
With their first pick in the 1st round, the Saints drafted what many thought to be the best 5 technique (3-4 DE) end in the entire draft. Cameron Jordan will shift to the 4-3, where he can play both end and shift inside to tackle in certain situations. Jordan has a strong pedigree as his father, Steve, was a 6-time Pro Bowler at TE, most notably for the Minnesota Vikings.
How he fits in: The Saints lack a dominant pass-rusher opposite Will Smith. I doubt that former Chicago Bear Alex Brown is that guy. He's able to provide good play against the run and situational pass-rushing ability, but Cameron Jordan is the future at DE. Smith and Brown are 30 and 32 respectively and Jordan is a great technician. You could also slide Jodran inside on passing downs next to guys like Sedrick Ellis or Mitch King.
Outlook: Jordan might be eased in as a rotational player for this year, at least starting out, but he's certainly going to be in the running for the strongside DE spot opposite Will Smith. He's not as explosive as a traditional 4-3 DE prospect and sometimes gets overexcited and will lose contain on the edge. That said, if you can keep him under control, his ability to hold the point of attack is very good and he's outstanding against the run, so much of the pass-rush he provides is just a bonus for you.
1st round, 28th overall) Mark Ingram - RB - Alabama
Coach Sean Payton knew he needed to upgrade his running game in the offseason, and the Saints made a blockbuster trade sending a 2012 1st rounder to the Pats for the right to select Mark Ingram, the best running back in the Draft. Ingram, a 5'9" 215lbs workhorse at Alabama should be an immediate starter and feature back for the Saints.
How he fits in: The oft-injured Reggie Bush was traded away to Miami and Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory have battled injuries the past two seasons. Enter free agent Darren Sproles to replace Bush and Ingram will get first crack at the feature back role. Ingram runs hard between the tackles and can break the big play. Built very similar to and has speed similar to that of former Cowboys great Emmitt Smith. He's also got very underrated hands out of the backfield (his dad, Mark Sr. was a receiver for the Giants and Dolphins in the late 80s and early 90s). Ingram should be the tone-setter on this offense and will be great for the Saints near the goaline. Ingram couldn't have asked for a better situation to land in as the Saints have a very good O-line.
Outlook: Ingram was a very durable back at Alabama and he'll be able to split carries again in New Orleans (he did so at 'Bama with Glen Coffee and Trent Richardson), so durability won't be as big of an issue as many thought it might be. Ingram will be a key cog in the Saints offense as they'll have a viable running game once again. He could very easily be the Offensive Rookie of the Year for the Saints, and I think they made a great pick here.
3rd round, 72nd overall) Martez Wilson - LB - Illinois
The Saints have very little depth behind linebackers Jonathan Vilma, Scott Shanle, and Clint Ingram. Martez Wilson, a high school classmate of the Chicago Bulls Derrick Rose, overcame a very rough upbringing to become a 2-year starter for the Illini. He's had some off-field incidents, including getting stabbed while helping a teammate in a bar fight in 2009. He's more athlete than football player, but his skill of running the arc and bending around the corner give the Saints a good blitzer from an OLB position. He has played ILB, so if something were ever to happen to Jonathan Vilma, he could step inside in a pinch. He should compete with Shanle and Ingram for one of the outside LB spots this year.
3rd round, 88th overall) Johnny Patrick - CB - Louisville
Jabari Greer as been a revelation for the Saints at CB and Tracy Porter has been solid. Former 1st rounder Patrick Robinson is in the mix as a second starter or nickel corner. Patrick, a pretty underrated prospect from Louisville, has excelled in both man and zone coverage. However, he came to Louisville as a receiver and his technique is still very raw by NFL standards. He'll get caught peeking in the backfield when he shouldn't be and things of that nature, but he's definitely got the skill and temperment to work with. He could be a solid contributor in a year or two.
7th round, 226th overall) Greg Romeus - DE - Pittsburgh
Still lacking some depth on the D-line the Saints took a late round flier on the former Pitt Panther star Greg Romeus. Injured last year and only playing two games, Romeus was productive for three seasons after redshirting for the Panthers. However, as a junior, he was overshadowed by teammate Jabaal Sheard, now of the Browns, in a big way. That's not to say Romeus can't get to the passer as he tallied 20.5 sacks in 3 seasons. He's not as athletic as you'd think and he's somewhat stiff when pursuing. He doesn't have many moves and relied too much on his speed rush in the Big East. However, his combination of size and speed 6'5" 264lbs and 4.85 forty give you something to work with. He might sneak onto the roster, but at the very least should be a solid practice squad guy.
7th round, 243rd overall) Nate Bussey - LB - Illinois
The Saints grabbed Martez Wilson's teammate Nate Bussey with a late 7th round pick. A safety originally for the Illini, Bussey played well on special teams his first season and a half and starting his final 18 contests at weakside linebacker. Bussey is a small guy, but a solid tackler. He'll have to make a serious run on special teams to make the roster, which is a daunting task given the number of good special teams players the Saints have. However, their most prominent one, Marvin Mitchell left in free agecny, so that leaves one extra spot available.
Overall Grade: A-
I really like what the Saints did, especially trading back into round one for Mark Ingram. I think he'll add a dimension to the offense they haven't had in a while. Cameron Jordan, Martez Wilson, and Johnny Patrick all will have a chance to become solid contributors, perhaps even starters, in a few years time. Romeus and Bussey are two guys who could find roles on special teams or in a rotation. In my opinion, the only thing keeping the Saints from an "A" is the fact they didn't address some positions on the O-line, such as C and RT. Veteran Olin Kreutz was brought in to replace Jonathan Goodwin, but how much longer will he last? John Stinchcomb was just cut the other day at RT; what's their plan there? I'm not sure placing Jermon Bushrod or Charles Brown at RT is the right move. Other than that, I think they did a great job, even if it involved giving up a 1st rounder in 2012.