New Orleans Saints: 5 Draft Prospects Who Could Challenge for Starting Jobs

Zayne Grantham@ZPGSportsContributor IIIFebruary 20, 2012

New Orleans Saints: 5 Draft Prospects Who Could Challenge for Starting Jobs

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    The 2012 NFL draft is just a couple months away and the New Orleans Saints are getting ready to make some important decisions involving the draft and free agency.

    Much of what happens during the free agency period will determine what the Saints will do in the draft.

    New Orleans has a good amount of key players that will enter the free-agent market this offseason, and the Saints could be in real trouble if they are unable to re-sign some of their guys.

    The Saints are without a first-round pick in 2012, thanks to the trade for Mark Ingram during last year's draft. That leaves the Saints with limited options in the draft and makes bringing back their own guys even more important.

    However, the good thing about Mickey Loomis, Sean Payton, Drew Brees and the rest of the Saints is that they are very good at developing late-round talent into NFL starters.

    Just ask Marques Colston, Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks, Lance Moore, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and some of the other Saints players what round they were drafted in.

    A lot of the Saints' starters were taken after the fifth round of the draft, or picked up as undrafted free agents.

    The Saints know what to do with late round guys in order to make them stars in this league.

    Let's take a look at five draft prospects that the Saints could turn into day one starters.

Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse

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    Chandler Jones has skyrocketed up the draft boards of most teams and analysts. Just a couple of months ago, Jones was seen as a middle-round pick that could play as a 4-3 defensive end or a 3-4 outside linebacker.

    Now, Jones is seen as a first-round choice to play defensive end. This means that the Saints will have a very small chance of picking this guy up.

    I honestly do not think that Jones will drop to the Saints in the second round. The only way New Orleans gets Jones is if they trade up for him. This may be the only player that I would actually hope the Saints trade up for.

    Jones reminds me a lot of the New York Giants' Jason Pierre-Paul.

    This Syracuse product stands at 6'5" and 247 pounds. He is an athletic end with a very high motor. He does not give up on the play and has the ability to chase down runners from behind when necessary.

    Jones is also a scary pass-rusher. His agility and speed are above average and it helps that he has long arms to explode by offensive lineman. Jones also has some of the best intangibles out of the defensive ends in this draft.

    If the Saints found a way to bring in Jones, then he would probably start from day one, no matter what happens during free agency.

    Jones would be able to steal a spot from one of the Saints' current defensive ends during training camp. This kid is too talented not to.

Mike Martin, DT, Michigan

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    The New Orleans Saints need some help at the defensive tackle position this offseason, whether it be through the draft or free agency.

    Mike Martin is a prospect form Michigan that could help the Saints from day one.

    The current tackles on the Saints' roster are Sedrick Ellis, Tom Johnson, Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin. New Orleans had some tackles on their practice squad throughout the season, but it remains to be seen if those guys will join the Saints again this offseason.

    Rogers and Franklin are both free agents and we will see if the Saints choose to bring back either of those guys.

    No matter what happens in free agency, Martin is a player that could come into the Saints' training camp and challenge for a starting job.

    There is one facet of Martin's game that sets him apart from other tackles—his intensity.

    Martin is a player that never gives up one the play. I have talked about players before that have high motors and good hustle, but the truth is that most NFL players do.

    However, Martin is different from those other guys. He is a relentless pass-rusher and fights through double-teams to get to the ball.

    He will run down the field to make a tackle and chases after ball carriers. This tackle literally never quits. For that simple reason, he will succeed in the NFL.

    Martin also posses the intangibles to play at the professional level and was productive while at Michigan.

    If the Saints choose to draft Martin, then his desire may force the Saints to enter him into the starting lineup on day one.

Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas

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    Jake Bequette is a ferocious defensive end coming out of Arkansas, and he could become a New Orleans Saints starter as a rookie.

    The Saints have a better chance of drafting this end than Chandler Jones, and he may be just as good at the end of their careers.

    Remember that high-motor intensity that Mike Martin possesses? Well, Bequette has the same type of work ethic.

    Bequette has that same desire that will carry him to success at the next level. This young player is very smart on the football field and can play well against the run and pass.

    He is able to chase down the ball carrier and pursues the runner well from the backside. Bequette can also read screens and misdirections very quickly, something that is very important in the NFL.

    Bequette is a better pass-rusher than he is a run-stopper but has the ability to stop both well. The Saints need a pass rushing end, and Bequette can fill that need.

    This prospect has all of the needed intangibles and was very durable throughout his college career. Bequette's production at Arkansas was also very good.

    This is a player that could come into training camp and dominate, which is exactly what the Saints need at the defensive end spot.

Ryan Miller, OG, Colorado

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    The New Orleans Saints could possibly lose left guard Carl Nicks to free agency this year, and if they do then they will need some more depth.

    Ryan Miller could provide depth, but could also end up starting for the Saints as a rookie.

    Miller is a guard from Colorado and is a perfect fit for the Saints.

    New Orleans has a knack for bringing in players that are hard-working, smart at their position and have had injuries in the past.

    Miller fits this mold greatly. He has every intangible needed to play in the NFL. Miller is a humble player and has amazing work ethic. He has also stayed very involved in the community.

    That sounds like a Saints' starter to me.

    Nearly every starter on the Saints' roster is involved in the community, and all of them are humble, hard workers. The Saints are not a team that has divas or deals with drama.

    Every player in New Orleans has a team-first attitude and plays a selfless game. Miller does this as well.

    At 6'6", Miller is a bit taller than most interior lineman, but if anyone can teach him to play that position it is the Saints.

    Miller may be passed up by many teams in the 2012 NFL draft, and if the Saints pick him up then the league may end up wishing they had taken a chance on this Colorado guard.

Brandon Taylor, S, LSU

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    The New Orleans Saints may need some help at the safety position if Roman Harper does struggle in Spagnuolo's system, but even if Harper does fine the Saints need some more safety depth.

    A perfect fit for the Saints in the 2012 NFL draft is LSU product Brandon Taylor.

    Taylor was very productive at LSU and was one of the team's biggest leaders. He has the leadership, work ethic and desire to achieve success at the next level, and that could being in his first year in the league.

    Taylor showed the ability to play the run very well while at LSU, but he also played well against the pass. Taylor needs some work with his cover skills, but most rookies coming into the NFL will need the same.

    He has the athletic ability to play against most tight ends and running backs, and showed that he can do it at a high level with LSU. 

    Taylor has also shown the ability to make big plays in all areas of the game. He can make big hits to separate the ball from the receiver, strip the ball from running backs and intercept the quarterback.

    The Saints can use a safety that plays well in all areas of the game, despite what happens with Harper in the offseason. However, if Harper is unable to play Sapgnuolo's defense well, then Taylor may be a suitable replacement from day one.