As free agency has commenced in the NFL, teams are rapidly filling holes in their roster and replacing players who have already signed with other teams. Already the New Orleans Saints have lost two key offensive players off their roster from last season—with Carl Nicks going to Tampa and Robert Meachem to San Diego.
Of course New Orleans was quick to replace Nicks by signing Ravens’ guard Ben Grubbs to a five-year deal Thursday. And earlier this offseason, the Saints re-signed WR Adrian Arrington. It appears the Saints will be okay with the players they have in these two key spots.
But with a limited amount of cap space available and few defensive players to really get excited about, the New Orleans Saints seem likely to fill their defensive holes through the draft rather than overspending in free agency.
Assuming that is true, here are the best-case scenarios for each round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The worst-case scenarios will also be represented alongside each one.
The draft projections are all over the board on Chandler Jones. Many experts have him as a high-end second-round pick. Others have him near the end of the second, or perhaps even later.
Clearly, of all the players who could be available with the 59th pick, Chandler Jones is the most complete defensive end. Normally complete defensive end means Will Smith production—which is an average of about eight sacks and a very good player against the run.
In Jones’ case, that looks more like a player with 10-plus sack potential and an impact player against the run. There are some injury concerns and some question his talent level. But most recognize the Syracuse Orangeman is loaded with potential.
With zero great pass rushers, the Saints could do a lot worse than finding a guy who has the potential to be great.
If you haven't heard the NFL is considering penalties to inflict upon the New Orleans Saints for their indecisive actions amid a "Bounty Fund" program run by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
Speculation has included suspensions to players, coaches and others involved in the scandal, fines or draft picks.
The precedent is the penalty the NFL leveled the New England Patriots with in light of "Spygate" back in 2007. The penalty then was a first-round pick and a $500,000 fine.
Multiple reports have said the NFL wants to penalize the Saints even more than they did the Patriots in 2007. Because the Saints have no first-round pick, it is possible the NFL could take away the Saints' second-round pick this season, and possibly one other pick in either this draft, or their first-round pick in 2013.
Given the glaring holes the Saints have on defense, they need all the superior talent they can get their hands on. Losing a second-round pick would hurt this defensive roster more than anyone could ever imagine.
Though Markelle Martin doesn't necessarily qualify as a ball-hawking playmaker, he is good over the middle and as a range cover guy. For that reason he's a perfect fit. His presence would allow Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins to do what they do best—play the run and blitz respectively.
And Jenkins could become a hybrid rover safety who plays man-to-man, some coverage and blitzes from slot alignments. In short, a Martin selection makes the two already good players on the roster even better.
In this case, I do not mean to say that Kheeston Randall would be the wrong player for the Saints to select. In this instance I mean to say that Randall would be a better player to select in round four, approximately 10 picks later (Saints possess Miami's fourth-round pick).
But it's possible that at pick No. 91 the Saints' main targets—Martin, Orson Charles and Alameda Ta’amu—could all be off the board. Thus it may be worth it to “reach” for a player such as Randall, since he at least fits a position of need.
Because of Orson Charles' recent DUI arrest, it is possible the Georgia early draft entrant could see his stock fall dramatically. It wouldn't be inconceivable to think he could fall to the Saints' pick somewhere north of No. 100.
If that should happen Sean Payton would almost certainly clamor for the Georgia tight end to add to an already potent offense. Having two studs at the tight end seems to be the future of the tight end position, and Sean Payton likes to place himself among the initiators of NFL trends.
It is hard to imagine a player who is a better fit for this Saints offense.
This assumes the Saints have been unable to pick up Markelle Martin with their third-round pick, a multi-dimensional tight end is unavailable and a host of other options are gone.
But adding depth at the tackle spot is never a bad idea, especially given the Saints' odd group of tackles on their current roster.
Bergstrom was an effective college player working in a spread system most of his time at Utah. In that system, Bergstrom was asked to pass block a lot and do a lot of zone blocking. It's not a perfect fit, but Bergstrom could be a nice find in the fourth round for the Saints.
If we're being honest it's highly unlikely Arkansas wide receiver, Jarius Wright, will be available when the Saints select in the fifth round. If he is, he's the obvious pick.
Though much smaller than Robert Meachem, Wright brings a similar kind of physicality and physical ability that Meachem brought. He has blazing speed and can really get behind the defense.
And most importantly he figures to provide a boost in the return game. The Saints need to upgrade their kick return unit and a player with straight line speed like Wright would figure to improve that area immediately.
Sure Joe Adams is the guy who was Arkansas's electric returner but Wright possesses similar abilities.
With each subsequent round, the worst-case scenario assumes more of the Saints' primary targets are gone. In other words, the Saints would not select Thomas if they have already selected Markelle Martin or another safety.
But if the worst-case scenarios play out, Tramain Thomas really becomes the best-case scenario here in the fifth round.
Either way, the Saints are targeting an Arkansas player with their fifth-round pick. Whether it's the explosive wide receiver/returner or the hard-hitting safety remains to be seen.
Josh Chapman is one big kid. In fact, he's 6'1" and 316 lbs. of big. And though the Saints have always played a base 4-3 defense, they've always liked big defensive tackles. So the fit is a decent one.
Most of all the Saints need to get younger on their defensive line. And though much has been made this offseason about the Saints addressing their pass rush, it's not as if they were the best run defense either.
They would definitely love to find a way to improve and grow as a run defense. There's little doubt about that. Chapman might just be the guy to do that.
Getting another pass rusher, another guy, the Saints could use situationally and bring along slow. That is exactly what Jacquies Smith would be for the Saints.
The Saints are going to hone in on pass rushing talent one way or another. If they can find a gem in a player such as Smith they'll be quite happy.
It seems rather likely that Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson will be available at this spot. If he is, it's a rather obvious pick for a team needing to develop a third quarterback and currently unsure of its franchise quarterback's future with the team.
Wilson is very similar to Drew Brees and Chase Daniel, and would learn the system quickly. He's even good enough to possibly win the backup spot over Daniel.
Tank Carder is a player who can do a lot of things well. He can play the run, he can play the pass and he can get pressure on the quarterback. He's intelligent and uses that intelligence to get to the right spot on the field based on alignment and tendencies.
Knowing the opposing teams' tendencies Carder uses it to his advantage to up for a relative lack of athleticism. That may not be the kind of thing fans want to hear about a Saints' linebacker, but truthfully the Saints tend to like that kind of player at that position.
Interestingly enough, Matt Miller has Donte Paige-Moss listed exactly at No. 229 in his Post-Combine Big Board. Paige-Moss has been considered an elite prospect for quite some time, but due to an injury-filled 2011 and some character questions, his stock is falling faster than Jeremy Lin's Knicks team.
But based on his original stock, Paige-Moss clearly possesses the talent to develop into an elite player once again. For a seventh-round pick, that is the exact kind of player an organization expects to bring in.
Nick Provo is a player I have pumped up frequently in this draft process. Placing him on the list of worst-case scenario doesn't mean my thoughts about his potential have changed. But based on the way this mock draft has worked out, I don't see Provo being a necessary pick at 229.
Then again if everything worked against the Saints it is conceivable, plausible and perhaps necessary.
In review here are the best and worst-case scenario drafts:
|Round||Best-Case Scenario||Worst-Case Scenario|
|2||DE Chandler Jones 'Cuse||Pick Taken Away|
|3||S Markelle Martin Ok State||DT Kheeston Randall Texas|
|4||TE Orson Charles Georgia||OT Tony Bergstrom Utah|
|5||WR Jarius Wright Arkansas||S Tramain Thomas Arkansas|
|6 (from Was)||DT Josh Chapman Alabama||DE Jacquies Smith Missouri|
|6 (191)||QB Russell Wilson Wisconsin||OLB Tank Carder TCU|
|7||DE Donte Paige-Moss UNC||TE Nick Provo 'Cuse|
To me the best draft seems more in line with the way the team has drafted in the past five years under Sean Payton. That said the worst-case scenario class isn't horrible. It of course lacks the depth that the best case class does.
But if the worst-case scenario were to play out, I don't think Saints fans would be cursing their brains out come the final Saturday night of April.