The Saints have set themselves up pretty well after all of their moves in free agency. There is no longer a need a linebacker with the additions of Curtis Lofton, Chris Chamberlain and David Hawthorne. Add in second-year player Martez Wilson, and something that was an area of weakness has transformed into a strength.
Also, the addition of Brodrick Bunkley and the offset of the Carl Nicks loss by signing Ben Grubbs has been essential to New Orleans' draft plans since the added loss of a second round pick. Starting in the third-round of the draft, the Saints have set themselves up pretty nicely to go after value rather than need when their selections roll around.
I would say the Saints' area of needs goes like this: CB, DE, TE, WR, DT, OT.
In this seven-round mock, I will try to slot in the right players at areas of concern while still trying to maintain some value in each pick. Let's dive in.
This pick would be the prime example of picking value, but still staying true to the team's needs. Behind Jimmy Graham there is not much write home about. David Thomas has a history of concussions and ended last year on IR with the same problems. His future is up in the air. Behind Thomas, Michael Higgins, an undrafted free agent last year, remains.
That's where Orson Charles comes into play.
The once-fringe first round tight end has prospect has seen his draft stock fall rapidly since he declared in January. Combine his off-the-field issues with his less than stellar workouts and he is see now as a third round prospect. However, I see a perfect fit in New Orleans playing the Aaron Hernandez-type player to Jimmy Graham (Gronkowski).
The 6' 3" 241 lb. Georgia Bulldog is also very versatile. He can also line up in the slot, and, giving the Saints issues with health at that spot (see Moore, Lance), the more options they have the better. His biggest flaw is inconsistency, but that could be masked in a back-up role. His addition could cover for the lack of depth at receiver.
The Saints lack depth at the offensive tackle position, on the right side and the left. Zach Strief is serviceable, but Charles Brown has been a disappointment since being drafted in the second round in 2010. He also ended the season on IR when asked to fill-in for Strief. In the Saints scheme, tackles aren't as important as the interior line, but could be helped with an upgrade.
Enter, Nate Potter, the 6' 6" 300 lb Boise State product.
Potter has been seen as a poor man's Anthony Castonzo, Indianapolis' first rounder last year. he is best suited to start his NFL career on the right side. That could give him the opportunity to start immediately with a good off-season. His athleticism could give him the edge over Strief and Brown. This would be another situation of the Saints picking value with the sliding Potter.
The rest of the nation might be just warming up to Ron Brooks, but people down in New Orleans know all about the Bayou Bengals nickel corner and special teams ace. He's no longer a sleeper after he blazed L.S.U.'s Pro Day with a time of 4.37 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He probably knocked his draft status up about two rounds with that performance.
With Tracy Porter's departure, the Saints will be moving up either Patrick Robinson, the favorite, or Johnny Patrick up into the starting role opposite Jabari Greer. Robinson's play on special teams will be missed also as his role in the defense grows.
With picking a player like Brooks, you add quality depth while also adding help to your special teams. It also brings a little more speed to a cornerback group that could use it.
With the departure of Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson hitting 30 last month, the Saints could use a little infusion of young talent at the receiver position.
T.J. Graham is what Henderson was when he was coming out of L.S.U., an unpolished burner who has a knack for big plays. Henderson used that potential to have the second best yards-per-catch average in the NFL over his career. If Graham can add some bulk to his lanky frame, and learn behind Colston, he could be the next great late-round receiver steal.
The Saints' lack of pass rush is going to be helped, in part, by Steve Spagnuolo's scheme. The other part is going to involve getting younger ends in the rotation that can fit in nicely.
Olivier Vernon fits that mold to the tee. The 6' 2" 261 lb. product from the "U" is a perfect boom or bust prospect just like the Saints chose last year in the seventh round, Greg Romeus. He hurts his stock by not going back to school. He is a raw prospect that relies on his natural skill too often. If his technique can be improved, he can be seen as a huge steal this late in the draft.