New Orleans Saints 2012 NFL Draft Report Card: Grades for Every Pick
The NFL draft is a little like Christmas—so much hype and build up and then as quickly as you can say, "BOOM!" it’s over. That said, few drafts have left me as uninterested and inattentive as the 2012 NFL draft.
This was mostly due to the Saints not possessing a pick until the third round and No. 91 overall. It was also due to the fact that the Saints had no true needs. We talked for months about how the Saints needed to add backups along the defensive line, in the secondary and at tight end.
Never once did we utter that the Saints needed to add starters through the draft. There was never uttered a line about this team being one player away or needing to find impact players who will contribute right away.
All the talk for the Saints was about the future—even about adding players for the future.
But just because these things were true, I didn’t expect such a non-descript, uneventful and questionable selection of draft picks. It is a little disheartening to me that I’ve only heard of one of the players the Saints selected in this draft.
That factor alone does not make this a horrible draft. What makes it a disappointing draft is the simple fact that the Saints may not even have secured a player who will contribute at any point in his career.
Then again, the beauty of the draft process is that it’s entirely too early to grade these picks. I’m going to do it anyway though.
Third Round, Pick No. 91: Akiem Hicks, DL, Regina
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With Mickey Loomis' first pick since the "Bountygate" scandal and being accused of wire-tapping the opposing coaches' communication devices at the Superdome from 2002-04, he took a player who has no available photo anywhere.
That player is defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. Hicks played at LSU before an immigration hiccup forced him back to Canada where he starred for two years at Regina College.
The most positive thing I can say about this pick is that Hicks steps into a position where the Saints needed a fourth player who could fit into the rotation, though with the re-signing of Mitch King that fourth spot is only open for competition and not a guarantee for Hicks to assume.
The only reason this grade isn't worse is because it was at a position where depth was necessary.
Fourth Round, Pick No. 122: Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
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Most people know Nick Toon is the son of New York Jets great Al Toon. What those same people generally forget is that this Nick has a chance to be just as good, if not better than his father.
Toon was considered a possible first or second-round pick near the end of his senior campaign. It was only when he went through the draft process that Toon's stock fell.
Of course, a drafting team would rather a guy's stock fall due to workouts than his stock rise due to workouts when selecting that particular player. For this very reason, Toon has to be the best pick the Saints made in the entire draft.
He has a chance to become a handsomely successful NFL receiver with great size, instincts in the running game and football IQ. Coming from a run-heavy offense, Toon figures to benefit from playing in a system that happens to be much more wide-open (the opposite of what most college receivers will face upon their arrival to the NFL).
Toon will come in and instantly challenge Adrian Arrington for the fourth receiver spot and could instantly become the guy the Saints use in one-receiver formations.
To find a player who could have gone in the second round in the fourth was pure magic for the New Orleans Saints. Only an immediate contributor would have bumped this grade any higher, but Toon is likely to contribute shortly into his Saints tenure.
Fifth Round, Pick No. 162: Corey White, S, Samford
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Corey White's primary value is the position that he plays. As a former corner, he ought to have at least some ability to cover man-to-man, though many draft experts would say that is where he is weakest.
He projects as a strong safety in most defensive alignments. For the Saints, though, his value is not equal to that of many of the other safety prospects in this draft. He fits similarly to Roman Harper as an in-the-box safety.
He doesn't appear to be a player who will help the defense turn the ball over, nor will he prevent other teams from throwing the football effectively against the Saints' defense.
With George Iloka, Markelle Martin, Aaron Henry and Trenton Robinson all available at pick No. 162, the Saints unwisely took a chance on a player who wasn't as good a fit as any of the other four (though every other team obviously missed on Henry as well).
Of course, the Saints have said they plan to play him at corner. But that's a bad idea.
Sixth Round, Pick No. 179: Andrew Tiller, OG, Syracuse
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All along I predicted the Saints would attempt to take a player from Syracuse. For awhile I thought that guy might be Chandler Jones (selected 21st overall by New England). Then when the Saints had their second-round pick taken away from them and it became apparent he would go in the first, I thought it would be Nick Provo (signed as an undrafted free agent by Baltimore).
As it turns out, the former Orangeman the Saints ended up taking was offensive guard Andrew Tiller. At 6'4", 324 lbs., Tiller has the perfect height-to-weight disparity for an offensive lineman. He is a brawler and a mean guy.
More importantly though, he will know most of the Saints' blocking schemes after playing under former Saints offensive coordinator/O-line coach Doug Marrone for three years at 'Cuse.
He can take time to learn the NFL game with the Saints comfortable at guard after bringing in former Raven Ben Grubbs. But between him and Matt Tennant, the Saints ought to feel comfortable at the guard spot should Grubbs and/or Jahri Evans go down with a significant injury.
Though Tiller is a relative unknown and wasn't projected this high, his knowledge of the Saints' schemes combined with his size make him a great value pick at No. 179 overall.
Seventh Round, Pick No. 234: Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska
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Hey, another guy has a picture.
Of course, of the players on this list, only Nick Toon has had a photo bearing his image.
At 6'6" and 320 lbs., Marcel Jones has unusual size for a tackle, especially one who didn't play his college ball at Wisconsin.
The Saints took a chance on another Nebraska offensive lineman in recent years, Carl Nicks, and had amazing success. Nicks, of course, quickly became a starter after being drafted in the fifth round of the 2007 draft.
The Saints are hoping to have similar success with this former Husker.
The Saints failed to address more pressing needs at tight end, defensive end and quarterback. But coming from the Big Ten, Jones figures to possess the macho attitude necessary to excel in the pro game.
Undrafted Free Agents
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You can follow the New Orleans Saints' undrafted free-agent signings here, thanks to Canal Street Chronicles.
Let's make this short and sweet. I have never heard of any of the players on said list. I am by no means saying none of them can become good players.
But at least in previous years, I had heard of a few of the Saints' undrafted free agents. It almost seems to me like the Saints were trying too hard in this draft. It's as if they decided the commissioner's punishments weren't enough and they had to add their own punishment.
They could have at least tried to make an effort.
Of course any of them could work out, but generally with undrafted guys they need to be guys who are legitimately talented and simply overlooked. Few of the guys on the Saints' list are players anyone had ranked anywhere.
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With just five draft selections, the New Orleans Saints did not come into the 2012 NFL draft with super high expectations. But fans had to hope for a little better effort than what was put forth. Sure, the coaching staff and front office staff will put forward their rhetoric hoping to convince us this was a great draft.
Don't buy it. They got one guy who will contribute in 2012, and that's a guy who will be the fourth or fifth wide receiver (Nick Toon).
The rest may end up contributing in a few years, but even that seems rather unlikely. They took a corner who will surely fail at the position and has to play safety. But the Saints plan on playing him at corner (Corey White).
They took a defensive tackle who is not considered strong enough against the run or a natural pass rusher and has no true position (Akiem Hicks).
And they took two offensive linemen with little upside and little else to make them legitimate NFL players. Individually some of these guys could develop, but as a draft class it's horrendous. Saints fans, it is most definitely time to panic.
Mickey Loomis has apparently become the same senile meathead that Gregg Williams showed himself to be.