New Orleans Saints: Reviewing Their 2012 NFL Draft
The New Orleans Saints did not have much to work with in the 2012 NFL draft.
The Saints traded their first-round pick for this year’s draft during the 2011 NFL draft, in order to move back into the first round and select running back Mark Ingram. Ingram could turn out to be a very good investment in time, but with the Saints subsequently losing their second-round selection as part of their punishment for the bounty scandal, they ended up very short on draft selections.
The Saints have broken free from the losing stigma that haunted them for decades; they won the Super Bowl following the 2009 season and have made three consecutive playoff appearances. That said, the future forecasts trouble, with head coach Sean Payton being suspended for the entire 2012 season along with numerous player suspensions, all due to the bounty scandal.
In order to keep up with their winning ways amidst scandalous times in New Orleans, it was important for the Saints to use the draft picks they still had well. Did they do so? Read through the following slides to find out.
Evaluating the Picks
Round 3, Pick 89: Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 376
It is rare for a player to make it to the NFL from the ranks of Canadian college football, but Akiem Hicks is not a typical Canadian football player. Hicks’s college football career began at Sacramento City Community College, but when he transferred to LSU after two seasons, he was ruled ineligible by the NCAA, forcing him to relocate to Canada to continue to play collegiate football.
Hicks has a very good combination of size and athletic ability, along with big upside, but he is a raw talent who will have to make a huge transition to the NFL, which is much steeper competition than he faced north of the border.
Hicks’s potential made him worth a draft pick, and he did have a good showing at the Shrine Game, but he is a difficult prospect to project to the next level.
Round 4, Pick 122: Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 40
Toon is a skilled wide receiver with good size, reliable hands, verticality and route-running ability. He lacks elite speed, but he is a good athlete and a downfield receiving threat. His play at Wisconsin was plagued by injuries and inconsistency, but he looked great when he was on his game.
He has the skill set to emerge as a No. 2 starting wideout on the Saints.
Round 5, Pick 162: Corey White, CB, Samford
Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400
Admittedly, White was completely off of my draft radar, so it came as a big surprise when he was a fifth-round selection.
White has a tremendous combination of size and athleticism as a cornerback, so while he is a developmental prospect who has to make a big adjustment from FCS competition, he could be a surprise sleeper as a defensive back and special teams contributor.
Round 6, Pick 179: Andrew Tiller, G, Syracuse
Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400
Tiller is a very big offensive lineman, but there is nothing special about his game. He needs to add strength and improve his conditioning, and he struggles with footwork.
Tiller was a very solid blocker for Syracuse who could provide depth at guard, but his game will have to rise with the level of competition.
Round 7, Pick 234: Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska
Overall Prospect Rank: No. 321
Jones was a solid offensive tackle at Nebraska, but he does not project to be anything more than a backup right tackle in the NFL. Jones has good feet and is a solid run-blocker, but he has subpar balance and leverage.
Evaluating the Trades
The Saints traded Round 1, Pick 27 and their 2011 second-round selection in the 2011 NFL draft to the New England Patriots for their 2011 first-round selection, used to select running back Mark Ingram.
This trade made great sense in the 2011 NFL draft. The Saints needed to upgrade at the running back position, and Alabama’s Ingram stood out as the best running back in the draft class, so it was worth the high price they paid to move up to select him.
That said, Ingram had a disappointing rookie season in which he ran for only 474 yards. It is much too early to write off Ingram, however, and he has the talent to emerge as a terrific running back and end up being a very good investment for the Saints.
The Saints are better off with Ingram than they would have been with any running back they could have drafted with the No. 27 overall pick in this year’s draft.
The Saints forfeited their second-round pick as a result of the bounty scandal.
Under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, the Saints were found to have run a bounty program in which defensive players earned money bonuses for injuring opposing players. As one of the many punishments that the NFL levied against them, the Saints forfeited their 2012 and 2013 second-round draft selections.
The Saints traded Round 6, Pick 196 and running back Reggie Bush in July 2011 to the Miami Dolphins for Round 6, Pick 179 and safety Jonathon Amaya.
Drafting Ingram in last year’s draft opened the door for the Saints to trade Bush, who likely would have been released if not traded given that he was due $11.8 million last season (the Dolphins restructured his contract).
The Saints did not get much in return for Bush, but they had little choice but to trade him.
The Saints did not have a pick until the late third round, and used their first selection on a player from Canadian football. That is rarely justifiable, and while Hicks has upside, he was a major reach in Round 3, especially with Clemson’s Brandon Thompson still available.
Toon was a tremendous steal in Round 4. He rates as the sixth-best wide receiver in the draft class, but the Saints were able to acquire him as the 20th receiver off of the board. He would have been a strong second-round selection, so the Saints were smart not to pass him up when they had the chance to select him.
Aside from Toon, however, the Saints did not get another player ranked inside the top 300. Hicks and White have intriguing upside, but the Saints came away from this draft with a serious lack of overall value.
Fortunately for the Saints in having few draft picks, they came into the draft without any massive areas of need on their roster, but they did address some areas where depth was needed.
Defensive line depth is always important, and the Saints added that with Hicks. Adding another wide receiver was important following the loss of Robert Meachem via free agency, and they got a solid replacement in Toon. The Saints also had a need for cornerback depth and should get that from White.
Offensive line depth was also an area of need, which they addressed in the final two rounds with the selections of Tiller and Jones.
Given that the Saints did not have major needs to fill, they should have been looking to draft on value over need. They failed in terms of drafting for value.
Nick Toon could be a productive addition to the receiving corps immediately, but the Saints really missed on value with the rest of their draft picks. They took fliers on Akiem Hicks and Corey White that could end up working out in the long run, but the Saints could have gotten better value and should have waited for a chance to draft those players later.
The Saints did not come into the draft with high draft selections to work with, and considering they lost the second-round pick as a result of their bounty punishment, they have to take blame for that as well.
They could have made up for it somewhat by using their later draft selections effectively, but aside from the Toon selection, they had a very puzzling draft.