Re-Drafting the Saints' Entire 2012 Draft After First Half of NFL Season
First we went so far as to presume that had Houston made the logical choice at the time (draft Reggie Bush No. 1 overall) that the New Orleans Saints would have tried to trade down with the New York Jets to No. 4 and then would have traded Mario Williams.
For the sacrifice, we assumed the Saints would also gain an extra second-round pick in the 2006 draft and would have used it to take Greg Jennings (that means Marques Colston may never have become a Saint), though Devin Hester and Maurice Jones-Drew were also two players we seriously considered.
We also assumed the Saints would have gained the Jets' 2007 first-round pick which the team would have used on either Patrick Willis or Darrelle Revis. I can see, feel and hear each Who Dat fan nodding along, crying and wishing that all would have taken place.
We didn't get to the 2012 NFL draft in our 'What If' game. Thus, I must pick up the slack and make these determinations on my own. And you are welcome to play along with me.
Through the first half of the season, there is a lot to re-evaluate and assess for the Saints' 2012 draft class.
1. Third Round, Pick No. 89
Actual Pick: Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina College
At the time, most draft experts and Saints evaluators thought the Saints reached badly for Akiem Hicks, who was coming from a Canadian college to the NFL. As such, the Saints were criticized for this pick.
Re-Draft Selection: Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina College
Man, were we wrong on Hicks. Hicks has been one of the five best Saints defenders in 2012, which obviously isn't saying much. Nonetheless, the Saints found at least one answer for the future in the middle of the defense.
The defense is better against the run when Hicks is in the game. And he shows burst as a pass-rusher. In full, the defense looks to gain steam and energy when Hicks is in the game.
To get a player this good late in the third round is a steal.
2. Fourth Round, Pick No. 122
Actual Pick: Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
At the time, the New Orleans Saints were applauded for taking a player with first-round talent and getting him late in the fourth round. Undoubtedly, Toon does possess that kind of talent.
Unfortunately, at Wisconsin and now in the pros, staying on the field has been a major issue for Toon. The Saints have not gotten an ounce of production from Toon yet. And if they had to do it all over again, I'm pretty certain they would take a different player.
Re-Draft Selection: Miles Burris, OLB, San Diego State
When the Saints were making this pick, they knew Jon Vilma was likely to miss the entire 2012 NFL season. And while they felt good about bringing in Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne, there is little doubt they were still uneasy about the third linebacker spot.
No one could have guessed a fourth-rounder such as Miles Burris would make such a seamless transition from the Mountain West to the NFL, but Burris has been one of Oakland's best defenders in 2012 (of course, that is saying little after the defense was drubbed by Doug Martin for 251 rushing yards and four touchdowns).
Burris burst onto the NFL scene in his first game and has had ups and downs, but he has all the talent a team looks for at the spot. There is no doubt he would have been an improvement over Scott Shanle and/or Will Herring.
Note: I also considered Georgia CB Brandon Boykin and LSU CB Ron Brooks.
3. Fifth Round, Pick No. 162
Actual Pick: Corey White, DB, Samford
The selection of Corey White was one of the most revered selections in the entire 2012 draft. Many analysts had White as an undrafted free agent, and most thought him to be a safety-type, not a man-to-man corner, as he's been in New Orleans.
Re-Draft Selection: Corey White, DB, Samford
Though White hasn't exactly torn up the NFL in the first half of his first season, he has shown out in glimpses at a time. His physicality from the corner spot is refreshing. Sometimes his aggression has cost him and the team.
Perhaps a long-term move to safety would work best. But for now, playing White in the slot makes sense for the Saints. Heck, White has been better than starter Patrick Robinson and essentially beat out Johnny Patrick for the nickel spot.
4. Sixth Round, Pick No. 179
Actual Draft Pick: Andrew Tiller, OG, Syracuse
The Andrew Tiller selection made some sense at the time. Tiller came from Syracuse under former Saints' offensive coordinator Doug Marrone. There figured to be some familiarity with the system and the way of going about things on the field and in the classroom.
Tiller was an injury casualty during camp and did not make the team. Tiller is currently on the team's Injured/Reserve list, but is done for this season.
Re-Draft Selection: James Hanna, TE, Oklahoma
Though the New Orleans Saints' offense has been dominant at times, and is pretty much immune to injuries to its top talent because of the great system and man in charge throwing the ball, it's not as if another tight end target would have hurt this season.
Hanna is a top target, drafted 186th overall by the Dallas Cowboys. In the first half of the season Hanna has one catch for 10 yards. But that's more than the Saints can say they've gotten from their tight end this season. Daniel Graham was just released after never even being targeted in seven games.
Hanna would have given the team another great weapon in the future for Drew Brees to take advantage of and utilize against weary defenses.
5. Seventh Round, Pick No. 234
Actual Pick: Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska
Marcel Jones came to the Saints with some question marks. The primary issue at question was if he could make the transition to the pros from a spread offense, where run-blocking is all about quickness and speed.
In training camp and some preseason action, Jones looked to make a successful transition. He appeared to be a great option at right tackle for the future until an injury derailed his rookie campaign and placed him on IR just like fellow rookie O-lineman Andrew Tiller.
Re-Draft Selection: Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska
As mentioned above, Marcel Jones looks to be the future answer at right tackle for the New Orleans Saints. If a team can find a starting offensive tackle in the seventh round, they'd make that pick 100 times out of 100.
It is pretty much that simple for New Orleans. Let's just see if it actually works out that way over time.
Conclusion: 3 out of 5 Successful Picks
Granted, we're still less than an entire NFL season into the rookie campaigns of the 2012 Saints' draft class. But three out of the five selections, thus far, seem to have been good picks.
I have suggested two other selections who were available when the team selected who have shown signs of future success early in their professional careers. Had the Saints taken those two players, they may be looking at a perfect 2012 draft in hindsight.
Much is still up for grabs in terms of draft-class grades. But this was a fun look back at the 2012 draft.
Let's hear it.