New Orleans Saints: How to Fix Biggest Problems in 7 Rounds
Some of the teams' issues will be addressed in free agency. Some additional needs may be added as a result of the team cutting ties with long-time veteran members.
No matter what happens, though, the draft will be a chance to add some young talent for the future and supplement the current squad with talent and speed.
The Saints are currently slated to pick six times, though one of those selections is likely to be negated due to an unwarranted trade with Seattle for the rights to little-used reserve linebacker, Barrett Ruud (who has sense been cut).
For the sake of argument, that omitted selection will the Saints' seventh round selection.
The Saints' current projected slot is 15th, though it changes in each round due to tie-breakers.
Here are the five players, based on slotted positioning, who would best fix the Saints' issues next season.
1st Round, 15th Overall: Jake Matthews, LT, Texas A&M
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Jake Matthews had the pleasant responsibility of protecting one of the most mobile quarterbacks at any level of football this season. But don't allow that to fool you into thinking Matthews is an overrated prospect as a right tackle.
In fact Matthews could easily slide over to the left tackle spot in New Orleans and protect Drew Brees' blindside for the next four-plus years, and whomever replaces Brees for the rest of his career.
And the Saints would undoubtedly be better for it. In the minds of many, offensive line help is needed more than any other deficiency on the current Saints' roster. Matthews figures to replace Jermon Bushrod, who is a free agent, at left tackle.
At this point, it seems the junior tackle could be a top-10 pick, so the Saints might want to lose out to secure Matthews.
3rd Round, 13th Pick (76 Overall): Kyle Long, OT, Oregon
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A few years back the Saints could only hope beyond all hope that Chris Long would somehow fall into their laps. He has become a wonderful NFL defensive end.
Another of Howie Long's sons is now up for his turn in his father's game. This time around the Saints cannot afford to miss out on the player with great genes (the first time it obviously wasn't their fault, whereas this time it could be).
Long could return to Oregon for a sixth season, but his stock has been rising as of late. The result could be a perfect fit for New Orleans at right tackle to replace Zach Strief.
4th Round, 12th Pick (107 Overall): Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State
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Leon McFadden was on display for the attentive national audience to take in Thursday night. Unfortunately for he and I, Ryan Van Noy and the Brigham Young defense stole the show.
But McFadden played a fine game, and was largely responsible for the superb effort from the Aztecs defense in quarters one through three.
His ball skills and play recognition were on display all night long, for those watching closely enough.
It was not a singular effort from McFadden. He is a three-time All-Mountain West Conference performer.
He has proven to be a supreme man-to-man defender, who also possesses the skills necessary to excel in a zone scheme.
That versatility would fit him well in New Orleans under Steve Spagnuolo, where both zone and man are played regularly.
Desmond Trufant was also given serious consideration, simply to continue the genes/pedigree theme that pervaded the previous two slides.
Ultimately, he is considered a rising talent who is likely to be taken well before this pick.
5th Round, 15th Pick (142 Overall): Mario Benavides, C, Louisville
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Brian de la Puente may be a serviceable starting center. With the ultra-quick recognition and release of quarterback Drew Brees, the center in the Saints' offense is downplayed slightly.
But as Brees ages, the importance of the position is going to increase. As such, a top-notch center should be acquired as soon as possible.
Louisville's Mario Benavides could easily become that. He isn't a player who is going to wow scouts with physical traits or his movement ability. But Benavides is really good within a phone book.
When he gets his hands on a defender, that player is not getting past him. And he knows how to maneuver the defender to the exact spot he wants to place him. It could be said that Benavides is a technician.
Those kinds of players last in the league until age or injuries take them from the game. What more could be had in the fifth round?
6th Round, 14th Pick (173 Overall): Michael Williams, TE, Alabama
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With a plethora of possible options available here, and the consideration that the team is unlikely to possess a seventh round pick, the team could have gone a number of different directions with this pick.
It should be noted that prior compensatory picks have not been accounted for to adjust the draft slot. It is appropriate to simply think of this pick in the 175 range.
With that in mind, LSU backup defensive end Lavar Edwards, he of the high motor and crazy range, was considered.
Nebraska safety, Daimion Stafford, was also considered. Such a selection could have allowed the Saints to move Rafael Bush to a nickel corner/hybrid safety-corner role.
The Michael Williams pick, though, gives the Saints a third tight end the team can groom along with Michael Higgins. Williams can easily develop into the blocking tight end, while Higgins can be the "balanced" tight end.
In free agency (both college and NFL versions) the team can look to add an explosive pass rusher to team with Cam Jordan, Martez Wilson and Junior Galette (assuming it keeps him too). In this example, the draft serves to fix the offense's biggest problems.
It makes sense, since it is that unit that has been the biggest problem of late.