5 Biggest Draft Needs for the New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints aren't your typical below-.500 team because of the bounty sham, underachievers and players learning a new scheme on the defensive side of the ball. That's a lot of different factors to overcome.
With that being said, this team does have a few positions that definitely need to have some fresh talent added to it.
Three of the spots are on defense, and the other two are along the offensive line.
Let's take a look at where the Black and Gold could stand to be upgraded.
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The players who will definitely be back in the fold will be Cameron Jordan, Martez Wilson and Junior Galette. Turk McBride will be gone, and who knows how Greg Romeus comes back from another leg injury?
The wild card could be Will Smith. He definitely won't be back at the price he's headed for, which is close to $10 million, but if he were to re-work his deal, he could be used in a similar fashion to an aging reliever in baseball. Limit his snaps during the year to passing downs so he stays fresher when the games start to really matter.
The pass rush has gotten better toward the end of the year, and I believe they could be one dynamic playmaker on the outside of the defensive line away from being one of the best units in the league.
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Tom Johnson, Akiem Hicks and Tyrunn Walker are all going to be back.
Interesting things happen when Brodrick Bunkley's and Sedrick Ellis' names get brought up, because you never know what the Saints will do with these underachieving players.
Ellis should be gone, but this team has stuck by its players too long before. Bunkley is a different story.
Yes, I know that he signed a $25 million contract not even a year ago, but since NFL contracts are written in disappearing ink, nothing is guaranteed. The thing he probably has going for him is the thin nature of his position on the team, and the fact that he was signed by Sean Payton.
Payton will probably want to see if he can light a fire under him before cutting him loose.
If he stays, he should sign a more team-friendly contract, though.
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This is a position of need that could be fixed in free agency, but it still shouldn't be ignored in the draft.
Jabari Greer will be 31 on opening weekend of the 2013 season, and if you're name wasn't Elbert Mack, you did not impress anyone.
The secondary serial killer of Johnny Patrick Robinson was a serious hindrance to any pressure that the front seven had been getting toward the end of the year.
Robinson will be back, but Johnny Patrick might not make it out of training camp unless he improves. Corey White had a promising start to his season before he hit the rookie wall.
This unit needs younger, better talent pretty quickly if it doesn't want to be a scapegoat in 2013, because the secondary, as a whole, showed less improvement down the stretch than the linebackers or defensive line.
Both starting tackles have been average to below average, at best, as a whole, all year. Sure, they have had their games, but overall? They stunk.
I never thought I would ever say this, but with the improvement of Charles Brown's game, he might be an opening-day starter for the Black and Gold if his injury-prone behind doesn't get hit by a stiff wind first.
If Marcel Jones develops quickly, he could pair with Charles Brown to be the team's starters, but those are big "ifs." That's why you shouldn't be shocked if you see the Saints jump on a top OT in the draft if he falls to No. 15.
Then again, there's always hoping for Jake Long to come in and save the day so New Orleans can get its defensive playmaker in the first round.
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There's not much of a depth chart for this position, hence it falls in the needs category of the draft.
Brian de la Puente is the starter. He played well in his first year with the Saints in 2011 but regressed some this season, to the point where you would like to see some competition going on for that spot.
Behind him is Ryan Lee, an undrafted rookie out of Furman.
This is why I see a mid-round pick being used on a center in this draft seeing as there aren't many options on the free agency market for a cap-strapped team like New Orleans.