What to Expect from the Saints 2012 Rookie Class in 2013
The 2012 edition of a New Orleans Saints draft class was about as lackluster as any in recent history. That's not saying this team's pair of rookies who actually make an appearance didn't do anything.
All right, let's face it, they were about as successful in 2012 as Roger Goodell was at finding credible witnesses against the Black and Gold in the bounty sham.
Sixty percent of the class was basically redshirted this year with minor injuries. Teams usually do that with rookies that aren't coming along fast enough or, plain and simple, just are not ready for the speed of the game yet.
What will their roles be in 2013, though?
Let's see if the 2012 class is ready for prime time.
Third-Rounder: Akiem Hicks
I bashed the Akiem Hicks pick at first, based solely on his draft stock not being of third-round value, but I never doubted the ex-LSU recruit's talent. It wasn't on display as much as I would have hoped this past season, but 2013 looks really bright for Hicks, especially with the change to a 3-4.
It was apparent when Hicks was in the game that he was going to be a dominant force on the inside. Coming out of college, though, he was projecting as a better fit as a defensive end in a 3-4 because of his versatility and athleticism.
That is why I see a bright future for Hicks in the new defensive scheme coming to New Orleans, no matter who becomes the defensive coordinator. He is the perfect complement to Cameron Jordan on the other side with his big 6'5", 325-lb. frame.
In passing situations, he could flex inside to play the nose.
Fourth-Rounder: Nick Toon
Nick Toon never made it to the regular season before being shut down on injured reserve. He had a nagging injury during preseason, and with the way the receivers were stacked, he probably wasn't going to get much playing time.
In 2013, though, Toon could be a viable option to step up into that fourth receiver role with the departure of Devery Henderson. Marques Colston, Lance Moore and Joe Morgan would all be ahead of him at the moment, but as long as you are in the rotation, Drew Brees is going to get you the ball.
I see Toon and Morgan as the future starters at receiver in 2014, but for now they will both sub in for the injury-prone starters ahead of them and bide their time.
Fifth-Rounder: Corey White
Corey White played the most out of everyone in his rookie class, but that was mostly out of necessity. Whether it was through injuries or awful play, White got his chance to get on the field a lot and even start four games before he was shut down for the rest of the season with a nagging injury of his own.
White and Hicks have the most potential to be starters right away in 2013 as long as they can stay healthy. The Samford product is a very aggressive corner who isn't shy to jump routes or help out in run support.
With Jabari Greer's play declining rapidly from 2011 to 2012, White could be one great offseason away from making Greer a cap casualty and starting opposite Patrick Robinson.
Sixth-Rounder: Andrew Tiller
Andrew Tiller, like most of his 2012 classmates, spent the year on injured reserve. This pick boggled my mind when it came out because, plain and simple, there was nowhere for him to play.
I understand that the Saints could use interior lineman depth, but there is just no hope for him to start or even play in 2013 unless there was a blowout, of a game or one of the reliable starters' knees.
Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs are as reliable as they come. Both started the entire year last season, and Evans has done that for his entire Black and Gold career.
Tiller will be an excellent backup, though.
Seventh-Rounder: Marcel Jones
Marcel Jones might be the most intriguing rookie to come out of this class. With the contract demands of Jermon Bushrod putting him out of New Orleans' reach, the Nebraska alum could be given a chance to compete against Charles Brown for the starting left tackle position.
Sean Payton has showed that he is not afraid to throw untested players at the tackle position—Bushrod being the prime example.
Jones has all of the tools that you look for in a starting left tackle as well as an awesome afro under his lid that could have had him stunt doubling for Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction.
In all seriousness, if Brown can't stay healthy, look for Jones to be a pleasant surprise along an offensive line that could use an upgrade at either tackle position, especially the left side.
There were three undrafted guys who were able to stick around the entire year, either on the active roster or practice squad. Those guys were Travaris Cadet, Tyrunn Walker and Braylon Broughton.
Cadet, a running back from Appalachian St., was on the active roster the whole season and mostly used on special teams in the return game. He had a few touches on offense but, with all the backs the Saints had on the roster, could be looking at a nice little niche role on offense dependent on who is still left at running back.
2013 could be a breakout season for Cadet as an all-purpose threat in the mold of Darren Sproles, except he's bigger.
Walker was on the active roster for the entire year, as well, but was never activated during any week until the last game against Carolina. Even then, he still didn't get much playing time. Walker could be another interesting prospect in a 3-4 scheme. He has the makings of being a solid rotation defensive end in 2013.
Broughton is the last on this list, but I have him pegged as a dark-horse candidate to make the active roster in 2013. In a 4-3 base defense, Broughton was a bit undersized and weak against the run, but in a 3-4, he could be an excellent pass-rusher from the outside linebacker position.
He played in space at TCU under Gary Patterson and could be a real force with the right coach developing him further.
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