2013 NFL Draft Prospects Who Were Born to Play for the New Orleans Saints
In the preoccupation with efficiency of space, we will not include any of the players listed in our most recent Saints mock draft—seen here. Put simply, Barkevious Mingo, Brandon Williams and the other players listed there are all young men who would look good in black and gold.
But as illustrated here, if the Saints hire Rob Ryan to head the defense—which has been widely reported that they will—there are a number of other players who would fit brilliantly into the new style of defense.
Offensively, there are also a number of players who perfectly fit Sean Payton’s wide-open offense. It’s as if they were ordained before time began to become Saints.
Those players make up a select list which would certainly make for a dream team for any Saints fan.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA
Never mind the fact the Saints currently have five running backs on the roster. Don’t even concern yourself with the fact there is almost zero chance Johnathan Franklin will ever wear the black and gold of the New Orleans Saints.
The simple fact is that if the Saints had a need—or decided to give up three of their current backs for some odd reason—the UCLA senior would instantly become a favorite to earn a spot in New Orleans’ backfield in 2013 and beyond.
Numerous times watching UCLA this season, I uttered “that’s Pierre Thomas mixed with Darren Sproles”. Franklin has the incredible balance and inside running ability of PT and the body of Sproles while also being able to line up in the slot or out wide and run routes like a receiver.
Tell me Sean Payton wouldn’t love a player of his versatility and skill set. The result would be more than dangerous for opposing defenses.
Gavin Escobar, TE, San Diego State
New Orleans is said to be a “city of excess”. The word people here use to describe that phenomena is lagniappe.
Sean Payton has bought into the phenomena hook, line and sinker as head coach of the New Orleans Saints.
Whether it was drafting Reggie Bush when he already had Deuce McAllister, adding Jeremy Shockey to an already explosive offense or bringing in Darren Sproles two offseasons ago, Payton has always used a lagniappe of offensive playmakers.
Considering the Saints currently have Jimmy Graham—who is one of the top five tight ends in football—it would seem superfluous to add a player of Gavin Escobar’s ability and skill set. Escobar is pretty much the poor man’s Jimmy Graham with his height and receiving abilities.
The only reason the Saints could give to justify selecting Escobar is the noticeable need for a developmental tight end. Only Escobar is not a developmental player. In most drafts he’d be one of the top three tight ends and a sure second-round selection.
Because of the insane depth and skill level the 2013 draft presents, Escobar might be a top-five tight end and late third-round pick. But imagine just a second having essentially two Jimmy Grahams on the field at the same time.
There’s a reason New Orleans loves lagniappe. It separates it from every other city in America. Escobar would separate the Saints’ offense from every other in the NFL.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Eric Fisher is another player whose candidacy to wear the black and gold is little more than a pipe dream at this point. Unless the Saints give up a large chunk of their 2013 draft—or parts of future drafts—to move into the top seven or eight picks, Fisher will not don the black and gold for Sean Payton and Co.
Doing just that is something the Saints may want to consider, especially if they consider their current defensive personnel good enough to operate in the team’s new 3-4 scheme.
It probably will not, though. Instead, it is likely that Fisher will be selected in the top five and become an All-Pro from year one on—especially if drafted by Philadelphia at No. 4.
Sean Payton would love Fisher for the same reasons Chip Kelly or some other coach will love him. He is very agile, can move in space, moves his feet well and uses his hands equally well. He is more than strong enough to anchor against powerful rushers while he is quick enough to change directions to get back inside or reflect back outside to pick up a speed rusher.
He is probably the best player in this draft, when all is said and done.
Jordan Mills, OT, Louisiana Tech
Jordan Mills hails from Napoleonville, La and was born in Thibodaux. He was an off-and-on four-year starter at Louisiana Tech.
If that isn’t enough to make him an ideal Saint, maybe the fact he is an offensive tackle who can be had in the sixth round is—apparently Mickey Loomis and Sean Payton are allergic to early-round offensive linemen.
His superior pass protection allowed for Colby Cameron and Quinton Patton to tear up the WAC. His road grade run-blocking played a big role in creating a balanced offense in consecutive seasons under Sonny Dykes.
If the Saints elect to turn Charles Brown into the left tackle of the present—which if they decide they cannot afford to re-sign Jermon Bushrod probably should be the move—Mills could come in to compete for the occupied right tackle spot.
He is a little stiff for Payton, but good enough of an athlete to make it work on the right side.
Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International
Though listed as a strong safety in most draft circles, Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien brings the versatility of a traditional free safety.
He is excellent “in the box” working against the run and breaking in to disrupt passing quarterbacks. He also excels when asked to cover man to man. His work in deep zone coverage is well beyond average for an NFL safety.
Most importantly, he will knock out opposing receivers. Sometimes it is to the detriment of his own team, as he will garner a personal foul penalty for his aggressive hits on receivers. Nonetheless, Rob Ryan or any other potential defensive coordinator should want that in a safety.
If for whatever reason the Saints elected to rid themselves of Roman Harper (please lay off the poor guy for once), Cyprien would make for one of the best possible replacements. Like Dashon Goldson, Cyprien is an undersized safety who clobbers receivers.
The result for San Francisco has been one of the scariest, most intimidating defenses in the NFL. That scariness and intimidation is what has made it an elite defense in the league. And it has caused many a turnover from opposing offenses.
The Saints need that kind of player themselves.
Chase Thomas, OLB, Stanford
Chase Thomas was a star among stars on the Stanford defense in 2012. I’ve said it before, but Stanford is one of those college defenses that I’d literally take in its entirety if it were allowed.
Thomas was the best player of the whole unit. His play in 2012 made Stanford one of the top five units in the entire country.
Whether it’s his abilities to play in space or hold up at the point of attack against the run, or his unique ability to get to the passer either standing up or out of a three-point stance, Thomas has everything a team would want in a 3-4 outside linebacker.
That he seems to be a potential third-round pick is mind-blowing. If he is available for the Saints to snatch up in that round, it has to be a “run to the podium” selection for New Orleans.
Montori Hughes, NT, Tennessee-Martin
Montori Hughes is an absolute beast. At 6’4”, 328 pounds no one wants be tackled by him. In the same way, no offensive lineman wants to block him.
With the incredible mass he possesses, Hughes is ideal for the nose tackle spot that will be a crucial part of the Saints’ new 3-4 defense. He is a player who should be able to “two-gap”—that is to occupy two blockers with regularity.
He also appears to possess the quickness and burst to slip gaps and create penetration into the offensive backfield. In the likely rendition of the 3-4 defense that the Saints venture into, Hughes’ skill set will be greatly desired.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Desmond Trufant is the best corner in the 2013 NFL draft. That’s a strong sentiment. It is also an opinion.
Even if not true, it is undeniable that he fits what the Saints are going to try to do defensively next season better than any other corner in a really good cornerback draft. He is the most physical corner in this draft.
He has really good man-to-man skills which are aided by remarkable catchup speed when he is burned. His ball skills are more than adequate (ball skills are somewhat of an overrated trait for a defensive back anyway).
Most of all, Trufant carries with him the same kind of brash ego that presumed future defensive coordinator Rob Ryan carries in his large gut. Notably, so does second-year corner-to-be Corey White.
If you think that irrational confidence won’t endear these two players (potentially) to Ryan, you’re forgetting there still is a human element to football—despite the efforts of yours truly and many others to convert fans to an advanced metrics view of football.
Sean Payton had plenty of opportunities to watch college football this season if he so chose. The result should be that he gained a more comprehensive view of the talent in this draft than in normal years.
Combined with the efforts of the Saints' college scouting department, the Saints should be able to come up with better evaluations than in normal circumstances (there's one potential bonus of the Bounty penalties).
As mentioned, each player presented in the previous mock draft would be a great fit for what New Orleans likes to do either offensively or defensively. The eight players here fit into that qualification as well.
There are likely a few other players who would fit too. Possible players to add to the list include South Carolina wide receiver Ace Sanders and San Diego State corner Leon McFadden. Those are just two names that come to mind in terms of who could also be considered ideal fits for New Orleans.
Are there others? Probably. The draft process is a fluid one in which many players' stocks fluctuate throughout.
These are still not complete thoughts or reports for any given player.