Ranking the Top 10 Players on the Saints' 2013 Draft Board

Will OsgoodAnalyst IFebruary 14, 2013

Ranking the Top 10 Players on the Saints' 2013 Draft Board

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    The New Orleans Saints should take a Bill Belichick-type approach to forming their 2013 NFL draft big board this year. 

    If you know anything about Belichick's draft board strategy, it is much simpler than with other teams. He only keeps 25-30 players on the entire board. If a player does not meet height/weight and speed requirements, he is taken off the board. 

    If the player does not meet mental requirements, he, too, is taken off the board. 

    With that in mind, the Saints can afford to be picky. Players such as Jarvis Jones, Ezekiel Ansah and Sheldon Richardson are all great prospects. None of them, however, fit the style of defense that Rob Ryan is going to play in 2013 and likely beyond. 

    For that reason alone, those players should be left off the Saints' draft board altogether. There are 10 players who should fit atop the Saints' draft board based on team needs and overall ability. 

No. 1 Player: OLB Barkevious Mingo, LSU

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    What more can be said about Barkevious Mingo? The LSU Tiger defensive end is a freak. 

    His transition to outside linebacker should be a rather seamless one for two primary reasons. First, he played enough in space at LSU that scouts and coaches alike should be comfortable with his abilities to play outside linebacker. 

    Second, with the way an outside linebacker is required to play in Rob Ryan's defense, Mingo would be sure to star. He needs to be able to hold the point of attack, but it's more important that he can chase down ball-carriers in space and provide explosive pass rushing ability. 

    That's exactly what Mingo does well. 

No. 2 Player: S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

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    There were several rumors swirling around Twitter Wednesday that the Saints were preparing to rid themselves of Roman Harper. 

    Given his salary, it makes some sense. The Saints would save a fair amount of money in 2013 and beyond by releasing Harper.

    Though the Saints have two other really good safeties prepared to step in and take Harper's place, Kenny Vaccaro's name would have to be added to the list of potential starters opposite Malcolm Jenkins in 2013. 

    If he is around at 15 and Barkevious Mingo is not, Vaccaro is the obvious selection. 

No. 3 Player: CB Desmond Trufant, Washington

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    Few corners possess that it factor. When a player has it, he will rise up draft boards quicker than William Hung left the national scene after his notorious American Idol audition. 

    Desmond Trufant has it

    He is cocky, even when he sucks. It is similar to what Bill Simmons calls in basketball "that irrational confidence guy." A corner has to fit that same sort of psycho-semantic outlook on life. If he does not, he will fail. 

    Trufant always thinks he's the best player on the field. That is literally what it takes to succeed at that position in the NFL. Trufant's skills, too, are more than enough to make him an elite corner in the NFL. The Saints could do worse with their first pick than to find that guy. 

No. 4 Player: OLB Alex Okafor, Texas

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    If for whatever odd reason you're not a Keke Mingo fan, then you might dislike placing Alex Okafor on this list as well. 

    Okafor has elite burst combined with better-than-advertised power. His change of direction skills may be lacking for an outside linebacker and he may be a bit too stiff-hipped for the liking of some, but in Rob Ryan's 3-4, the outside linebacker really is just another defensive end. 

    In other words, he can do everything he did at Texas. At 261 pounds, he'd actually be the thickest outside linebacker on the Saints' roster (at this point). In Ryan's defense, a thumper and big bruiser is required at one of the outside slots. Okafor could be that guy. 

No. 5 Player: OLB Dion Jordan, Oregon

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    Dion Jordan has dropped on the Saints' draft board with the change to the 3-4. It seems to go against common sense, but considering the Ryan 3-4 is essentially a "46 Bear," Jordan would actually be miscast. 

    Jordan needs to go to a 3-4 where he is asked to do a ton of different things. In Ryan's defense he would be asked mostly to rush the passer. That's not his best trait. 

    It's not that Jordan would be a bad pick for New Orleans, but New Orleans would not be the place Jordan could most thrive. 

No. 6 Player: DT/DE Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State

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    By most accounts, Johnathan Hankins has fallen down draft boards since the beginning of the 2012 football season. Coming into the 2012 season, he was projected as a top five pick. 

    He's now considered a mid to late first-round prospect. His status as a falling talent could be exactly what the doctor ordered for the New Orleans Saints. 

    If the team was able to drop down to 23-ish, and some of the team's other targets (the five players listed previously) were gone, Hankins would be an ideal selection. 

    He provides scheme versatility, which is huge in Rob Ryan's defense. Hankins can excel as the interior guy in two down lineman looks, while also sliding outside in the more traditional 3-4 look. He is strong enough to hold the point of attack and agile enough to slice gaps and move horizontally along the line of scrimmage to make plays. 

No. 7 Player: S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International

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    Jonathan Cyprien is pretty much a clone of Dashon Goldson, but with better ability to play the run from "in the box." 

    Similarly, he is a stout player who is actually bigger than he looks. Like Goldson, when he hits a ball-carrier, that guy is generally left seeing stars. 

    Similar to Kenny Vaccaro, he could play a receiver man-to-man if necessary. His deep coverage is more than adequate. And he'll man up on backs and tight ends with little trouble. 

    If Roman Harper is gone, Cyprien could be a fine replacement, if the right situation presents itself. 

No. 8 Player: OLB Chase Thomas, Stanford

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    One of the "glue guys" in this draft, Chase Thomas is everything a team wants in a defensive player. He has great instincts and ability to quickly diagnose offensive play concepts based on tendencies and situation. That can be attributed to his Stanford education. 

    Don't make the common mistake of assuming that Thomas only succeeds because of his brain, though. He is incredibly tough, plays with reckless abandon and flies sideline to sideline. 

    Yes, he uses proper technique and fundamentals. But that is not a bad thing. He will always be able to lean on that. In the interim (while he still has his youth), he will be able use great burst and strength to make plays both as an elite run defender and as a pass-rusher. 

    He is more than adequate in coverage, especially for as little as he'll be asked to do that in Rob Ryan's defense. 

    The Saints would be lucky to have him. 

No. 9 Player: NT Brandon Williams, Missouri Southern

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    There has been discussion since the offseason began about the possibilities of moving to a 3-4 defense. As a result, Missouri Southern's Brandon Williams has been a hot name for the Saints as a possible target in the 2013 draft. 

    Now that it's known for certain the team will employ said defense, Williams becomes an even greater possibility for the Saints. 

    Much like Johnathan Hankins, Williams possesses the ability to play both inside as a nose tackle or outside as a defensive end. 

    Williams would be a perfect fit in Rob Ryan's multiple front 3-4 scheme. 

No. 10 Player: OT Menelik Watson, Florida State

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    Menelik Watson hasn't played a ton of football. Yet he is still one of those most productive offensive tackle prospects in this draft. 

    He has wonderful athleticism. Watson uses it to change directions and make pancake blocks in space. He also combines it with great strength to prevent his opponent from beating him with speed or power. 

    It is possible Watson will climb his way up draft boards, potentially even into the first round come draft day. He should be a third-round pick, but is likely go higher. If the Saints can steal him early in the third, it would not just be a steal. It'd be a highway robbery. 

    Like any of the prospects on this list, Watson represents an ideal player who, after more detailed scouting, has been hand-picked as a great fit for the New Orleans Saints.