With glaring holes at nose tackle (at least in terms of depth), left tackle, outside linebacker (despite adding Victor Butler Thursday) and quarterback—and the possibility of adding one more corner and tight end—the team has plenty of options when April 25 rolls around.
There are certain players who may be on the board in the first round, third round or any subsequent round who are very enticing and seem to fit one of the stated needs from above.
But in the draft, some players’ values are escalated based on workouts, team needs and/or poor scouting. Any of these factors can lead a team to “reach” for a player who seems enticing. These picks represent the epitome of fool’s gold.
Here are the players the Saints would be most likely to reach for, yet should avoid at all cost come draft day.
No player in this draft epitomizes to a greater degree the idea of fool’s gold than Jarvis Jones. The redshirt junior outside linebacker from Georgia had a fine college career with the Bulldogs after transferring from Southern California.
In theory, Jones is the perfect fit for the Saints since he is coming from a 3-4 defense similar to the one Rob Ryan will employ with the Saints. The Georgia defensive coordinator was actually a Cowboys assistant prior to accepting his current role on Mark Richt’s staff. Even then the ‘Boys played a similar style of 3-4 to what the Saints will under Ryan.
Jones is also enticing for obvious reasons—he was a productive college player. Put on the Missouri film from this past season and he looks like the best player in the draft. But one game does not—or should not—make a player elite. He must produce consistently.
In fairness, Jones produced most of his college career. But a neck injury has many NFL GMs weary. His play should too. If the Saints ever decide to switch back to a 4-3 scheme, Jones is an automatic cut. He is not scheme-versatile in the least bit.
Even as a 3-4 guy, Jones will not hold the point of attack consistently against the run. He may chase a few plays down from behind, but such occurrences will be too few and far between to justify the 15th pick on this player.
And truth be told, Jones is not the elite pass-rusher he is often made out to be. He anticipates the snap well, but lacks the elite burst required to finish sacks at the pro level. Veteran quarterbacks will take advantage of his anticipation by changing snap counts and making his impact null and void.
Based on scheme-fit alone, John Jenkins is actually a perfect match for the New Orleans Saints. Because Georgia’s 3-4 defense uses a lot of 4-3 principles—much like Rob Ryan’s 3-4 does—Jenkins would be able to come in and do many of the things asked of a nose tackle/defensive end immediately.
The problem with Jenkins is that he’s just not very good. Despite his size (6’4”, 346 lbs), Jenkins does not play with great strength on the field. He is often seen being pushed around by seemingly weaker guards and centers.
His balance is borderline atrocious. And he seriously lacks explosion.
He’ll make a play every now and then. For a player once considered an option at No. 15, it is interesting to see Rob Rang of CBSSports.com rank him as his 74th-best prospect. The Saints might consider him in the fourth round, not the first.
For months during the regular season, Johnthan Banks was considered one of the two best corners in this draft. Now, he is considered fourth at best. The fourth best corner should not be selected 15th overall under any circumstances. It really is that simple.
Though Saints fans would enjoy a Banks selection since he is a relative local—and a “big corner”—that feeling would quickly erode away when the Saints find out Banks cannot cover a fly in man coverage, nor is he tremendously effective as a zone cover.
In fairness, there are things he does well. But he is not worth anyone’s first-round pick, and probably not worth a second-rounder either. If he were available in Round 3—and the team did not use its first-round pick on a corner—he’d be worth consideration. Just not before then, for goodness sake.
I am in the minority, admittedly, in regards to my thoughts on the Oklahoma offensive tackle. Many mock drafts are slotting Lane Johnson somewhere in the 10-12 range, meaning he would not even be available for the Saints at No. 15.
Here’s the issue with Johnson. He is limited in terms of experience. Normally I’m able to overlook that for a prospect—even one assumed to be a first-round pick. But in Johnson’s case, his supposed best attribute—athleticism—does not show up on film.
A player who is supposed to be able to bend and shuffle his feet as well as any player at the position in the draft simply does not do it well. He is often seen bending his back and leaning over, instead of standing straight up with bent knees.
This causes him to reach often and get beat both by speed rushers and power bull-rushers. Another issue he had was against average-to-below-average pass-rushers when he was moved to right tackle. I understand a player I like better—Menelik Watson—spent much of the 2012 campaign at the same spot.
But Watson never looked as incompetent as Johnson. Watson played the right tackle spot as well as any offensive lineman could. Watson’s move to left tackle is his natural progression. For Johnson, right tackle is his ceiling.
In other words, if the Saints were to attach their name to Johnson, they would be leaving themselves desperate for a left tackle and not fixing the biggest need on the offensive line.
Four of the five players listed here are from the SEC. Am I an SEC hater? No, not at all. The truth is that a high majority of the “top prospects” this year come from the SEC. It is only natural, then, that many of the “reaches” and players to stay away from will also come from that conference.
For Jesse Williams, it is not so much a disdain for the player or conference. Williams may very well become one of the better players in this draft along the defensive line. In all honesty, my evaluation of Williams has not been as intense as with any of the other players listed here.
But, one thing is certain. Many of the highly sought-after draft prospects hailing from Alabama have not become great players as expected (though I love Mark Ingram’s potential, still, he must be included on that list). Terrance Cody plays for the Ravens but hasn’t become anything special. Rolando McClain was average until off-the-field problems pretty much derailed his career.
Many of the defensive backs I have liked as prospects coming from Nick Saban’s program simply have not developed as expected. Is Saban to blame? Not in the least bit.
Pete Carroll’s Southern California prospects have had the same issues through the years. The fact of the matter is that those players tend to plateau in college. In other words, because they are so well-coached, they have reached their ceilings as players.
The point here isn’t that Williams isn’t a good prospect, but that it would be foolish for the Saints to even consider someone who likely has plateaued in terms of ceiling in the first round. If the Saints had a second-round pick, consideration given to Williams would be appropriate.