2013 NFL Draft: New Orleans Saints Options with 15th Overall Pick

Eli Nachmany@EliNachmanyCorrespondent IIIApril 12, 2013

2013 NFL Draft: New Orleans Saints Options with 15th Overall Pick

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    After signing tackle Jason Smith on Thursday (via NFL.com), the New Orleans Saints made another move that telegraphs what they're looking for in the first round.

    New Orleans currently holds the 15th overall pick in the draft, which will allow them a lot of flexibility in the middle of the first day.

    With that said, the team has no second-round selection and will need to make the most of its first pick, whether that means trading down for extra selections or getting the right guy.

WR Cordarrelle Patterson, Tennessee

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    This is going to come as a big surprise to some fans, but the truth is that New Orleans has to at least take a long look at a player as talented with the ball in his hands as Cordarrelle Patterson. With a simplified route tree, which innovative coach Sean Payton can provide Patterson with, the former Volunteer could be a fantastic player.

    Consider that, last season, out of 105 receivers rated by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) for the 2012 season, Saints wideout Devery Henderson was the 104th best.

    Only one receiver, T.J. Graham, was worse.

    Henderson is now no longer with the team, and the Saints have yet to find a true replacement on the outside.

    While it makes sense that Joe Morgan could take over, New Orleans has a chance to add a player in Patterson who can singlehandedly win games with frequent big plays.

    Pairing Patterson with Marques Colston on the opposite side of the field, as well as Lance Moore working the slot and Jimmy Graham controlling the middle of the field, would seem to indicate that the receiver is already a great fit before considering the fact that Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees is calling the shots under center.

OT D.J. Fluker, Alabama

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    Even after signing Jason Smith, the Saints have a glaring need at tackle and will need to find a solution at the position after losing Jermon Bushrod to the Bears in free agency.

    With a huge investment in quarterback Drew Brees, who isn't getting any less prone to injury as he ages, the Saints cannot afford to miss out on a solid tackle.

    However, upon further review, Bushrod was actually slightly below average as a pass blocker in 2012.

    His true value came in the run game, where he rated out as a solid run blocker, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). With Brees being so advanced in his pass protection audibles, he simply needs competent play from his tackles to succeed.

    Alabama tackle D.J. Fluker was a phenomenal run blocker in college, blasting open lanes for Eddie Lacy in 2012 on the Crimson Tide's way to the national championship. Fluker projects out as a right tackle in the NFL, but he represents great value for New Orleans in the middle of the first round.

    If he can block well in the run game and hold his own as a pass blocker, which he's proven he can do, he'd be a solid pick.

OT Menelik Watson, Florida State

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    Considering everything on the last slide about D.J. Fluker, Menelik Watson could end up being the better player for the Saints if given the right opportunity to succeed. Watson is more athletic than Fluker and while he's not the better player right now, he could develop into a star down the line.

    Watson is a very solid pass blocker and adapted well to the read-option scheme that E.J. Manuel ran last season at Florida State. That's not to say that the Saints run the read option, but this experience will help Watson block in space for players like Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas.

    Giving Drew Brees extra time in the pocket can only bode well for New Orleans, as the team would be a legitimate Super Bowl contender in 2013 if Brees simply cut down on his interceptions.

    The defense is bad enough; there's no reason to give teams extra chances to attack said defense. Watson would be a very good pass blocker in his first year and could eventually develop into a complete, franchise left tackle in a few years.

LB Manti Te'o, Notre Dame

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    Over the last few years, the Saints have cycled through Jonathan Vilma and Curtis Lofton, desperately trying to find a linebacker to be a legitimate inside presence. Manti Te'o is just that.

    He had a bad game in the national championship against Alabama, but it's unfair to disregard the rest of his Heisman-caliber season due to one bad showing. The fact remains that Te'o was very good against teams like Oklahoma and Stanford; I'm willing to chalk up the national championship game as a fluke.

    He's handled media controversy extremely well this offseason, and he can certainly play. If given the opportunity, he'll be able to lead the Saints defense and showcase his unique tackling ability on Sundays in New Orleans.

    Te'o may be a bit undersized and slow, but he makes up for his lack of physical attributes with rare instincts that are just a tick below those of Luke Kuechly.

LB Alec Ogletree, Georgia

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    If one isn't completely sold on Manti Te'o, it may be a good idea to look at the polar opposite, Alec Ogletree from Georgia.

    Ogletree is everything that Te'o isn't, a player with rare physicality and raw talent who is immature off of the field and who needs to improve his instincts. The linebacker made a huge impact this last season, playing on a defense that featured a good number of players in this year's draft.

    Though he has some issues to iron out, Ogletree could be the best defensive player in this class if he can refine his game and start to understand complicated defensive schemes. In New Orleans' new 3-4 defense, Ogletree would make a huge impact, but he's a high risk.

LB Barkevious Mingo, LSU

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    Nothing legitimizes a 3-4 package more than an explosive rush linebacker and Barkevious Mingo brings that element to the table. Mingo has the most advanced repertoire of pass-rushing moves in this class.

    Already having established himself as a star in the state of Louisiana, Mingo wouldn't have to relocate all that much if he caught on with the Saints. He's a dynamic sack artist who is the next in a line of third-down specialists.

    First it was Aldon Smith, then Bruce Irvin and now Mingo. Though his sack numbers weren't all that impressive in 2012 (just 4.5), he registered 28 total pressures. The difference between he and fellow SEC linebacker prospect Jarvis Jones is that Mingo relies on a technical set of skills rather than snap anticipation, which will help him have more of an impact in the NFL.

CB Desmond Trufant, Washington

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    He's not going win any awards as a press coverage cornerback, but Desmond Trufant will be a 10-year starter in the NFL in the right scheme. He reminds me of a taller Asante Samuel; the defensive back is a star when playing deep zone coverage.

    Trufant has the right DNA, with brothers Isaiah and Marcus both NFL cornerbacks. He ran a 4.38 40-yard dash, showcasing rare speed, and his game film shows just how good he is at high-pointing the football in the air.

    Dee Milliner is the best cornerback in the draft, but he'll be long gone at this point. After Milliner, Trufant is the second-best defensive back if he goes to the right team. New Orleans will give him the opportunity to be a lockdown cornerback, considering the fact that teams will try to throw the ball deep to keep up with the Saints' high-powered offense.

S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas

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    The last player that is a real option for the Saints with this pick, Kenny Vaccaro, may or may not be available when New Orleans is on the clock. He's not exactly a slam-dunk pick, but this safety is the best player at his position in the draft and would anchor a lackluster Saints defense.

    When a team adds a player like Vaccaro, anything, scheme-wise, is possible defensively. Coordinators have a lot more playcalling freedom when a superstar safety is waiting to help over the top. Vaccaro finds a way to get involved in the play, and he is seemingly always around the football.

    Though he'll need to get a bit stronger to stone running backs, he is advanced in his coverage skills and can play man-to-man. Not to say he'd lock down division-rival tight end Tony Gonzalez, but the former Longhorn will certainly make his fair share of good plays when opposing quarterbacks drop back to pass.