New Orleans Saints Draft: The Best Fit for the Team at Every Position
The New Orleans Saints have filled every positional need faced in free agency. The result is that the team can literally take best player available in each round of the upcoming NFL draft.
"Fit" is always a key in selecting players for a roster. It is especially important this year since the team will be looking for some of the early-round selections to come in and compete for starting spots or immediate playing time.
Of course, the team would love to find the best fit at each position. Many of the players listed here are first-round prospects, meaning the Saints will not be able to draft them. Others are late-round selections meaning that, at least theoretically, they could become Saints.
Some positions are illogical to consider as draftable for the Saints this year. Those include running back, offensive guard, inside linebacker and defensive end.
In all likelihood the other nine positional units are up for grabs. But for each, here is the one player in this draft who is the best schematic fit for what the Saints like to do at that position.
Quarterback: Ryan Nassib, Syracuse
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The New Orleans Saints likely won't be selecting a quarterback in the first or second round. Ryan Nassib figures to be selected in one of those two rounds.
Still, if the team were to decide Drew Brees' future replacement was a great need in this draft, Nassib would be the guy. To say that selecting him at No. 15 would be too early or a reach is, frankly, a ridiculous thought.
Nassib is the best quarterback in this draft. If the team truly decides to go best player available with their first pick, it should take Nassib.
That will not happen, though.
RB: Johnathan Franklin, UCLA
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Considering how desperate the Saints are to do something about the plethora of running backs on the roster, gaining one who really acts as two would be gravy.
The New Orleans Saints currently have five running backs on their roster. Each individual player is a tad bit different from the other. In a sense it is good, as each excels at that individual skill which defines them.
But imagine for a second if the Saints could add a player who could almost combine every skill into one body. That player is Jonathan Franklin. He runs with great balance and power a la Pierre Thomas. He can run routes like a receiver a la Darren Sproles.
His ability to run between the tackles for tough yards is slightly reminiscent of Mark Ingram. And his ability to create things outside the tackles stunningly similar to Chris Ivory (who might not be a Saint for much longer).
Franklin brings great value.
WR: Da'Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech
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Sean Payton and the Saints' offensive staff aren't too worried about drops. It's a good thing since Da'Rick Rogers might have the worst pair of hands in this draft.
The offensive staff would love the way Rogers can stretch the field with great vertical speed. He also has nice size for a quick and agile receiver. He would be the closest thing the team could find to Robert Meachem since Meachem himself.
TE: Gavin Escobar, San Diego State
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None of the supposed blocking tight ends in this draft present the same long-term value to New Orleans that Gavin Escobar would. Escobar could take the place of Jimmy Graham, should Graham leave via free agency in the offseason of 2014.
If Graham remains the Saints would have a young, explosive, dynamic duo at the tight end spot for years to come.
It would be a win-win situation.
OT: Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
Eric Fisher is a remarkably similar player to the recently signed Jason Smith. Does that mean Fisher will be a retread in the league by his fourth season? That is highly doubtful.
Fisher is already a better offensive tackle at the NFL level than Smith, or so the average analyst would have you believe.
Unfortunately Fisher will not be joining Smith along the Saints' offensive line. He would be the best fit, though.
OG: Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
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Jonathan Cooper is the best offensive guard in the 2013 draft. He is a physical mauler who also happens to possess great feet and athleticism.
He excels as a run-blocker, but is just as apt to stonewall an interior pass-rusher or blitzing defender.
The Saints are not going to draft a guard in this draft. It doesn't mean that Cooper isn't one of the top players on their draft board.
OC: Mario Benavides, Louisville
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Mario Benavides is now considered an undrafted center. That may be the best news New Orleans has had since Pierre Thomas went undrafted in 2007.
Benavides is not the best center prospect in this draft. But for what the Saints ask of their centers, Benavides is the perfect fit.
If the team can use its five (maybe six) draft selections on other positions and still find a future starter at the position through free agency, this draft would be considered a win-win.
NT: Star Lotulelei, Utah
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If the Saints consider themselves desperate to find a great player at the nose tackle spot in this draft, Star Lotulelei should be taken at pick No. 15. That obviously is making the assumption that he's even available at 15.
Lotulelei is both a space-eater and explosive penetrating force in the middle of someone's defense in the near future.
That combination is precisely what Rob Ryan and the Saints defense want and need in 2013 and beyond.
DE: Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State
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No player in this draft is more ideally suited for the 3-4 defensive end spot than Johnathan Hankins. The Ohio State Buckeye is the rare talent who could even slide inside if absolutely necessary.
His best position is clearly 3-4 end, though. Of course, defensive end is one of the few spots where the Saints defense appears to be fully covered.
Don't expect Hankins to be wearing black and gold next season.
OLB: Barkevious Mingo, LSU
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Keke Mingo is the best pass-rusher in this draft when one factors in advanced college metrics from this past season and simple film evaluation.
Alex Okafor is a close second, but there are legitimate questions about his ability to transition to the 3-4 outside linebacker spot. With Mingo there is no question.
He possesses every trait necessary to become one of the finest outside linebackers in the NFL. The Saints should want him.
ILB: Manti Te'o, Notre Dame
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Manti Te'o is one of the best interior linebackers in this draft. And his fit in the 3-4 defense is greater than the other two interior linebackers who may be rated higher—Kevin Minter and Arthur Brown.
Then again, Te'o's ideal fit is in a Tampa-Two style defense. Some of those abilities could be used in Ryan's defense. The Notre Dame product's ability to thump will make him valuable for some defense.
And his coverage abilities will be appreciated. He could be a great fit in New Orleans, though the likelihood of that marriage is very, very small.
Safety: Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
Though Kenny Vaccaro of Texas is probably the better overall prospect, Jonathan Cyprien would make more sense for the Saints. The reason?
Cyprien promises to be a playmaker, whereas Vaccaro only promises to be a solid safety. There's nothing wrong with solid, but the Saints remain desperate for playmakers.
Cyprien is that guy. Picking him 15th would be a reach. But if the team is able to acquire a second-round pick, Cyprien would be a great fit for New Orleans.
CB: Desmond Trufant, Washington
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I could go on and on about Desmond Trufant and his man-to-man coverage abilities—plus the borderline cockiness with which he plays the game of football.
In a word, it is beautiful.
Trufant should be seen as a realistic target for the Saints at No. 15 because of how well he fits Rob Ryan's man-heavy coverage schemes.
There is little doubt that the Saints' pass defense would improve from their 31st ranking a season ago if Trufant is added to the secondary in this month's draft.