Rookie, Undrafted Free Agent Watch for New Orleans Saints Training Camp

Chris TrapassoAnalyst IJuly 22, 2013

Rookie, Undrafted Free Agent Watch for New Orleans Saints Training Camp

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    The New Orleans Saints only had five selections in 2013 NFL draft, but they addressed positions of need and grabbed arguably the best safety prospect in the class in Kenny Vaccaro. 

    With Sean Payton returning to the sidelines and Rob Ryan the team's new defensive coordinator, Drew Brees' club is looking to return to prolific NFC status after a significantly disappointing 2012 season. 

    The Saints will need contributions from an assortment of their rookies to complete their desired resurgence. 

    Here's a look at these youngsters as New Orleans heads into training camp.

Kenny Vaccaro

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    • College: Texas
    • Draft Status: Round 1 
    • Height: 5'10''
    • Weight: 221
    • College Production: Four-year career, 159 total tackles, four interceptions and 16 pass breakups in final two seasons.

    Analysis: Vaccaro was a do-everything safety for the Longhorns, a capable run defender with enough range to cover all over the field. 

    He will be a welcomed addition to Rob Ryan's defense, especially after the Saints struggled so mightily against the pass in 2012. 

    Roman Harper is in the twilight of his career, and although Malcolm Jenkins is talented, he needs help on the back end. 

    Vaccaro's presence makes New Orleans' secondary better right away.

Terron Armstead

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    • College: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
    • Draft Status: Round 3 
    • Height: 6'5''
    • Weight: 305
    • College Production: Played in 37 games, started 12 as the team's left tackle in 2012. 

    Analysis: Armstead set the 2013 combine on fire with his 4.71 time in the famed 40-yard dash. Although he played at a small-school level, he possesses NFL-caliber athleticism, which should lead to quick footwork needed to halt edge-rushers on Sundays. 

    After the Saints lost left tackle Jermon Bushrod in free agency, Armstead will begin training camp as the primary backup to Charles Brown, who'll shift over to Drew Brees' blind side after starting four games at right tackle a season ago.  

    In time, the Saints likely hope Armstead develops into the team's physically gifted left tackle, and there's a chance he sees some time as the swing tackle in 2013.

John Jenkins

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    • College: Georgia
    • Draft Status: Round 3 
    • Height: 6'4''
    • Weight: 346
    • College Production: Two-year career, 78 total tackles, four sacks, one interception, one forced fumble; 50 tackles and one sack in 2012.

    Analysis: Jenkins was a space-devouring mammoth for the Bulldogs during the last two seasons and demonstrated massive power on occasion against elite-level competition. 

    In Rob Ryan's 3-4 alignment, the monstrous Georgia product has a realistic chance to start at the vital nose tackle position next to the up-and-coming defensive end duo of Akiem Hicks and Cameron Jordan.

    Brodrick Bunkley, who accumulated 2.5 sacks in 2012 with New Orleans, will be Jenkins' main competition for the starting nose tackle gig, but the two will likely rotate often.

Kenny Stills

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    • College: Oklahoma
    • Draft Status: Round 6 
    • Height: 6'0''
    • Weight: 194
    • College Production: Three-year career, 204 catches, 2,594 receiving yards, 24 touchdowns; 82 catches, 959 receiving yards, 11 touchdowns in 2012.

    Analysis: Stills was a reliable receiver for Landry Jones over the last three seasons. Despite his smaller size and speed (4.38 40 time), he was more of a steady chain-mover than he was a legitimate deep threat. 

    He never averaged more than 13.9 yards per catch for the Sooners and finished his career in Norman with a 12.7 yards-per-reception average. 

    Somewhat of a sneaky, quick-twitch route-runner, there's a little Lance Moore to his game, although Moore has a firm grasp on the starting slot receiver job. 

    Stills should also find himself behind Courtney Roby and Joseph Morgan, but Morgan was "arrested and booked with DWI" per the New Orleans Times-Picayune in late May.

    With the way Drew Brees distributes the football, "the more receivers the merrier" could be the Saints' offensive moniker.

Rufus Johnson

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    • College: Tarleton State
    • Draft Status: Round 6 
    • Height: 6'5''
    • Weight: 266
    • College Production: 10 sacks in 2012. 5.5 sacks in 2011.

    Analysis: Not much is known about Johnson, thanks to his small-school status. He has an ideal outside linebacker frame, and excelled as a pass-rusher at the Division II level. 

    According to Mike Triplett of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Johnson amassed 10 sacks last year and had 17.5 tackles for loss.

    Veteran Will Smith and Victor Butler were slated to be the starting outside linebackers in Rob Ryan's 3-4 scheme in 2013, but Butler tore his ACL in practice and is a prime candidate to be placed on season-ending IR.

    Due to the loss of Butler, there will definitely be shuffling at the outside linebacker spots. 

    Johnson will have at least an outside chance to play situationally as a rookie in passing situations.

Undrafted Free Agents

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    Undrafted free-agent list (courtesy of NFL.com):

    West Virginia RB Shawne Alston; Illinois DE Glenn Foster; Tulane QB Ryan Griffin; Idaho State TE Josh Hill; Utah CB Ryan Lacy; Grand Valley State G Tim Lelito; Nebraska LB Eric Martin; Michigan C Elliott Mealer; Louisiana-Monroe TE Keavon Milton; North Carolina LB Kevin Reddick; Central Florida LB Rayford Shipman; Georgia Tech CB Rod Sweeting; Stanford LB Chase Thomas

     

    Analysis: The most notable names from the Saints' undrafted free-agent haul are linebackersNorth Carolina's Kevin Reddick and Stanford's Chase Thomas. 

    Although Reddick was pegged as an inside linebacker, he did demonstrate a surprising ability with his hand in the dirt as a pass-rusher. 

    Thomas simply didn't test well at the combine (4.91 40-yard dash, 18 reps on the bench), but he did accumulate 16 sacks in 2011 and 2012 combined and had 50.5 tackles for loss during his four-year career in Palo Alto—there's some Rob Ninkovich to his game.

    With Victor Butler injured, Rob Ryan will have plenty of young edge-rushers to use situationally