The New Orleans Saints Continue Their Defensive Upgrade

Paul DavisCorrespondent IApril 27, 2008

The New Orleans Saints had a great draft over the weekend.

Trading up to get Sedrick Ellis was a great move, especially since they could not get their hands on Glenn Dorsey. Ellis is the next best thing, and a lot of analysis on ESPN and NFL Network had him and Dorsey ranked 1-A and 1-B. Ellis will bring the swift and strong burst that was needed so desperately last year to put pressure on the quarterback. He will also be a stout run-stopper at 305 pounds, helping plug up the holes and taking on the double teams necessary to allow Will Smith, Charles Grant, and newly acquired Bobby McCray to get around the corners and into the opposing backfield. With Brian Young slowing down, and Hollis Thomas showing his age of late, he should be in the starting front four come opening kickoff against Tampa Bay.

The second round brought in cornerback Tracey Porter from Indiana. Though small at 5’8” and 185 weight, Porter brings the ball-hawking speed and youthful energy to an aging secondary that was one of the worst in the NFL last season. With Mike Mckenzie coming off of surgery and getting up in age, and the completely inconsistent Jason David, he will see some extended playing time this season. 

Though the signing of Randall Gay, last year's draftee Usama Young having a year in the system, and vets Aaron Glenn and Jason Craft on the roster, Porter will have to come in and prove himself quickly, or he will find himself deep on the depth chart, but still on the roster.

The first of two picks in the fifth round, DeMario Pressley is another draftee at defensive tackle. Weighing in at 301, Pressley is another heavy hitter who happens to be quick on his feet. As a small project, he could work his way into the starting line up with older and increasingly slower players ahead of him.

If he wants it bad enough, he will work his way onto the field quite often in the many different packages the Saints defense could throw. He should make the roster, and be no more than the third string guy.

The second pick in the fifth brought offensive tackle Carl Nicks. With a bulky frame of 341 pounds, he could be a heck of a run blocker. The main question is if he can control his weight, and stay on task to be in the running for a backup position. But with the Saints already invested in four young, offensive tackles, he might have a better shot at making the roster as a guard. Otherwise, he may just be practice-squad project material.

The sixth round brought the first kicker drafted by the Saints since Morten Andersen in 1982. Hopefully, Taylor Mehlhaff will have the same success. He has good accuracy, but his kicking distance has been questioned. Though kicking in a dome for at least eight games a year shouldn’t be too treacherous. He is young and taller than Martin Gramatica, and especially after the Olindo Mare debacle of ’07, Mehlhaff should get a good look from now until the season's beginning. He should make it on the active roster.

The last pick of the day came in the seventh round with Adrian Arrington. A receiver who played in the shadow of Mario Manningham, he is better known as a possession receiver than a down-field threat. But with all of the dropped passes last year by the Saints' receiving corps, he will be a welcomed addition and will get a good loock after Marques Colston made the roster after being nearly the last player taken in the 2006 draft. He will be a practice-squad project, unless Robert Meachem is slow to start and the rest of the corps reverts to last season's drops. 

The Saints addressed their need at DT and slightly at CB. They did not, however, draft either a tight end or a linebacker for the second consecutive year, despite have a need in both areas for multiple years now. Though the addition of another WR to the mix, and a young kicker to challenge the incumbent are promising.

This years draft grade:  B.