2014 Draft Sleepers Who Would Fit Perfectly with the New Orleans Saints
The 2014 NFL draft is less than a week away, and while much attention has been given to whom the New Orleans Saints will select with their first pick, a number of unheralded sleepers would fit perfectly on the roster.
As it stands, droves of current NFL starters entered the league as unsung draft picks yet managed to make their marks when it came time for the shoulder pads to start popping.
The Saints have their share of such players on the roster, including starting wide receiver Marques Colston and starting offensive tackle Terron Armstead.
This year’s draft class will have some sleeper prospects who, for a variety of reasons, haven’t received much hype. Several of them could fit nicely into the Saints’ offensive and defensive schemes. General manager Mickey Loomis and coach Sean Payton just need to find them and pull the trigger when the time is right.
Here are six sleepers who would make for perfect fits with the Saints in the 2014 draft. The prospects are ranked in order of least likely to be drafted by New Orleans to most likely.
6. Bruce Ellington, Wide Receiver, South Carolina
Wide receiver is a position of need for New Orleans, and there’s a good chance the Saints will elect to take a wideout in either the first or second round.
But in the event that they opt to go the “best player available” route in Round 1 and take a receiver later on, Bruce Ellington is a prospect to keep an eye on.
At 5’9,” his height is his biggest drawback. Despite his lack of length, however, the South Carolina standout brings a lot to the table. He possesses excellent speed to go along with a sturdy, athletic frame. He’s astoundingly quick off the line of scrimmage, and he has the requisite strength to fight off press-man coverage.
He held his own quite well in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference, and he can also contribute as a return man.
If New Orleans decides to hold off and wait until the later rounds to add another wideout, Ellington should receive strong consideration from the front office.
5. Dakota Dozier, Guard , Furman
Depth along the offensive line is important, as an injury to a key player up front can create a glaring weakness.
New Orleans has two Pro Bowl guards in Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs, but another quality lineman who can step in and contribute when called upon would be a nice luxury to have.
Dakota Dozier didn’t receive much fanfare playing at Furman, but his game translates well to the NFL. He was an Associated Press FCS First-Team All-American last season, and he possesses exceptional run-blocking skills.
Durability is another attribute of the 2013 Furman team captain, who started in 44 of 45 collegiate games. He played tackle for the Paladins, but his stocky, muscular build, along with his lack of ideal height for a tackle (6’4”), suggests he’s better suited as a guard in the professional ranks.
New Orleans isn’t in desperate need of a guard, but Dozier would make for a nice middle-round addition who could possibly replace Grubbs in the next few years.
4. Jordan Tripp, Linebacker, Montana
With Junior Galette and Victor Butler on the outside and Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne manning the inside, New Orleans is likely set for next season as far as starting linebackers go.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t room for another linebacker who can provide quality depth, however, and Montana’s Jordan Tripp could fill that role for the Saints.
While not considered a specialist, he is a diverse, well-rounded linebacker. Most projections list him as an outside ‘backer, but his instincts and tackling abilities could enable him to play on the inside in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s 3-4 alignment. He’s reliable defending the run as well as the pass, and he demonstrates impressive closing speed.
If the Saints are looking to add depth at the linebacker position in the middle to late rounds, Tripp would be an excellent pick.
3. Caraun Reid, Defensive Line, Princeton
It’s not often that players from the Ivy League hear their names called on draft day, but Princeton’s Caraun Reid will likely be one of the few exceptions this year.
He has the potential to enjoy a fine career in the league. He played on both the inside and outside of the Princeton defensive front, and his quickness and burst off the line would make him a nice fit as an end in the Saints’ defensive scheme.
He isn’t as lengthy or athletic as Saints starter Akiem Hicks, but he plays with great technique. The Ivy Leaguer turned heads at this year’s Senior Bowl, where he registered sacks on consecutive plays.
If the Saints are looking to strengthen the depth along their defensive front in the middle rounds, Reid could be their guy.
2. Tyler Larsen, Center, Utah State
Like wide receiver and cornerback, center is a position the Saints are expected to address in this year’s draft.
New Orleans elected not to re-sign 2013 starter Brian de la Puente, and backup Tim Lelito is a strong candidate to take over the job this coming season.
He is largely unproven, however, and the Saints would be prudent to bring in a rookie to compete with him in fall camp.
As for this year’s crop of centers, Marcus Martin (USC), Weston Richburg (Colorado State) and Travis Swanson (Arkansas) are widely recognized as the top three in the class.
Utah State’s Tyler Larsen is another name to consider, especially if the front office elects to wait until the later rounds to draft a center.
He turned in an impressive week of practice at this year’s Senior Bowl. Subsequently, he threw up 36 repetitions on the bench press at the combine, which were the second most by any player in attendance. He also has experience playing in an uptempo, no-huddle offense, which would benefit him if he joins the Saints.
1. Keith McGill, Cornerback, Utah
Despite the free-agent signing of 12-time Pro Bowler Champ Bailey, the Saints are still in the market for a top-flight cornerback to pair with Keenan Lewis. Bailey, for all his career accolades, is still somewhat of a question mark from a health standpoint, and he may be asked to play the nickel spot in New Orleans.
Tall, physically imposing defensive backs are the rage these days, and Nebraska’s Stanley Jean-Baptiste seems to be the poster boy for this year’s crop of sizable cover men. While Jean-Baptiste has received no shortage of hype, Utah’s Keith McGill has quietly fallen under the radar.
He stands 6’3” and weighs in at a sturdy 211 pounds. He made an impressive showing at the combine, where he recorded a vertical jump of 39 inches. The long-armed corner is serviceable as a tackler in the open field, and he can also play on special teams as a gunner on kickoff and punt coverage units.
The former junior college standout is projected as a second- to third-round pick. Either round would be an opportune time for the Saints to snatch him off the board.
The vast majority of the aforementioned players didn’t attend big-name schools. They weren’t household names in college football, and most of them have received very little fanfare as draft prospects.
That being said, they all possess NFL-level talent, and every one of them has the potential to succeed at the next level. When the New Orleans Saints turn in their draft cards next weekend, don’t be surprised to hear one or more of these players’ names called.
Note: Combine results courtesy of NFL.com.