New Orleans Saints Ultimate 2014 Draft Primer

Knox BardeenNFC South Lead WriterMay 7, 2014

New Orleans Saints Ultimate 2014 Draft Primer

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    The New Orleans Saints are close, and their 11-5 record last season with a road win in the playoffs screams that fact better than Steven Tyler has ever belted out the lyrics to Dream On.

    What are the Saints close to?

    The Saints are just a few pieces, and a season full of circumstances (injuries, officiating decisions, late-game heroics) going right, from a return trip to the Super Bowl. It’s been four seasons since New Orleans last hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, and if the city is going to enjoy another championship parade, the time is now to win it all.

    With no truly glaring needs, and just a few improvements to make around the depth chart, the Saints need to power through this 2014 draft and get their talented roster through camp and into the regular season to wreak havoc.

    Quarterback Drew Brees, while elite and near the top of his game, isn’t getting younger. He’s even alluded to the proverbial window closing on his time in the NFL with the Saints. No one really wants to consider what a quarterback without the name Brees would look and feel like in New Orleans, so to make sure happiness is achieved again during his tenure, 2014 is as good a season as any to push.

    Here’s what you need to know about the 2014 NFL draft and how the Saints can set themselves up for a title run.

2014 Draft Picks

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    • Round 1, Pick 27 (27)   
    • Round 2, Pick 26 (58)   
    • Round 3, Pick 27 (91)   
    • Round 4, Pick 26 (126) 
    • Round 5, Pick 27 (167) 
    • Round 5, Pick 29 (169) (From Patriots through Eagles)—The Saints acquired this pick in the deal that sent running back Darren Sproles to the Philadelphia Eagles in March.
    • Round 6, Pick 26 (202)

Position-by-Position Big Board

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    Disclaimer: The big boards are based on players that fit the Saints from a need and value perspective, i.e. the more players listed, the higher the team need.

    Also, take into account the perceived value and projected selection position. Players listed are done so based on anticipated selection spot (read: Johnny Manziel might be the top quarterback taken, but the Saints won’t be grabbing a passer that high, if at all).

    QB:

    1. Zach Mettenberger (LSU)

    2. David Fales (San Jose State)

    3. Stephen Morris (Miami)

     

    RB:

    1. Terrance West (Towson)

    2. De’Anthony Thomas (Oregon)

    3. LaDarius Perkins (Mississippi State)

     

    WR:

    1. Odell Beckham Jr. (LSU)

    2. Brandin Cooks (Oregon State)

    3. Marqise Lee (USC)

    4. Martavis Bryant (Clemson)

    5. Robert Herron (Wyoming)

     

    TE:

    1. C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa)

    2. Cameron Brate (Harvard)

    3. Jacob Pedersen (Wisconsin)

     

    OT:

    1. Billy Turner (North Dakota State)

    2. Michael Schofield (Michigan)

    3. Kevin Pamphile (Purdue)

     

    OG:

    1. Gabe Jackson (Mississippi State)

    2. Cyril Richardson (Baylor)

    3. Brandon Thomas (Clemson)

    4. Jon Halapio (Florida)

     

    C:

    1. Marcus Martin (USC)

    2. Bryan Stork (Florida State)

    3. Tyler Larsen (Utah State)

    4. James Stone (Tennessee)

    5. Dillon Farrell (New Mexico)

     

    DE/OLB:

    1. Kony Ealy (Missouri)

    2. Dee Ford (Auburn)

    3. Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech)

    4. Demarcus Lawrence (Boise State)

    5. Adrian Hubbard (Alabama)

     

    DT:

    1. DaQuan Jones (Penn State)

    2. Justin Ellis (Louisiana Tech)

    3. Daniel McCullers (Tennessee)

    4. Anthony Johnson (LSU)

    5. Ryan Carrethers (Arkansas State)

     

    ILB:

    1. Lamin Barrow (LSU)

    2. Andrew Jackson (Western Kentucky)

    3. Jeremiah George (Iowa State)

     

    CB:

    1. Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech)

    2. Jason Verrett (Virginia Tech)

    3. Bradley Roby (Ohio State)

    4. Keith McGill (Utah)

    5. Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska)

     

    FS:

    1. Jonathan Dowling (Western Kentucky)

    2. Lonnie Ballentine (Memphis)

    3. Jeremy Deering (Rutgers)

     

    SS:

    1. Brock Vereen (Minnesota)

    2. Craig Loston (LSU)

    3. Alden Darby (Arizona State)

Round 1, Pick 27 (27)—Brandin Cooks, Oregon State

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    Needs: WR, CB, OLB, OL

    The first thing you think about when the New Orleans Saints pop into your head is an overpowering aerial assault led by quarterback Drew Brees. This offense is what sets the Saints apart, and it needs another weapon.

    Marques Colston and Kenny Stills anchor a receiver corps that’s also benefited from having tight end Jimmy Graham around. But Colston and Stills aren’t enough, and Robert Meachem, Nick Toon and Joe Morgan aren’t capable, or ready, to offer Brees an electrifying fourth pass-catching option.

    Enter first-round draft pick Brandin Cooks, formerly a receiver at Oregon State.

    Cooks has the ability to be a playmaking slot receiver and can also bounce outside and show off some of that speed (Cooks blazed a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the combine, according to official results posted by the NFL) that helped him tally 1,730 receiving yards, catch 16 touchdown passes and lead the nation last season with 32 catches of 20 yards or more.

    Versatility and speed will help Cooks offer Brees , and this Saints offense, a number of ways to utilize his talents. He can tangle with safeties and linebackers inside and stretch defenses on the outside.

Round 2, Pick 26 (58)—Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska

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    Needs: CB, OLB, C, OG

    When it comes to the need at cornerback for the Saints, it’s almost as great as at wide receiver. Yes, New Orleans added Champ Bailey, and he can be a great mentor and bridge corner between this season and a 2014 rookie. But the Saints need to get a big-upside, near-starting-caliber corner in this draft.

    Cornerback Keenan Lewis was a superb free-agent addition for the Saints prior to the 2013 season. If general manager Mickey Loomis can find a corner in the second round to offer help in the nickel package from Week 1, and develop into an equal counterpart to Lewis for the future, the Saints’ draft will be considered a huge success.

    That’s why Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste could be exactly what the Saints need.

    Jean-Baptiste is a huge (he’s 6’3” and weighs 218 pounds) cover corner that won’t get pushed around by the bigger wide receivers in the NFL. He also has the ball-hawking skills to make his presence known early.

    He projects as an outside corner but has the size to move inside and take on tight ends. Since he’s raw (played wide receiver at Nebraska until his junior season), learning from Bailey would be a definite plus.

Round 3, Pick 27 (91)—Carl Bradford, Arizona State

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    Needs: OLB, C, OG, WR

    If defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had his way, he’d get a pass-rusher in the first round. If not there, then the second. He didn’t get his way thus far, but general manager Mickey Loomis will address that in the third round.

    The move to a 3-4 scheme and the addition of Ryan sparked the New Orleans defense last season, taking it from liability status to strength. Getting pressure on the opposing quarterback and fantastic play in the defensive backfield were big reasons for the turnaround.

    Ryan is going to get to enhance his pass rush with former Arizona State outside linebacker Carl Bradford in the third round.

    Bradford registered 8.5 sacks last season and 19 tackles for loss. He can be explosive and is a terrific blitz option, which is a fantastic combination for a Ryan to work with.

Round 4, Pick 26 (126)—Shaq Evans, UCLA

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    Needs: C, OG, WR, ILB

    If there’s something that has been shown time and time again in New Orleans, it’s that the Saints will utilize more than a handful of receiving threats, and there’s no regard to the difference between a first- and late-round pick once he hits the field.

    If quarterback Drew Brees trusts a receiver, he’ll sling the ball to him. The more receivers Brees trusts, the more receptions get passed around.

    New Orleans filled a heavy need in the first round with former Oregon State receiver Brandin Cooks, but general manager Mickey Loomis might not stop with just one receiver in this draft, especially when it makes more sense to grab talent from a deep class than it does to reach for a position of marginal need like the offensive line.

    It makes a ton of sense to see if Brees can turn former UCLA receiver Shaq Evans into a viable mid-round target.

    Evans led the Bruins in receptions (47) and receiving yards (709) and crossed the goal line nine times. He can stretch defenses and is a technician as a route-runner, something that Brees demands.

Round 5, Pick 27 (167)—Tyler Larsen, Utah State

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    Needs: C, OG, ILB

    The Saints don’t have glaring needs on the offensive line with four starters returning from last season. But there are depth issues that need to be addressed.

    The only starter that isn’t returning in 2014 to New Orleans is center Brian de la Puente. His backup, Tim Lelito, was signed as an undrafted rookie after the 2013 draft. He started twice at right guard and saw time in a total of seven games on the offensive line.

    Lelito is going to be given every opportunity to win the starting job at center for 2014, but the Saints should bring in some competition.

    Tyler Larsen, formerly of Utah State, is an extremely strong and resilient center. He played in every game as a four-year center and started each year.

Round 5, Pick 29 (169)—Lamin Barrow, LSU

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    Needs: OG, ILB, QB, OT

    The New Orleans Saints need to leave the 2014 draft with a cornerback, wide receiver and a pass-rusher. Those are arguably the three most in-need positions for the team. General manager Mickey Loomis could likely address all three positions before the third day of the draft.

    But he might add an inside linebacker too, likely on Saturday.

    No one will forget the Bermuda Triangle of injuries the linebacker position was during offseason workouts prior to 2012. The position saw a fortunate return to power last season, led by Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne. And there’s some depth there too, with Ramon Humber and Kevin Reddick.

    Former LSU linebacker Lamin Barrow led the Tigers last season with 91 tackles and added 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and recovered a fumble. He’s a linebacker that can navigate through traffic, has an unstoppable motor and can be anywhere on the field at any time.

Round 6, Pick 26 (202)—Kevin Pamphile, Purdue

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    Needs: OG, QB, OT

    It’s pretty obvious that the New Orleans Saints are going to enter training camp with Zach Strief at right tackle and second-year tackle Terron Armstead on the left side.

    Armstead made four starts last season (two in the regular season and two in the playoffs), and grew infinitely from Week 16 through the team’s loss in Seattle to the Seahawks. But four starts is kind of low when considering a team that must protect quarterback Drew Brees is going to lock in on a starter with so little experience.

    New Orleans won’t grab an offensive tackle early, but if a guy with upside is available late, general manager Mickey Loomis might grab him and let him mature for a while.

    Former Purdue tackle Kevin Pamphile makes sense.

    Pamphile started for the Boilermakers for two seasons after moving to the position from the defensive side of the line. He’s still learning but has good movement and leverage with considerable upside.

Latest Draft Buzz

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    • The Saints are interested in former USC center Marcus Martin, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com.
    • Here's a healthy list of the players that spoke with visited, or worked out for the New Orleans Saints during the months leading up to the NFL draft, as compiled by WalterFootball.com.
    • Mike Triplett of ESPN.com thinks the Saints could trade up to grab wide receiver Brandin Cooks.