New Orleans Saints Day 3 2014 NFL Draft Primer
We’re two days into the marathon that is the 2014 NFL draft. In the first two rounds, the New Orleans Saints made two selections. They selected a multi-dimensional playmaking receiver/returner and a long, physical cornerback.
To grab the playmaking Brandin Cooks, the Saints traded away their first- (No. 27 overall) and third-round picks (No. 91 overall). On Day 2, the Saints stayed put at No. 58 to grab the senior cornerback from Nebraska, Stanley Jean-Baptiste.
To sum up: two picks, two needs met for the Saints.
In Saturday’s final round, they can continue to look to find the best player available at a position of need. The center position remains a key spot to address. Outside and inside linebackers who fit the 3-4 could also be had.
In addition, they could go with a developmental quarterback, developmental tight end and/or a kicker to compete with Shayne Graham and Derek Dimke.
Basically, the Saints have options. And they still have four picks to work with on Saturday.
Day 2 Recap and Analysis
On Friday night, the New Orleans Saints selected Nebraska cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste with the 58th overall pick. The 6’3”, 218-pound senior started his career as a receiver before moving to defense in 2012.
As I wrote Friday night, he projects to become an instant impact competitor who sees the field both on special teams and against the big-bodied receivers in the NFC South.
He fits the Saints’ scheme well, with an ability play man-to-man and zone coverage. His ball skills are right up there with the other elite corners in this class.
In all, Jean-Baptiste was a value pick at No. 58 overall. And that value was necessary since the Saints limited themselves to just one pick on Day 2 of the 2014 NFL draft.
Draft analyst Dan Kadar said this on Twitter Friday night:
Said it in the community mock draft: The name Stanley Jean-Baptiste fits so nicely in New Orleans.— Dan Kadar (@MockingTheDraft) May 10, 2014
Updated Needs for the New Orleans Saints
Entering the draft, it was estimated that the Saints' biggest needs were as follows: cornerback, center and offensive playmaker (receiver) with outside linebacker coming in a close fourth.
Two picks in, they have managed to nab two of their three biggest needs. Theoretically they could double-down at each of those two positions. But the need for players at those two spots is obviously lessened, if not eliminated entirely.
Here are the greatest remaining needs.
Entering Day 2, center was the greatest need, though it wasn’t necessarily a spot the Saints had to address with their lone pick of the day. The player that many analysts had slotted to the Saints with their first pick, Marcus Martin, was still sitting there at No. 58, yet they avoided him.
Clearly they have not labeled the center position as the great need that many in the media have. That’s even after Mickey Loomis said in a predraft interview that a rookie center could start for the Saints in 2014.
Still, it’s hard to imagine them not addressing the spot on Saturday.
If there’s an outside linebacker who looks like a nice developmental prospect and/or a player whose stock has slipped because of injury, drafting him in one of the final three rounds would be a great value.
Once again, adding an inside linebacker would be a depth move. The Saints remain thin at the spot. After starters Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne, Ramon Humber and Kevin Reddick are the lone quality backups.
If there’s even one injury at the spot, depth would be seriously challenged.
Again, the Saints don’t really have any needs at this point. They certainly could consider a tight end who can develop into a serious weapon for an ever-evolving offense one day.
You could also add quarterback as a developmental option. Former great Packers general manager Ron Wolf believed in drafting a quarterback every single year as a developmental prospect who, at the least, could become a great trade piece.
Drafting a kicker also makes sense. Neither Shayne Graham nor Derek Dimke figures to be the Saints’ long-term answer at the spot.
Top Day 3 Targets
Previewing four rounds is more difficult than one or two. The list of potential players the Saints could take Saturday is slightly longer. Here are some of the players who stand out as potential fits for Sean Payton’s team.
Devon Kennard, OLB, Southern California
The 6’3”, 250-pound outside linebacker was a highly productive player at Southern California. And the Saints have historically loved players from the South Central LA private school.
His size and measurables fit what the Saints are looking for at the outside linebacker spot, as does his college production.
Larry Webster, OLB/TE, Bloomsburg
The junior Webster projects as a pass-rushing outside linebacker, though he also was given an opportunity to show off his athleticism by playing tight end at the East-West Shrine Game.
Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma
Oklahoma regularly produces NFL-ready centers. Ikard is no exception. As is typical of OU offensive linemen, he is tough and physical and plays the game the right way. He’s taller and slightly thicker than the average center, which may work in his favor.
Bryan Stork, C, Florida State
Some draft analysts are not as high on the national champion center, but the Saints may like what they see from Stork. He is another very large center with active feet who anchors well against bull rushes from interior defensive linemen.
Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
Skov played in a 3-4 at Stanford, though not the exact same kind of scheme that the Saints feature. He is two parts nasty, two parts intelligent and in full just a really good football player.
Lamin Barrow, ILB, LSU
Barrow is a bit smaller than the ideal inside linebacker for the Saints, but that doesn’t mean the Saints won't consider him. If he puts on a little weight and adds some strength, he could fit as a sub-package player and special teams ace.
Yawin Smallwood, ILB, Connecticut
Smallwood is not small. OK, sorry for that bad pun. Anyhow, the Connecticut product is a quality football player who is most likely falling down draft boards because of medical concerns. He also can be a sub-package player.
Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky
Jackson is another player who projects as a 3-4 linebacker. A player who flies around the field, he ideally needs to add some strength but could be an every-down player in a few years.
Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Murray was not going to be drafted before Day 3 even if he hadn’t torn his ACL during his senior season. He is an intelligent quarterback with underrated athleticism, at least prior to tearing the ligament in his knee.
He could become a Drew Brees clone with some mentoring from the New Orleans star.
A.C. Leonard, TE, Tennessee State
Leonard could be likened to Marques Colston when the franchise leader in touchdown receptions was coming out of Hofstra. Colston, of course, was a tight end in college, as Leonard was at Tennessee State.
Character concerns figure to be the primary reason Leonard might go undrafted.
Chris Boswell, K, Rice
Boswell had 13 made field goals of 50-plus yards—three of them from 55-plus. As a kickoff specialist he managed to boom 80 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks. His percentages were not as great as is ideal for the No. 1 placekicker in the draft, but he would fit in well inside the dome.
Cairo Santos, K, Tulane
Saints fans would love to see Santos in black and gold. With an accurate and strong leg, he would fit in well.
What Are the Experts Saying?
Matt Miller, in his seven-round mock on Bleacher Report, and Bucky Brooks’ four-round mock draft on NFL.com both have Chris Davis—the Auburn corner who is most well-known for returning the missed field goal against Alabama for the touchdown that sent Gus Malzahn’s first Tigers squad to the SEC Championship Game.
It’s a bit ambitious because his best skill really is his playmaking ability. He regularly gets beaten with double moves and by being too aggressive. Second, taking him makes less sense now since the Saints already drafted a corner in the second round.
With their two picks in the fifth round, Miller had the Saints taking Princeton nose tackle Caraun Reid and Tyler Larsen, a center from Utah State.
Miller addresses a position of need with the second pick, while taking the best player available in Reid.
And in the sixth round, Miller has the Saints taking James Morris—an inside linebacker from Iowa State.
This would be a great pick, if for no other reason than it takes into account the relative need at the position.
4 Predictions for Day 3
Saints Try to Trade Down
Normally, the Saints look to trade up in the draft (see Day 1). They've been aggressive this offseason in trying to find a few more key pieces for the current roster.
Though they seem to play laissez-faire with the composition of the roster, only caring about the most current version, somewhere inside that brain of Mickey Loomis has to be some concern for the future makeup of the team.
With that in mind, the Saints will try to accumulate at least one more pick, if not for this draft than one in the near future.
Saints Draft Someone No One Saw Coming
The Saints have been remarkably bland in this draft thus far. Brandin Cooks and Stanley Jean-Baptiste were very much by-the-book picks. That's not how the Saints usually operate in the draft.
They're going to draft someone on Saturday whom no one has ever heard of or someone who makes everyone scratch their head because it comes at a position of zero need.
Drew Brees' Protege Is Taken in Round 5
With two picks in the fifth round and a few interesting quarterback prospects still dangling in the wind, the Saints decide to part ways with their anti-quarterback drafting strategy and take a player who may one day start under center in New Orleans.
Saints Do Not Draft a Center
Everyone expected the Saints to draft a center early in this draft, possibly as early as the first round. They played chicken or maybe cowardly chicken, even purposely leading everyone and their mother to believe that was their play.
When all is said and done, they have a different strategy. Perhaps it's signing Jonathan Goodwin. Maybe it is Tim Lelito after all. Or maybe they take their chances with an undrafted free agent.
Updated New Orleans Saints Mock Draft
Fourth Round, Pick No. 126: Devon Kennard, OLB, Southern California: The Saints love Trojan football players. Kennard also fits what they're looking for at the outside linebacker spot.
Fifth Round, Pick No. 167: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: He may not still be available, but if he is, he must be the pick as the head-scratcher and guy to potentially take over for Drew Brees.
Fifth Round, Pick No. 169 (from Philadelphia via New England): Chris Boswell, K, Rice: The Saints have drafted kickers and/or punters in the fifth or sixth round before. With Boswell still available as the No. 1 kicker on the board, he's too good to pass up.
Sixth Round, Pick No. 202: Andrew Jackson, ILB, Western Kentucky: I've mocked him consistently the past week, which means he won't be headed to New Orleans. At least I'm consistent and persistent. He fits the bill as a depth/developmental inside linebacker.