With two selections in the span of three picks, the New Orleans Saints began by taking Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri. They came back at pick No. 169 with Florida outside linebacker Ronald Powell.
Powell was a high school All-American and by most estimates the top recruit in the country in 2010. He was an effective but underwhelming performer in his time at the University of Florida.
His performance in Gainesville is a big reason why he fell to the fifth round and pick No. 169. Here's how the new Saint put it, according to ESPN.com's Mike Triplett:
Powell, who was No.1 rated HS player in country in 2010, said hes not disappointed but definitely motivated to now be 5th-round pick #Saints— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) May 10, 2014
Powell did have injury history, much the way that fourth-round pick Khairi Fortt did in his college career. Both were significant, but Powell's story is heartwrenching.
#Saints Powell explained why he had two ACL surgeries in 2012. First used a cadaver and it didnt hold up. Went back in, used patellar tendon— Mike Triplett (@MikeTriplett) May 10, 2014
I have a confession to make: I didn't know anything about Powell until the Saints drafted him Saturday. After a quick two-game film study—one pre-injury, one post-injury—I came away intrigued.
Despite the excruciating injury, Powell maintains a unique blend of power, speed, agility and quickness. He is an explosive athlete who plays with his hair on fire.
He often looks like he just wants to kill the quarterback—in the best possible way. He is the type of player defensive coordinators just want to send on the field with zero responsibility except to go tackle the guy with the football.
Powell does that really well. Whether it's working his way through pass blocks with an array of swim moves, spin moves or just brute strength on a bull rush, Powell is a dynamic pass-rusher.
Truth be told, he is not only more mature, but probably even more explosive than he was pre-injury. Pre-injury, he mostly played defensive end. Post-injury, he mostly played outside linebacker while sticking his hand on the ground on obvious passing downs.
In the Saints' hybrid 3-4 scheme, Powell is actually the perfect fit. He can cover in space when asked to do so, though early in his career, he doesn't figure to be used much other than in passing situations as a pass-rusher.
And much like Sunseri, he will be asked to contribute on special teams. Though a powerful athlete, he also has the kind of long-range speed which can make him very effective on coverage units. In fact, he's as effective a tackler in space as I've seen for someone who is a natural defensive end.
There is risk in this pick. Though he looked fully healthy on film, he is more susceptible to future injury—having already gone under the knife twice.
If he can avoid that mountainous injury, the sky is the limit for Powell. The No. 1 high school recruit may see his potential more at the NFL level than he did in college.
And the Saints may be the benefactor.