With the 2010 NFL Draft just a few days away, anticipation is near its peak.
While the first three or four picks are almost a given, the debate starts to rage with the Kansas City Chiefs, owners of the fifth overall pick. Will they go with an offensive tackle or with free safety Eric Berry?
At first, it may not seem that such a debate matters to the black and gold because their selection isn't until 27 picks later. A closer look, though, shows that it may matter quite a bit.
The Saints are placing a high priority on a pass rusher, but so are a lot of other teams.
If the Browns, for instance, decide to go with Jimmy Clausen, Dan Williams, or Eric Berry over a pass rusher such as Sergio Kindle, that keeps the pass-rushing pool deep.
The Saints have six picks in the draft:
Round One, Pick 32
Round Two, Pick 32
Round Three, Pick 31
Round Four, Pick 32
Round Five, No Pick (traded last year in the Thomas Morstead deal)
Round Six, Pick 32
Round Seven, Pick 32
I have had the Saints picking an outside linebacker for a while, but now I have changed my mind to lightning-quick defensive end Jerry Hughes.
For one, free-agent defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson did not sign after his visit with New Orleans last week. Wilkerson, coupled with newly acquired end Alex Brown, would have given the Saints adequate depth at the position.
Secondly, it appears that Sean Weatherspoon, the only true 4-3 outside linebacker with a first round grade in the draft, has been shooting up draft boards in recent weeks with his impressive workouts. I doubt he will be available when the Saints are on the clock.
Hughes will pair up with Will Smith to form an excellent set of bookend pass rushers.
Hughes' extreme quickness and sure tackling ability will give defensive coordinator Gregg Williams another weapon in his turnover-forcing arsenal.
At 6'4", 330 pounds, Cam Thomas is a monster, and he's just what the Saints need in the middle of their defensive line.
While Darren Sharper, Jabari Greer, and Tracy Porter were intercepting passes, New Orleans was getting gashed up the middle repeatedly by running backs.
The Saints face DeAngelo Williams and Michael Turner each twice a year and must contend with strong rushing attacks from Minnesota, Dallas, and Baltimore in 2010.
Thomas' specialty is stopping the run, and his presence will free up tackles Sedrick Ellis and Anthony Hargrove, who are more adept at rushing the passer. He will also allow Jonathan Vilma and the rest of the linebacker corps to roam free to make tackles.
If you can get open, Drew Brees will find you.
Dickson's speed, separation ability, and pass-catching skills make him a good fit for the Saints' offense. His 6'4" frame provides Brees with yet another big target in the middle of the field.
Jeremy Shockey's durability has been an issue, as he has missed seven games since joining the Saints two seasons ago. David Thomas was the only other tight end who contributed significantly to the offense last year.
Dickson would fit in well as New Orleans' second tight end and would see the field often as a rookie since the Saints showcase so many two-tight sets.
The Saints often strike gold with small-school no-names, and this is a spot to take a chance on one, especially with the absence of a fifth-round pick.
At 6'6", 311 pounds, Washington displays good size for an offensive tackle and still has room to add a little bit of bulk.
Washington can handle his own against speed rushers, and that is precisely the kind player that Jermon Bushrod and Jon Stinchcomb struggle against.
While Bushrod did okay holding down the fort as he filled in for Jammal Brown, the Saints often had to slide protection his way and leave in an extra blocker to mask some of his deficiencies.
Speaking of Brown, New Orleans must plan for his replacement. He is in the final year of his contract and is surely looking for a hefty extension given his two Pro Bowl selections. Brown, though, missed all of 2009 with hernia and hip surgeries, and his status for 2010 is unknown.
Given a year or two to develop, Washington may blossom into the Saints' left tackle for the next decade and turn out to be one of the steals of this year's draft.
Other small-school players the Saints have drafted recently are Jahri Evans (Bloomsburg, 2006, fourth round) and Marques Colston (Hofstra, 2006, seventh round).
The New Orleans Saints currently have two former LSU Tigers on their roster (Devery Henderson and Randall Gay) and will look to add a third in the draft.
When John Chavis took over the Tigers' defense in 2009, he switched Coleman from his natural position of safety to outside linebacker. Coleman responded with four sacks, nine tackles for a loss, and three forced fumbles.
Coleman's size (6'2", 210 pounds) dictates that he switch back to safety in the NFL.
Coleman is a hard hitter that will contribute mainly on special teams early in his career.
Carroll entered 2009 as the University of Maryland's top corner but broke his leg in the second game of the season and missed the rest of the year.
Carroll is 5'11", 204 pounds and runs in the mid 4.4s.
Depending on what New Orleans does with Malcolm Jenkins this season, Carroll would battle Leigh Torrence and Reggie Jones for the fourth or fifth cornerback spot.