New Orleans Saints: Analyzing the Vision for Each Player in Team's Draft Class
Now that the 2011 NFL Draft has culminated, it is time to begin dissecting the role and impact each player will play for each team. In our case, we're going to use the term vision. We do so because that is the term Sean Payton uses for his players, and I like that wording better.
Despite trading up to gain a second first round pick, the Saints still managed to select six total players. They selected two on each day of the draft—two in the first round, two in the third and two in the seventh.
No pick felt like a reach, and in fact, it seems the Saints got tremendous value with each pick. Yes, they gave up a second round pick for Mark Ingram, but when a scouting department deems a player to be special—as the Saints clearly did with Ingram—they become much more willing to make such a move.
But this article has much more to do with what each player does after they have been drafted, then where they were drafted. That is another Sean Payton-ism—once a player is acquired, it doesn't matter how, only what they do for you.
Without further ado, here is the vision that I have for each player the Saints drafted in 2011.
Round 1, Pick 24: Cameron Jordan, DE, California
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After spending some time watching Jordan's film, it is clear to me that Jordan is a better player than the No. 24 pick the Saints spent on him.
At 6'4", 287 lbs., Jordan is remarkably similar in overall size to current Saints defensive end Will Smith. And their bodies really do look similar.
That being said, Jordan is a slightly different player. While Smith excels at chasing plays down from the backside and getting to the quarterback, Jordan is more of hold the point of attack-type, who gets pressure on the quarterback with refined pass rush moves.
He is neither exceptionally quick, nor uniquely strong. But he has been well taught on how to play the position. He appears to be a technician, which will allow him to do things many other more talented players will never be able to do.
Because he is well taught, Jordan figures to come in and challenge for some legitimate playing time right off the bat. If Will Smith must serve his four-game suspension, Jordan should be starting at right defensive end immediately.
With Alex Brown on the other end, that would figure to make up one of the best run defending DE duos in football. But with that group, a pass rush with four men will be difficult to come by. Blitzing will almost surely be necessary.
But with all four teams, the Saints play to begin the season being teams that like to run the football and stay balanced. Jordan and Brown together ought to help make those teams more one-dimensional.
Round 1, Pick 28: Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama
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Having won both a Heisman Trophy and BCS Championship his sophomore season at Alabama, even the most casual college football fan probably knows something about Ingram.
We all can agree Ingram will run as hard as anyone in this year's draft. He runs with power and good pad-level, similar to Pierre Thomas. He can catch the football effectively out of the backfield. He is an elite short-yardage runner, and he seems to be a player with tremendous football character.
What more can one ask of a first round draft pick?
Well generally, when you draft a first round running back, you want them to come in and start right away, something that seems unlikely in Ingram's case. To see a more complete idea of how Ingram relates to the rest of the Saints' running backs, click here.
The truth of the matter is that the Saints are obviously hoping that over time, Ingram can become their main back. But in year one, with so much talent already in place at the position, it is hard to imagine Ingram being much more than a rotation back.
But as the years go on, expect Ingram's role to increase, and with it, his effectiveness.
Round 3, Pick 8: Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois
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When the Saints took Illinois outside linebacker Martez Wilson with their first of two first round picks, they were announcing to the football world, we like good football players. That is precisely what they got with their first two picks.
The selection of Wilson continued the Saints' trend to pick football players first, not necessarily guys who are super athletic or freakishly talented.
Wilson, instead, just looks like a linebacker. Maybe it's the neck roll, or the size—6'4", 250 lbs.—or perhaps it's the way he takes every step on balance and is such a solid tackler.
What the Saints do not get with Wilson is a natural playmaker, as Wilson is not around the football as much as you would like to see from a standout linebacker. But Wilson makes key tackles, can cover the short zone in pass coverage and plays the run at him well.
He also provides some good versatility. At Illinois, he would line up with his hand on the ground in many nickel situations and played some inside linebacker as well.
This multitude of experience will serve him well under Gregg Williams, who will likely line Wilson up in a number of places, even in year one. Expect Wilson to see time in sub packages, if he doesn't win a starting job immediately.
Wilson would seem to be the intense, hard-nosed player that would excel on special teams, but he may prove too valuable from day one to garner that role.
Round 3, Pick 24: Johnny Patrick, DB, Louisville
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In limited film study, Patrick stood out to me as a cover-two type corner. This means that he is very good at keeping the ball in front of him, then coming up to tackle the guy who caught the ball.
It also means that for a corner, he plays the run extremely well. It also means that he is going to struggle in tight man-to-man coverage because of an overall lack of quickness. However, he is much better in off-coverage.
He didn't seem to be a natural fit for the Saints' heavy press-man coverage schemes, but Patrick will likely have time to adapt, as he probably won't see tons of snaps on defense in his rookie campaign.
Because Patrick is a very good special teams player, he should make the roster and dress each gameday. He will instantly help the coverage and return units and has a chance to battle for the fourth corner spot.
Hopefully for the Saints, Patrick's best football is in front of him. If so, he will be a tremendous value with the 88th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Round 7, Pick 23: Greg Romeus, DE, Pittsburgh
Since Romeus came into this season projected as a possible first round selection, Saints fans have to hope the kid gets motivated by being passed on 225 times before being selected. If he is, he truly can be one of the steals of the draft.
Just as Cameron Jordan would seem to benefit from the loss of Will Smith to the early suspension, so should Romeus. Romeus is an explosive pass rusher, more in line with a Jared Allen. By no means am I saying he'll become that; only that he plays kind of like Allen.
Hopefully Romeus can match Allen's intensity as well. He could become a key nickel pass rush guy for Gregg Williams' defense. But if Romeus is not fully healthy and fully motivated I'd be surprised if he even makes the opening roster.
More than any of the other selections, Romeus is going to need an almost perfect training camp to prove he belongs. If he can bring it long enough, he should stick. And if he sticks, he has a chance to become a key piece to a defense always looking to add more and more pressure.
Round 7, Pick 40: Nate Bussey, OLB, Illinois
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Bussey teamed with Martez Wilson at Illinois to make up one of the better linebacker duos in the entire midwest. In many ways, Bussey was the Robin to Wilson's Batman.
Wilson got the pub, the girls (maybe) and the higher draft status. But Bussey was an integral player in the Illini's opportunistic defense. He made plays.
Bussey shows great burst and quickness. In fact, he looks like an in-the-box safety. He is an explosive pass rusher too.
He is small for a linebacker and will likely struggle to fend off a blocker at the next level. He is perfect for nickel downs, when it's unlikely the offense is going to run the football.
And with his athleticism and intensity, Bussey should make a difference on special teams right away for the Saints.