New Orleans Saints: Too Much of a Good Thing

Patrick Generose@PatrickGenCorrespondent IApril 20, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 22: Chris Wells #28 of the Ohio State Buckeyes carries the ball during the Big Ten Conference game against the Michigan Wolverines at Ohio Stadium on November 22, 2008 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Ask yourself this question:  "If I have a Heisman Trophy-winning running back,  a rarely-sacked quarterback who can throw for 5,000 yards a season, and an offensive attack that has ranked first in the NFL for two of the past three years, what more do I need?"

If you answered, "nothing" you were half-right.  The rest of the answer can be found by posing another question:  "What does the defensive side of the football have to hang its hat on?" 

I think "nothing" just about sums it up now. 

Since Sean Payton and Drew Brees arrived in New Orleans 2006, the Saints have built an identity as an offensive powerhouse not to be trifled with.  Unfortunately, that identity doesn't seem to have rubbed off on the powers-that-be.

The idea that the Saints are once again in the market for an offensive skill position with their first round pick is all at once unnerving, ominous, and disappointing, especially when you consider that the Saints don't have another pick until the fourth round. 

It has been rumored that Saints brass, namely Sean Payton, are enamored with Ohio State running back, Chris "Beanie" Wells. 

What's the saying?  Those who cannot remember the past...

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One need only look back to the Saints' 2007 draft to understand why Wells is clearly the wrong option for the Saints at No. 14. 

WR Robert Meachem was selected 27th overall that year, and was the only first-rounder of '07 to never see the field of play in his rookie season.  Almost two years later, he has still not lived up to the billing of a first round pick.

Though, in all fairness, Wells is a much better running back than Meachem is a wide receiver.  Wells won't have nearly as hard a time adjusting to the NFL as Meachem did, especially since he's regarded as the best running back in this year's draft. 

That doesn't mean the Saints should make the same mistake and take him.

By drafting Wells, the Saints would only be creating more confusion and congestion on the field and in the locker room. 

You mean to tell me that Reggie Bush (who is slated to make more money than anyone on the team in the final year of his contract) will be splitting carries with another overpaid first round pick? 

I wonder how Drew Brees feels about this.  And Pierre Thomas & Mike Bell for that matter.  Add animosity to confusion and congestion. 

If we're talking strictly Xs and Os, the thing that makes Reggie great is his versatility.  Having Wells as an every-downer takes away Payton's ability to create mismatches with Bush. 

Wells will force Bush into the slot (or worse, the bench) more often than not, and those linebackers and safeties that Bush has had so much fun burning will soon be replaced with much faster cornerbacks. 

If it's third down conversions that Payton's really worried about, bruisers can be found after round four.  Ask Brandon Jacobs. 

If it wasn't for the hiring of defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams and the crew of free agents that the Saints have picked up this offseason, my skepticism level would still be at 10, instead of nine (remember folks, this is the Saints we're talking about). 

Williams should do wonders for the Saints defense and it is encouraging to see him bring in players he is personally familiar with—DE Paul Spicer & S Pierson Prioleau—as well as ones he knows will fit into his scheme—S Darren Sharper & CB Jabari Greer. 

It is very likely that the Saints will be without defensive ends Charles Grant and Will Smith for four games due to suspension.  All the more reason the Saints—who have been looking for a defensive playmaker since cutting Sammy Knight in 2002—should pick defense with their first draft choice.

Wells' teammate Malcolm Jenkins, who can play safety and cornerback, would be a great understudy to Sharper.  The Saints' secondary has often taken most of the blame for the defense's inability to stop opposing offenses in recent seasons. 

But as the NFC South is a runner's division, The Saints might be better advised to shore up the front seven. 

USC has a trio of linebackers that could all go in the first round.  Brian Cushing would be a great complement to middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma. Having played defensive end as a sophomore, he has a nose for the quarterback—something that Williams cherishes in his defenders. 

The wild card option in all of this is trading down.  The Saints did it last year with the New England Patriots and it worked out well for both teams (DT Sedrick Ellis to the Saints and Defensive Rookie of the Year,  LB Jerod Mayo, to the Patriots). 

Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Sean Payton are close friends so don't be surprised if you see these teams trade again this year. 

If Jenkins and Cushing are both available when the Saints are on the clock, this seems like the smartest move.  Chances are at least one will still be available later in the first round and the Saints will end up getting an extra pick. 

The Saints offense is good, no, it's great.  It's extraordinary, exciting, and potent.  A well-oiled machine.  And it shouldn't be messed with. 

The past three years has shown us that maybe there's just too much of it.  Maybe Robert Meachem couldn't help the offense quite simply because it didn't need the help. The same can be said for Beanie Wells. 

Happy drafting.