Black & Gold X's & O's: New Orleans Saints' Draft Needs

Will Osgood@@BRwillosgoodAnalyst IMarch 30, 2010

NEW ORLEANS - 2008:  Mickey Loomis of the New Orleans Saints poses for his 2008 NFL headshot at photo day in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Getty Images)
Getty Images/Getty Images

By now, at least some of the aftermath of the Saints' championship has to be wearing off...okay, I know that's nowhere near true.

Nevertheless, it is time for the team to focus on the draft. I hope the Saints aren't just starting their preparations, but I do understand if they are behind.

Mickey Loomis and his staff of hundreds—probably not, but it sounds better than tens —have been watching film, reading player evaluations, determining their grades on players, and, subsequently, placing them on their draft board based on grade, value, and need.

Myself, I am still working on my board, which will probably not be done until a day or two before the draft.

But, I can give you my opinion on what the Saints should be looking for in the 2010 draft with a sense of priority for that given need.

I'm going to write an ideal-picks-per-round column in the weeks to come, so I'm not going to make any selections here.

I will tell you about a few players of interest at each position though:

1. Defensive End

Sure, the Saints won the Super Bowl without Charles Grant, who was released shortly after the season.

The common sentiment may then be "we did without him, so obviously the guys we have are good enough."

I'm not saying that Will Smith, Bobby McCray, and Jeff Charleston aren't good players. In fact, they may be a good enough trio to get the job done next season. But even if they are, depth at the position is slim, and you truly can never have enough pass rushers.

Players of Interest at DE: Jason Pierre-Paul (South Florida), Brandon Graham (Michigan), Corey Wooton (Northwestern), George Selvie (South Florida), and Ricky Sapp (Clemson).

2. Tight End

After DE, every other position becomes more about depth.

While I'm a big David Thomas and Billy Miller fan, the Saints could do worse than adding a young tight end prospect to push those guys.

We've seen that Sean Payton is willing to use three, and sometimes even four tight ends, in his game plan.

As with many other positions, there are a couple different kinds of tight ends.

There are pass-catching tight ends—a la Jeremy Shockey. There are blocking tight ends like new Bear Brandon Manaumauleuna. And there are versatile tight ends, sometimes also referred to as H-Backs. That's the role David Thomas ended up filling for the Saints' offense this past season.

Thomas could move back to the blocking tight end role he occupied before the Heath Evans injury, but could remain as an H-Back if the Saints are able to find a blocking tight end in the draft.

My preference would be an H-Back type. And so my list is going to look at those type of players.

Players of Interest at TE: Dorin Dickerson (Pittsburgh), Aaron Hernandez (Florida), Andrew Quarless (Penn State), Colin Peek (Alabama), Ed Dickson (Oregon), and Dennis Pita (BYU).

3. Outside Linebacker

Most would have put OLB before TE. My reasoning is that the Saints have the remedy for the position amidst a group that includes Jo-Lonn Dunbar, Stanley Arnoux, Jonathan Casillas, Troy Evans, and Anthony Waters.

That being said, competition is a good thing.

But there is also the small possibility that a player such as Sean Weatherspoon falls to 32. If he does, I would be all over him. Otherwise, I would wait until later in the draft and try out a lesser-known player to compete with those above.

Players of Interest at OLB: Sean Weatherspoon (Missouri), Daryl Washington (TCU), Rene Curran (Georgia), Stevenson Sylvester (Utah), and Rico McCoy (Tennessee).

4. Safety

I am under the assumption that Darren Sharper will return to the Saints' secondary this year, along with Roman Harper.

Regardless, adding youth to that position would be a good thing at this point in time so that Sharper can rub off on some youngster. The Saints can also determine if moving Malcolm Jenkins to safety is necessary.

And I'm not forgetting about last year's fourth-round pick, Chip Vaughn. I like competition, and I feel adding a safety, later in the draft, would be an effective way to do that.

Players of Interest at Safety: Robert Vaughn (Connecticut)—Quick aside: Some scouting services have Vaughn rated low. Personally I love the kid and can't see him getting out of the third round. If I'm wrong and he lasts until day three, he's a must-pick. That would be confusing to have two young free safeties with last names of Vaughn.

Also:  Van Eskridge (East Carolina), Darrell Stuckey (Kansas), Barry Church (Toledo), and Justin Woodall (Alabama).  

5. Defensive Tackle

Perhaps I should have placed this ahead of safety and tight end. I did not because I heard an argument recently that I really liked.

It was that the four components a winning football team must have are: a good quarterback, someone to protect that quarterback, someone who can pressure the other team's quarterback, and someone who can cover receivers to make sure that quarterback doesn't look good.

The overriding point is that we live in a football world where the proverbial battle of the trenches is not the war that personnel people must win to create a successful team.

It is now the skill positions, or as our freshman football team called them, so as to not offend anyone—speed .

Players of Interest at DT: Brian Price (UCLA), Arthur Jones (Syracuse), Boo Robinson (Wake Forest—remember the Saints took two Demon Deacons last draft...seriously, this is a very real possibility), and Malcolm Sheppard (Arkansas).

6. Quarterback

Yes, I know, the Saints have the best QB in the game. And yes, they have Chase Daniel as a project. And if they really want to, they could bring back Mark Brunell to back Drew up this season in an emergency.

Believe me, I'm a big Chase Daniel fan. But honestly, if we could get a true future franchise QB, we should do it.

The fact that one could be found in the sixth round is amazing. There are a few scouts all over this, but some are very late to the dance, or have yet to arrive.

The name is Jonathan Crompton. He was the Tennessee QB this past fall. He was not invited to the Combine. Was Tom Brady invited to the combine? Beyond the point, but there are a lot of things to like about him.

He seems to be a late bloomer. He played in a pro-style offense under Traitor Lane . His accuracy percentage in seven games was .1 percent lower than supposed top QB Sam Bradford, who is going to be a bust for the St. Louis Rams.

He played in a conference where teams actually try to play defense. He showed command of the offense late in the season (it was his first season in the offense).

I'm giving him a third-round grade.

The upside is wonderful, and if he doesn't make it...oh well, you used a sixth-round pick on a guy who wasn't supposed to make it anyway. That's what sixth rounders are for.

Oops...count that as a preview for the ideal pick-six column to come shortly.

Until then, Geaux Saints!


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.