COLUMN: New Orleans Saints draft needs

Nicholas Ducote

saints 2016 Draft
New Orleans Saints 2016 Draft

When looking back at the 2015 New Orleans Saints season, lots of words come to mind. Depressing, daunting, and demoralizing are a few.

Prior to the start of the season, everything looked promising for the Saints. They had great choices in the draft, and they also signed several good free agents. So what went wrong? In this year’s draft they look to figure it out, and it starts sadly again with the defense.

New Orleans was almost dead last again in defense this season. According to ESPN, the Saints were ranked 31st out of 32 teams in total defense. They didn’t create enough of a pass rush, and they were also atrocious in pass defense. Embattled free agent cornerback Brandon Browner looked as if he wanted to fight people rather than actually play football. It was confusing. So with all of that, who do the Saints need to get back to their winning ways?

The Saints are in dire need for a fresh pass rusher, and that begins with the defensive end. Shaq Lawson, defensive end from Clemson, would be a smart pick to go with for their first choice. He had 12 sacks and 25 tackles for a loss. If not him, then Noah Spence from Eastern Kentucky would be the next best prospect. Spence was dismissed from Ohio State earlier this year but has cleaned up his act since then. He notched 11 sacks and 22 tackles for a loss. Both players are known for their motor, and both were great at putting pressure on the quarterback and opposing offenses this season.

The next position the Saints need to address is their receivers. Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead were great this season, but Drew Brees needs an x-receiver, someone to truly challenge for the ball down the field. At one time, Marques Colston was the prototype for the perfect x-receiver for that offense. They definitely need to draft a wide out with that body type, and if not, then someone who has a knack for getting separation from another team’s best corner.

Wide receiver Michael Thomas from Ohio State is the “most complete receiver in the draft,” as one scout put it. He had over nine touchdowns and is listed at over six feet tall. He would be a great option at the X-slot for the Saints offense, and can challenge defenders down the field for long pass plays. Another player that burst onto the college football scene was Baylor receiver Corey Coleman. He was one of the hardest players to defend against in college; raking in 20 touchdowns and 1,363 yards. His ability to get separation from defenders is what he made much of his college career on. At 5’10”, Coleman would be a great deep threat, but he will get picked on by ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay for not being over six feet tall come draft night.

Cornerback is another position they need to look to upgrade. Keenan Lewis will hopefully be ready for this season by August, and Delvin Breaux blossomed in his absence. The departure of Brandon Browner also gives the black and gold even more of a need for talent in pass defense. Truly talented cornerbacks to look for in the later rounds of the draft will be a challenge.

Georgia Tech’s cornerback D.J. White and Virginia’s Maurice Canady are definitely sleeper picks. Canady has the look of an NFL corner already with his physique and frame. He also has excelled in pass coverage this season, which is sorely needed in New Orleans. He also is a great physical presence on the field, and doesn’t shy away from putting his hands on opposing receivers. D.J. White is probably the most athletically talented corner in the draft that no one is talking about. He did better in pass coverage than what opposing offensive coordinators expected, and he can mirror receivers well. He has fluid hips and great awareness of where the ball and receiver is going. He also is a great tackler and doesn’t shy from ripping the ball away. Both can be great pickups for the Saints in the third or fourth round.

The last position the Saints should address is the offensive guard. The offensive line has gotten younger every year, and the guard position is fairly young, with two players who’ve only been in the league for four years. I feel that the Saints need to add more talent to the interior line. Max Unger is one of the best centers in football, but he needs more talent next to his shoulder.

The best later round guard is North Carolina’s Landon Turner. He has the makings of a perfect interior lineman. He has immense lower body and core strength. He has been an anchor for the Tar Heels when it comes down to “winning in the trenches.” Turner can be a starter from day one, if the Saints pick him up in the fourth or fifth round. Another prospective guard to keep an eye on is San Diego State’s Darrell Greene. He is one of the quickest lineman in the draft and has great upper body strength. He also has great push and has great agility to block while running the ball.

the formula. If the Saint’s want to get back to the playoffs and beat the Panthers and the Buccaneers, then they’re going to have to draft a defensive lineman
first, then receiver, cornerback, and lastly boost the guard position. This
formula can make them winners quick, but now comes the real test. Actually
picking the right guys.