Three Prospects The New Orleans Saints Could Look At In The NFL Draft

The 2012 NFL Draft will begin on Thursday, April 26 2012, and end on Saturday, April 28, 2012 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

The New Orleans Saints will have a total of five picks in this years draft, their first selection coming with the 26th pick in the third round, 89th overall. They will also make selections in the fourth round with the 27th pick (122nd overall), the fifth round with the 27th selection (162nd overall), sixth round with the ninth selection (179th overall), and finally the 27th selection in the seventh round, the 234th overall selection in the draft.

It’s widely known that the Saints defense is in some trouble with the possibility of suspensions of middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma, defensive end Will Smith, and safety Roman Harper.

Defense will likely be the major focus in this years draft due to those issues. Not to mention, Steve Spagnuolo, the new defensive coordinator for the Saints would like to have a say in reeling in some new talent for his defensive scheme he’ll implement this season.

During the offseason the Saints managed to sign three linebackers.  Curtis Lofton from the Atlanta Falcons, Chris Chamberlain from the St. Louis Rams, and David Hawthorne from the Seattle Seahawks. It’s unlikely that the Saints will draft any linebackers this year.

However, there are a couple positions where I believe the Saints may want to look.

First off, defensive tackle. New Orleans have been unable to generate any type of pressure from their front four in the past couple years, mainly relying on former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams‘ blitz packages to get in the backfield and apply pressure.

This offseason they added Brodrick Bunkley. Bunkley, who was previously with the Denver Broncos, signed a five-year, $25 million dollar contract, with $9 million guaranteed.

Bunkley, who’s 28 years old,  had perhaps the best season of his six-year career last year with 43 tackles. He added another six tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in the playoffs. He’s 6-foot-2, 306-pounds and was considered by many analysts as the best run-stuffing tackle available.

However, even with his addition, the Saints may still draft a defensive tackle since they’re a starter short with Aubrayo Franklin and Shaun Rogers both free agents this offseason.

The Saints may also look at drafting a safety. New Orleans already has Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper, along with Jonathon Amaya and Isa Abdul-Quddus.

Both Amaya and Abdul-Quddus showed potential during their limited play last season, but you can often find good safeties in the draft who may be better fits for Spagnuolo’s defense. Should Roman Harper get suspended, it’s really sketchy in my eyes if either of these two would be able to handle the workload.

By drafting a safety, it also gives you flexibility with Harper by allowing him to come off the field on third downs or slide him down to weak-side linebacker on passing situations where he may be more effective due to his tackling ability.

Here’s three potential draft picks the Saints may glance at according to my friend Emory at FootballGameplan.com that he believes will fit the Saints defense, scouting reports are provided from Drafttek.com.

Markelle Martin, safety, Oklahoma State

  • Height: 6’1
  • Weight: 207 lbs.
  • Position: Free Safety
  • Position Rank: 1
  • Overall Rank: 55

Markelle Martin is the top free safety in a weak class. He has had tremendous production in college with pass break-ups and forced turnovers, even against tough opponents such as Stanford. He understands offensive formations and reads players very well due to his high field I.Q.

His size makes him favorable against tight ends, allowing him to remain physical and not be beat out due to being out-matched. He uses the sidelines as his friends, closes gaps quickly, and is a hard-hitting tackler. He resembles Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed in that perspective.

Strengths:

  • Great size and athleticism
  • Above average speed with great range
  • Big hitter
  • Plays huge in big games
  • Solid overall production
  • Great instincts, reads the QBs eyes well
  • True centerfielder, shows well in zone coverage
  • Great closing speed
  • Very intelligent on and off the field
  • Hard worker

Weaknesses:

  • Stiff hips, high backpedal
  • Not ideally suited for man coverage
  • Takes poor angles at times
  • Often times gives up big plays while trying to make the big hit
  • Poor hands
  • Needs to learn to wrap up more consistently

 

Martin has some noticeable flaws but all of them are correctable with good coaching, but he has the skill-set to be an NFL starter. He excelled on special teams as a freshman, and is best suited to play the deep zone in a cover 2 or cover 3 look.

Brandon Thompson, defensive tackle, Clemson

  • Height: 6’2
  • Weight: 314 lbs.
  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • Position Rank: 8
  • Overall Rank: 67

Brandon Thompson can play in either the 4-3 as a defensive tackle or in the 3-4 as a defense end. His scouting report reads that he’s probably better suited to play in a 4-3 scheme  in the NFL where he can penetrate and cause havoc in the backfield.

Thompson uses his hands incredibly well and has the strength and initial quickness to overwhelm most guards and centers. He has the potential to dominate games.

The only knock on the Clemson product is, he’s not a dynamic pass rusher, although he can flush the QB out of the pocket on occasions. Thompson has a great motor and will play until the whistle. He doesn’t wear down easily. The senior lacks the dominant strength to win many double-team match-ups; typically more of a space-eater than a play-maker. He’s a player that will impact the game but will not have great stats.

Thompson lacks the elite measurable of a top prospect at his position, but has the skills necessary to be a starter at the next level. He s an intelligent player, on and off the field, and has a reputation as a hard worker.

Strengths:

  • Great run-stuffer
  • Versatile
  • Powerful frame
  • Draws alot of double teams

Weaknesses

  • Not a dominate pass rusher
  • Doesn’t bat down a lot of balls

Billy Winn, defensive tackle/defensive end, Boise State

  • Height: 6’4
  • Weight: 294 lbs.
  • Position: 3-4 defensive end
  • Position Rank: 17
  • Overall Rank 254

Winn is a very solid defensive end prospect that possesses a good combination of size and strength. He is featured at several different positions at Boise State but he is at his best when shooting the gap and being disruptive. He’s probably better suited as a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive end at the next level. He has shown a nice burst off the line and he’s always in pursuit of the ball.

On the downside, he looks to lack the endurance needed to go hard every down that’s evident from the number of series he’s out of the game but while he’s on the field he goes 100%. Winn has performed very well against top competition.

Worst case scenario he’ll be a very good rotational guy in the NFL. Best case, he’ll anchor the edge of a defense and offer some pass rush ability. Either way, he’s a promising prospect.

Strengths:

  • Good motor
  • Scheme versatility
  • Good penetrator

Weaknesses:

  • Gets winded easy
  • Needs a better repertoire of pass moves
  • Not an elite pass rusher

I also believe that the New Orleans Saints may look into drafting a cornerback to sit behind Jabari Greer, Patrick Robinson, and Johnny Patrick.

They lack depth in that position after losing Leigh Torrence and Tracy Porter due to free agency. Should the Saints draft a safety, they have the ability to move safety Malcolm Jenkins to the cornerback position if needed.

The Saints could also look for another tight end at some point in the draft. You can view a few of the prospects they may be interested in here, within a piece written by Alejandro Aviles. They may need to look for another blocking tight end due to the frequent injuries of David Thomas.

Last, it isn’t out of the question for the Saints to look for a back-up offensive tackle in the late rounds of the draft just to have an extra body in case of injuries.

 


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