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Five DEs/OLBs New Orleans Saints must watch at NFL Combine

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Five DEs/OLBs the Saints should target at 2013 NFL Combine

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Following their season-crushing “BountyGate” scandal, the New Orleans Saints struggled in 2012 to look anything like the team that had won the Super Bowl only two years earlier. Their head coach spent the entire year away from the team, some of their defensive leaders were kept away from the field, and the team was all together out of sorts.

With the 2012 campaign behind them and the 2013 season on the horizon, the Saints must start anew. Head coach Sean Payton is back in the fold and the roster will slowly begin to take shape as the team transitions to a 3-4 defense. With new defensive coordinator Rex Ryan at the helm, there’s going to be a lot of moving pieces this offseason as the right personnel are put into place.

While there are numerous positions on the defensive side of the ball that need an upgrade, two spots that will certainly require some new talent are defensive end and outside linebacker. Seeing as the majority of the leftover talent is fit for a 4-3 defense, a facelift will be needed to make sure that the Saints don’t go into 2013 with the wrong people in the wrong places.

One way for the Saints to get the right personnel in place is the 2013 NFL Draft. Before the late-April occasion arrives, though, New Orleans will have the opportunity to scout out some of this year’s premier talent at the 2013 NFL Combine.

With that in mind, here’s a look at five defensive ends/outside linebackers who could be options for the Saints when they’re on the clock for the first time at No. 15 overall.

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Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, LSU

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Mingo might be a boom-or-bust prospect, but the Saints could surely use a boom at this point in the franchise’s history. The LSU rush specialist is a physical freak who uses his athleticism and length to make plays in big ways. There’s a lot of risk in taking a player like Mingo, but if he can unleash his potential as a pass rusher, the sky is the limit. If the Saints did draft Mingo, though, he would likely have to stand up and make the transition to the outside linebacker position.

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Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU

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Although a better fit as a 4-3 defensive end, Ansah has an exciting array of athletic abilities that make him hard to ignore, regardless of defensive scheme. While the BYU product still has plenty to learn about the game of football, he brings an electric aspect to the defensive side of the ball and has the potential to be a Jason Pierre-Paul type of player once he develops. If the Saints can find a role for him, Ansah would be well worth their first-round pick.

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Datone Jones, Defensive End, UCLA

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The best 3-4 defensive end fit of the bunch, Jones would bring a strong, physical presence to the Saints defensive line that they haven’t seen in recent years. While Jones might be a bit of a reach at No. 15, he’s a tremendous fit for the New Orleans defense and still has plenty of potential to be discovered. If he can have a good outing at the NFL Combine, there’s a chance that Jones could hear his name called in the middle of the first round when April rolls around.

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Dion Jordan, Defensive End/Outside Linebacker, Oregon

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Considering the way he was used with the Ducks, Jordan has the experience and athleticism to make a quick, seamless adjustment to the linebacker position in the NFL. He’s proven that he can contribute in coverage while showing a phenomenal ability to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Although Jordan has the overall talent to go in the Top 10, his injury history and lack of polish could see him slide down the board and into the middle of the first round.

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Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia

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While many consider Jones to be a Top 10 pick, there’s a good chance that health issues could force the Georgia outside linebacker to slide on draft day. If that’s the case, Jones could be a tremendous pick up for the Saints at No. 15. He’s a prolific pass rusher, something that the Saints have been severely lacking for some time, and is a proven playmaker. It’s not every day a talent like that falls into your lap at No. 15 overall.

Side note: Jones has opted out of workouts during the 2013 NFL Combine as of 2/21.

Gil Alcaraz IV is a Network Manager/NFL featured columnist for Follow him on Twitter @GilAlcarazIV, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.