All New Orleans Saints fans across the country sat in anticipation as their beloved Saints were on the clock with the 15th overall pick in the NFL Draft on Thursday, April 25, 2013. Everybody knows how horrendous the Saints defense was last season under the tutelage of Steve Spagnuolo, and how any defensive picks in this years’ draft would be an upgrade.
With that being said, Sean Payton stated that developing an effective pass-rush is one of the things that keeps him up at night.
So, the Saints were on the clock, staring at Kenny Vaccarro and Jarvis Jones, who were still lurking on the board. Obviously, Jones would be the logical choice, seeing that Payton and Rob Ryan wanted to put more pressure on the quarterback.
The pick is in. “The New Orleans Saints select…Kenny Vaccaro, safety, Texas!”
Oh, what a surprise! It was a good pick, but are we sure it was the right pick?
The Pittsburgh Steelers ended up taking Jones two picks behind the Saints. Last season for Georgia, Jones had 52 solo tackles, 24.5 tackles for a loss, 14.5 sacks, one interception, three passes defensed, and seven forced fumbles.
He was the 2012 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American in 2012 and 2011. According to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, “Jones is a Pro-Bowl talent whose impact in the NFL will be immediate.” The Saints need immediate impact on that defense, so why did they pass on him?
Well for one, there are concerns about his long-term durability after being diagnosed with spinal stenosis, the same ailment that ended the careers of prominent NFL players. In addition, he suffered a neck injury his freshman year at USC which caused him to miss the last five games.
He has an nice frame, but NFL experts believe he “lacks an ideal frame to get much bigger and doesn’t have the growth potential or the bulk teams want at the position.” He relies a lot on speed and only has a select few pass rush moves.
The Saints have potential players that can create that Dome Patrol that all Saints fans talk about, but none of them are proven. Maybe Ryan has seen something in the current pass-rushers, like Junior Galette, Martez Wilson and Victor Butler, that caused him to pass on Jones to pick Vaccaro.
I can’t get pass the fact that Jones led the nation in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles. The Saints desperately needed somebody dynamic like Jones who can play the run and does a solid job in coverage. Without an effective pass rush, your secondary is left on an island, and Ryan likes to put his secondary in man-to-man coverage. The Saints don’t need a remake of last season.
In the end, I still say that picking Jones would’ve been the better choice. Even after suffering a neck injury and being diagnosed with spinal stenosis, he was still very effective. Although their are questions about his limited length and growth potential, his production speaks for himself.
Jones has a better season than Vaccaro, but we will see how that turns out once the season starts.