NFL New Orleans Saints

NFL Combine Provides New Orleans Saints New Targets For 2014 NFL Draft

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New Orleans Saints: NFL Combine Provides New Targets For 2014 NFL Draft

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The Saints got back to their winning ways last season, making the playoffs once again. However, improvements need to be made if they want to make another deep playoff run. Their defense was improved under the direction of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, but their front four and secondary still struggled at times throughout the season. In order to get sustained success from the defense to complement their high powered offense, the Saints need to grab defensive players early and often in the draft.

Offensive line was another problem for the Saints a season ago as they struggled to replace Jermon Bushrod, who signed with the Chicago Bears in the offseason. It isn't their biggest problem, but the Saints will need to add some depth up front in order to protect their Pro Bowl quarterback Drew Brees. With plenty of playmakers on the offense already, the Saints shouldn't have to take any in the draft. But Sean Payton likely feels like he can never have enough play makers, so you never know.

Everything in this draft will depend on what management deems most important. If they decide that help up front is more important, then that will consequently impact the first round and the rest of the draft for them. Should they decide it's the secondary that needs more work, then that will change the rest of the draft as well. It all has a trickle down effect and it starts with who they make their first-round pick. It will be an interesting decision because they have several directions they could go with it.

While the players may vary by round, expect the Saints to shore up both their offensive and defensive lines as well as their secondary. Whatever they decide to do past that, possibly in the later rounds, is anybody's guess. They may grab a player or two they also think could contribute on special teams. Regardless of the order in which they pick, if the Saints are able to get help on their offensive and defensive lines along with the secondary and in other more minor areas of need, they should be competing for a championship in 2014.

Jacob Kornhauser is a writer for "Like" him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or add him to your Google+ network.

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Round 1: DE Dee Ford, Auburn

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The Saints could really use a power rusher to generate some semblance of a pass rush up front. Ford could provide that as he's very athletic for his size and can fight in the trenches with anyone. How his lateral quickness is able to impact his defense against the run may ultimately determine how good he is, but he'd be a great value if he fell to the Saints in the first round.

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Round 2: DT Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame

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Tuitt is a big body run stopper who can also generate a decent pass rush. The Saints are in desperate need of help up front, and if they could grab Ford and Tuitt in the first two rounds, that problem would essentially be solved. Tuitt is a coveted talent, though, and the Saints may need to trade up in the second round in order to grab him.

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Round 3: CB Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

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With a championship pedigree and a killer instinct, Joyner would be a solid value for the Saints in round three. He's physical and should be able to get in the head of opposing receivers if he's able to run free and blow some plays up. While the Saints' defense was improved last season, a solid cover corner would be a great addition.

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Round 4: OT Joel Bitonio, Nevada

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The Saints' offensive line wasn't as solid as it usually is last season due largely to the loss of left tackle Jermon Bushrod. That loss hurt them, and they will have to address that in some capacity in the draft. Bitonio is a sleeper option out of Nevada as he has the size to start right away; he just may need to improve his athleticism. It's not often you can find a guy in the fourth round who has the possibility to start right away, so the Saints should consider it if he's there when they pick.

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Round 5: C Tyler Larsen, Utah State

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Along with another offensive tackle, the Saints need a center to provide offensive line depth and push for the starting job out of training camp. They don't need to spend a high pick on a center as later round picks at the position have a decent chance of succeeding as well. Larsen out of Utah State is a physical and big body who could fit well into the system. His aggressiveness projects that he may be able to slide out to a guard spot if needed, so that would give the Saints even more versatility on the offensive line.