New Orleans Saints' 2014 NFL Draft: Playmaker or Protection in Round 1?

By Andrew Schuster
new orleans saints nfl draft
John David Mercer- USA Today Sports

The 2014 NFL Draft will be kicking off in less than 24 hours, so let’s go ahead and weigh the New Orleans Saints‘ options for the first round. When Sean Payton and company are on the clock with the No. 27 overall pick, they will decide whether or not they want to start their selection process with a playmaker or protection for quarterback Drew Brees.

If New Orleans does decide to go playmaker in the first round, we’re likely looking at another target for Brees in the form of a pass rusher or cornerback.  The Saints are in need of depth at all three areas, so any of those scenarios would be a wise route to take.

Realistically speaking, two possible wideout targets at 27 could be Oregon State‘s Brandin Cooks or USC‘s Marqise Lee.  With Brees piloting the air game in New Orleans, both options could excel in that scheme.  Let me rephrase that.  As long as the Saints’ Pro Bowl quarterback is leading that high-powered offense, any receiver has the potential to shine in their unit.  Does that mean the Black and Gold should hold off on drafting a receiver until the later rounds?

What about Ohio State OLB Ryan Shazier or Auburn DE Dee Ford. Rob Ryan could indeed use another playmaker on defense for some added pressure to that already disruptive front seven.  However, this year’s draft runs deep with pass rushing talent.

Cornerbacks?  Ohio State’s Bradley Roby or TCU‘s Jason Verrett are both possible candidates at 27.  An opportunity to draft Nebraska‘s Stanley Jean-Baptiste or Florida State‘s Lamarcus Joyner (both with serious NFL potential) may present itself on day two of the draft.  New Orleans is looking for added depth at the corner position in case old-timer Champ Bailey goes down (or when he decides to call it quits).

Personally, I believe the Saints should pursue a CB in the first round.  My favorite prospect is Jason Verrett; he has the speed and man-to-man skills to go beyond expectations.  Verrett is undersized at 5-foot-9, but he plays much bigger than he actually is.  He recently said that smaller, Pro Bowl-caliber guys like Captain Munnerlyn, Tryann Mathieu and Brent Grimes motivate him to even more to make big plays.  His eagerness, determination and aggressive mindset would be a perfect fit in Rob Ryan‘s unit.

What about protecting the Saints’ most prized possession, Drew Brees?   New Orleans has recently expressed a deep interest in USC center Marcus Martin.  Yesterday, he was even invited to Radio City Music Hall to attend the selection process.  The news of the invitation came after the Black and Gold mentioned their admiration for the former Trojan.

Martin is the top-rated center in this year’s class, but is projected to go in the second round.  However, grabbing him at No. 27 overall makes perfect sense if protecting their Pro-Bowl quarterback is the team’s first concern.  A replacement for Brian de la Puente is a top priority this weekend.

At 6-foot-3, 320-pounds, Martin’s big-bodied thickness is ideal for the center spot.  He has the athleticism and experience to excel at the next level. USC’s team captain was a three-year starter, playing his first two seasons at the left guard position before making the switch to the middle in 2013. Martin anchors himself well in pass protection, which is critical for the Saints’ high-powered offense.

So, playmaker or protection in the first round? We will soon find out when the 2014 NFL Draft kicks off tomorrow night in New York City.

Andrew Schuster is a New Orleans Saints writer for Rant Sports. Follow him @ShootsMcGavin on Twitter and like him on Facebook.

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