After releasing a handful of veterans, the New Orleans Saints were looking to add some pass rushers to their roster by way of the 2014 NFL Draft. In hopes of doing so, the Black and Gold selected OLB Ronald Powell in the fifth round.
A product of the University of Florida, Powell was actually the Consensus No. 1 defensive end recruit heading into college. As a true freshman in 2010, he played in all 13 games with one start at strong-side linebacker. In 2012, he started 12 games as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker racking up 32 tackles (nine for a loss), six sacks and a forced fumble.
Powell sat out the 2012 season after tearing his left ACL twice. He started eight games in 2013 before suffering a sprained ankle, which caused him to miss the remainder of the season. He was invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but strained his hamstring while participating in the the 40-yard dash.
Powell’s health will be something to monitor, but his potential is endless. He will need to mature and step his game up in order to excel at the next level, but the Saints are outstanding at developing their players. Having played in the SEC, Powell certainly knows what tough football is. He is a well-sized athlete with a solid muscular frame. His athleticism helps him not only as a stand-up pass rusher, but also as a zone drop linebacker (something the Saints could really use in their front seven).
Powell is one of three rookies (Chidera Uzo-Diribe, Kasim Edebali) who will be in the mix for a backup role in Rob Ryan‘s defense. Keyunta Dawson, Rufus Johnson, Cheta Ozougwu and Kyle Knox will also be battling it out for a piece of the action. After a standout season in 2013, Junior Galette has his job tightly secured. Either Parys Haralson or Victor Butler (missed all of 2013) will be starting on the other side of Galette. After that, it’s up for grabs. Who will reign supreme?
The outside linebacker position will be one of the more heavily fought battles during the New Orleans Saints’ training camp. Powell has his work cut out for him, but now is the time to show the coaching staff what he is capable of accomplishing.