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tiggerpolice 04-18-2006 10:17 AM

For sale: No. 2 pick in draft for fair value
By the time draft day rolls around, the hot rumor will have the Saints trading all of their picks for Ricky Williams.

Oh, OK. Well, you know what I mean.

There's counter-intelligence to offset whatever passes for intelligence when it comes to the NFL draft, rumors conceived or fueled by franchises, can't-miss prospects poked so full of holes you wonder how they manage to stand and drink Gatorade at the same time.

All Saints fans need to do is keep picturing D'Brickashaw Ferguson in a Saints uniform, lining up at tackle, protecting Drew Brees' blind side from the left or shielding his chin from the right. And consider everything else subterfuge.

Hopefully, it's good, effective subterfuge, which will allow the Saints to move out of the No. 2 overall slot and still get Ferguson, the player they should want above all others in the draft. Because if the team slides down, we know it will have meant something positive -- optimally, the acquisition of more picks, which will allow them to fill holes.

Obviously, the Saints' front office already knows this. Having pored over more details than any of us care to consider with regard to draft-eligible prospects, the assumption is that scenario is among several it thoroughly has planned for and walked through to completion.

It just has to make sure someone, like the Titans at No. 3 or Jets at No. 4, takes the bait. It has to hope one -- probably, the Jets -- is so in love with Southern Cal quarterback Matt Leinart, and so convinced the Saints are willing to draft and retain him, that it'll be willing to take the plunge and move up, rather than wait to see if he falls to it.

It has to be the Jets because, like the Saints, the Titans might not have reason to desperately want Leinart. The Saints spent a ransom on free-agent signee Brees and the Titans, at No. 3, will get a top-notch quarterback, Leinart or Texas' Vince Young, simply by staying put.

That means the Jets, who have Chad Pennington and former Tulane star Patrick Ramsey at quarterback, probably will be the main player. Because they reportedly do love Leinart to that degree, and in spite of the presence of Pennington and Ramsey -- maybe even because of their presence -- need to make a splash.

Let 'em splash.

The Saints already have with Brees. He's young enough (27) and good enough (2004 Pro Bowl) to be around for a while, pending his health. And if the Saints didn't do their due diligence on Brees' surgically repaired shoulder before showing him the money, shame on them.

What the Saints need, obviously, is to make sure he is protected as well as he possibly can be.

True, they have enough holes to ensure whomever they pick, at No. 2 or No. 4 or wherever the pick is made, will fill a need. About the only potential luxury is defensive end Mario Williams, and if Charles Grant plays the same as he did last season, when he tumbled from the upper echelon of NFL defensive ends to the bottom third (62 tackles, a career-low 2 ½ sacks), then Williams won't be lagniappe; the Saints will need him.

But where the Saints are concerned, and all things being equal, Ferguson should stand above anyone not named Reggie Bush. And he'd be the most practical pick for the team, even if they have to remain where they are.

With the kind of money the Saints have spent on Brees, it only makes sense to provide proper ushers. If Jammal Brown, last year's first-rounder, is the tackle they believe he is, then to bookend him with Ferguson means the Saints might not have to worry about the tackle position for the next eight to 10 years. That'll allow them to address other needs during that time.

Of course, the rhetoric is going to fly fast and furious as the draft nears. No telling whom the Saints will be projected to pick before the day arrives.

No matter. Just keep picturing Ferguson at tackle, regardless of what is or isn't said, and consider the rest of it subterfuge.

Consider it the Saints looking for a buyer for what they're selling, and hope they can unload it.

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