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pakowitz 04-28-2003 02:01 PM

A passing grade for the Saints

Nick Deriso / Sports Editor
Posted on April 28, 2003
New Orleans held true to its stated goal of picking the best players available at each stage of this year's draft - and remained aggressive even into Day Two.

Give them a hand.

No, really, give Seattle a Hand. More on that later.

We sharpen our pencils for a final 2003 Draft report card:

n First round (No. 6): Tackle Johnathan Sullivan, Georgia. A.

The sagging defensive line was a pressing need. How pressing? The Saints were so fed up with Norman Hand, and hungry for more picks, that they traded the ballooning tackle to Seattle on Sunday for a sixth rounder.

New Orleans had been unable to move high enough to sign Dewayne Robertson. Sullivan was the second-best lineman on the board.

"We had one ranked a little higher than the other," Saints coach Jim Haslett says. "But they both can run. They're big guys that can move."

The trade worked on several levels. New Orleans was able to pick higher in the first and second rounds, got a fourth rounder - and got Grady Jackson on the phone.

Seems no one had been able to get in touch with him - until the Sullivan pick was announced.

Coach? Grady is on line one.

* Second round (No. 37): Offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb, Georgia. B-plus.

After losing both Willie Roaf and Kyle Turley, this is an outstanding pick. Stinchcomb can play all three offensive line positions.

* Third round (No. 86): Linebacker Cie Grant, Ohio State. B.

An immediate special-teams stud, something the team will need with the ascendancy of Mel Mitchell to full-time safety duty. Grant was last seen forcing Miami's Ken Dorsey into a wild pass that sealed the national championship for the Buckeyes.

* Fourth round (No. 102): Offensive guard Montrae Holland, Florida State. A.

The only reason not to take linebacker Bradie James - you didn't hear me hollering his name? - was a find of this magnitude. Holland is simply the best guard in this draft.

He was watching the proceedings at home, in Ore City, Texas, when the phone rang. It was New Orleans. "They said they would be excited to have me, if I was still available," Holland says. "They held up their word, and got me. I am excited."

This sets the team up to succeed when long-time center Jerry Fontenot retires (by moving Kendyl Jacox over there and putting Holland on the left) - and creates critical depth until he does. Great value.

One of his workout partners in preparing for the draft was Stinchcomb, by the way.

* Fifth round (No. 155): Defensive end Melvin Williams, Kansas State. C.

Considered a sleeper at defensive end, then he blew out his knee at the Holiday Bowl. Besides, this was the weakest of the positional needs that New Orleans had.

By this time, and only by this time, is it finally sinking in that the Saints are going to start Orlando Ruff. The Saints aren't looking for a middle linebacker; they're not even talking about a linebacker.

Note to self: Start liking Orlando Ruff.

* Sixth round (No. 203): Wide receiver Kareem Kelly, USC. C.

A track and field speedster who has never cared much for excelling in football. Until his senior year. Remains to be seen if this is a New Leaf or just a More Grief. I suppose, after trading it away to New England, the Saints should be happy to have sixth rounder at all. So long, Big Wiggle.

* Seventh round (No. 231): Wide receiver Talman Gardner, Florida State. B.

As my pop used to say: Neiman-Marcus body, dime-store head. A hometown favorite and certain high pick, this dope gets caught with dope ... and a loaded and concealed handgun ... in April - sending his draft chances tumbling to the fading light of Sunday afternoon.

At this price, which is to say almost nothing, getting this much talent was too hard to pass up.

Let's just hope they don't put Gardner next to Dale Carter on the bus seating chart.

iceshack149 04-29-2003 12:27 AM

A passing grade for the Saints
Good post, Pak. Gives me even more encouragement.

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