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Saints sitting pretty

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; The much-anticipated mayoral election in New Orleans last weekend could pale in comparison to the campaigning and mudslinging that will occur leading up to Saturday's NFL Draft. The race for the No. 1 overall pick supposedly has been conceded for ...

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Old 04-26-2006, 08:21 AM   #1
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Saints sitting pretty

The much-anticipated mayoral election in New Orleans last weekend could pale in comparison to the campaigning and mudslinging that will occur leading up to Saturday's NFL Draft.

The race for the No. 1 overall pick supposedly has been conceded for months, with USC running back Reggie Bush being touted as the top athlete in the draft.

But not even Bush's agent can say with certainty whether Bush will go to the Houston Texans, with the late surge from North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams.

"Reggie is clearly the best player in the draft," his agent Joel Segal said in Newsday. "My gut feeling is Reggie is the first pick. Where he goes, I don't know."

With all the uncertainty, the New Orleans Saints could hold the swing vote as to where the rest of this year's candidates fall.

No matter if the Saints hold on the No. 2 pick or not, those upper-echelon athletes have visited the Saints practice facility and made their pitches as to why they should be selected by the Saints.

At least six players are qualified applicants for the office. The Saints could plug Williams, Virginia offensive tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson or Ohio State linebacker A.J. Hawk into the starting lineup immediately.

Despite the signing of quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints can't ignore the abilities of USC's Matt Leinart and Texas' Vince Young.

If Bush falls into the Saints' hands, it would be extremely difficult to pass on the 2005 Heisman Trophy winner.

Convincing the Saints, though, is the players' job. And all the players are shaking hands and saying all the right things to state their cases.

Scouts across the league have been clamoring over Williams, comparing him to the Carolina Panthers' Julius Peppers, while some are going as far as Hall of Famer Lawrence Taylor.

"I believe, especially now, defensive end is a premium position," Williams told NFL.com. "It's rare to find someone that is a true defensive end that could actually get after the quarterback and make plays. I believe defensive end is rated right below quarterback."

The Wolfpack star ran a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine while weighing 295 pounds.

The Saints already have Charles Grant and Will Smith and their two defensive ends. Both were also former first-round picks.

Williams has said he is open to a move to linebacker, which is another position of need for the Saints.

"Anything I need to do," Williams said. "If I need to lose weight, I'll do that. I would love to play outside linebacker."

If it is Williams that the Saints covet, they have to play the wait-and-see game. The newly stirred controversy involving Bush and his parents renting a $750,000 home in San Diego have brought up possible red flags for the Texans.

Bush's signability is another concern for the Texans, which might allow him to fall into the Saints' lap.

Protecting Brees, especially following an offseason where the Purdue product rehabbed a surgically repaired shoulder, is a top priority. Drafting Ferguson would fill the vacant right tackle slot with the trade of Wayne Gandy, and 2005 No. 1 pick Jamaal Brown shifting to left tackle.

Ferguson has kept his slogan short and to the point.

"I'm a beast," Ferguson said.

He's not kidding. The four-year starter stands 6-foot-6, 305 pounds, and uses his quick hands and feet to slow down defenders.

"They don't get more impressive than him," said Buffalo Bills assistant general manager Tom Modrak. "A big character guy who has got a lot of talent. There isn't a team in the league that couldn't use a player like him."

Many draft experts have the Saints selecting either Williams or Ferguson and letting the skill players fall.

But it wasn't too long ago that the entire world predicted the Saints would take Leinart. Brees' signing has all but silenced any discussions of the 2004 Heisman Trophy winner landing in the Crescent City.

Don't expect Leinart to slow down his self-promotion in his run for No. 1 or No. 2.

"I've been a winner my whole career, lost two games, both games by six points," he told the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times. "That's the most important thing is, I just win, kind of like a Tom Brady type."

Hawk continues to be on many clubs' radar as a top five or six pick.

"(Linebacker) is a position where a lot of times they say they don't want to draft people too high because they think, 'How much impact can a linebacker have?"' Hawk told the Toledo (Ohio) Blade.

"Guys like Shawne Merriman and Lofa Tatupu had huge years. I think the linebacker position, with all the defenses they're playing and with the offenses you have to face, you have to be able to do a little bit of everything."

The former Buckeye star could end up with the Saints if the team decides to trade down.

"My main strengths are leadership, game management - what I've done in games the last three years," said Leinart in the St. Petersburg Times

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