this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; More From The Times-Picayune | Subscribe To The Times-Picayune Bush alone gives Saints an A for draft Team also used trades to fill positional needs Monday, May 01, 2006 By Jimmy Smith Staff writer After what the Saints did with ...
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Bush alone gives Saints an A for draft
Team also used trades to fill positional needs
Monday, May 01, 2006
By Jimmy Smith
After what the Saints did with their first choice in the 2006 NFL draft, they could have subsequently picked Curly, Larry and Moe.
Nothing was going to tarnish the brilliant afterglow of having the top-rated player on virtually everyone's big board fall astoundingly from the first overall choice to the second.
The one previous time when the Saints were in this situation, 35 years ago picking second behind the New England Patriots, it was likely a toss-up as to which quarterback among the top two were rated higher: Jim Plunkett or Archie Manning.
Picking Manning, who grew up in neighboring Drew, Miss., was an easy choice, and no less a wise decision, like the one the Saints' brain trust made Saturday.
It's too early to tell whether the Houston Texans' selection of North Carolina State defensive end Mario Williams over Southern California running back Reggie Bush, who won the Heisman Trophy, will surpass one of the more bone-headed draft-day maneuvers in another sport -- when the Portland Trail Blazers picked Kentucky center Sam Bowie over North Carolina guard Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft.
Fate is unpredictable.
But the Saints' selection of Bush rates an A-plus. And any other draft-weekend decisions New Orleans would make Saturday and Sunday couldn't possibly pull the grade down below an A-minus.
The Saints came into the draft needing help on the offensive line, especially center and tackle, defensive backfield (primarily cornerback) and linebacker.
In subsequent moves via draft and trade, the Saints took steps to address those shortcomings, acquiring center Jeff Faine from the Cleveland Browns, who coincidentally signed former Saints center LeCharles Bentley to a free-agent contract earlier in the offseason, in a trade involving a swap of spots in the second round Saturday.
In a similar move in the fourth round Sunday, New Orleans got defensive tackle Hollis Thomas from the Philadelphia Eagles. The Saints hope Thomas, 32, can bolster the middle of the defensive line and shore up a rather porous run defense.
With the rest of their draft picks, the Saints seemed to see-saw between defense and offense.
After Bush, it was free safety Roman Harper of Alabama in Round 2, then bulky offensive tackle Jahri Evans (6 feet 4, 318 pounds) of Bloomsburg in the fourth. Defensive end/outside linebacker Rob Ninkovich of Purdue was taken in the fifth, wide receiver Mike Hass of Oregon State went with the first of two sixth-round choices, cornerback Josh Lay of Pitt with the second sixth-round pick and the massive offensive tackle Zach Strief (6-7, 335) of Northwestern was taken with the first of two seventh-round selections.
The pattern was broken with the final pick when the Saints went for Hofstra wide receiver Marques Colston, who at 6-5, 224, could bulk up enough to move to tight end, a position which is a favored target of quarterback Drew Brees. Brees had success with the San Diego Chargers going to tight end Antonio Gates (6-4, 260).
Once you get into the second day of the draft, pre-draft preparation becomes critical with each team attempting to uncover a hidden gem in the later rounds.
"On this second day, we wanted to get the best players we could, not disregarding positions, but getting the best player available," Saints director of player personnel Rick Mueller said. "We wanted to add some depth to position, and I think we did."
If you can believe any of the numerous player-rating services, the Saints might have found one of those hidden gems in Hass, who was rated by one group the 16th-best receiver in the draft. He might remind Saints fans of ex-LSU standout Eric Martin, a deceptively fast, sure-handed receiver who wouldn't be afraid to go over the middle.
Evans and Strief -- who some thought might go in the third or fourth round -- will give Saints coaches an opportunity to see if either can move Jon Stinchcomb out of the right tackle spot now that Jammal Brown has been moved to the left side.
Lay was rated as one of the better coverage defenders in college. He has long arms and can close on the football, but he will have to do some work on run support. Harper might have been a reach in the second round and will have to improve his man-to-man coverage skills.
"We had a lot of things we wanted to address," Mueller said. "I don't know if we addressed everything we wanted to address. The first pick, if you asked me a week ago, I probably would have said we'd address another need. I think we added some good players. I'm excited about our draft.
"But I think we addressed a lot of needs and got better. We've got good kids in the program who'll play smart and be tough guys. Whether we solved all (the needs), I don't want to lie to you and say we have. I think we addressed a lot of them."
But it all comes down to Bush.
If he can transition the electrifying brilliance he exhibited on Saturdays to Sundays and Monday nights, if he can live up to comparisons to Gale Sayers, and more important, maintain his health as Sayers could not, there could be an alcove waiting in Canton, Ohio.
. . . . . . .
Jimmy Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (504) 826-3814.
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