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pakowitz 05-14-2003 10:07 PM

TOMPKINS: Saints strayed from target needs in draft

Bob Tompkins / Staff Reporter/Columnist
Posted on May 14, 2003
The New Orleans Saints' draft has had a few weeks to settle in, but it isn't settling so easily.

The Saints went into the draft like a guy who heads to a seafood restaurant but changes his mind on the way, lured by an advertisement for steaks. Or like the kid who goes to the store to get bread and milk for his family and comes home with doughnuts and coffee.

Before the draft, the Saints identified middle linebacker, safety and cornerback as the positions where they had their top needs. Yet, on draft day, they selected two defensive linemen, two offensive linemen one outside linebacker and two wide receivers.

Naturally, the Saints claim to be tickled with their selections and have convinced some analysts they accomplished their "primary goal" by trading into the No. 6 spot in the first round to get tackle Johnathan Sullivan of Georgia, the No. 2-rated defensive lineman on their board.

This isn't to downgrade Sullivan at all, but what happened to the top need at middle linebacker or defensive back?

Oh, there will be others who help at those positions, we understand. The addition of Sullivan gives the Saints one of the more athletic defensive lines in the NFL with ends Charles Grant and Darren Howard. And, provisionally, Grady Jackson at the other tackle, if he trims down, gets in better shape and improves his attitude.

That reminds us that just last October the Saints were singing praises for their "Heavy Lunch Bunch" defensive line with Jackson (340 pounds), Norman Hand (330) and Martin Chase (320). Those guys, at the time, gave the Saints unrelenting pass pressure and a formidable wall to defend against the run.

Yet, that Lunch Bunch gave the Saints relenting pass pressure and a Wailing Wall to defend against the run during the second consecutive late-season fold for the team.

OK, so the temptation to grab an available prize at defensive line might've been too much to pass up.

Yet, what about middle linebacker? The Saints passed on a chance to select Bradie James of LSU at that position, apparently believing they were in decent shape there with Orlando Ruff, formerly of the San Diego Chargers. Ruff, picked up by the Saints in March, was beat out in San Diego last season by veteran Donnie Edwards.

With Charlie Clemons gone at middle linebacker and Sammy Knight gone at strong safety, the Saints needed some big-time players as replacements there to at least even the scales.

Now, they've got Ruff as the starting middle linebacker on the depth chart and second-year pro Mel Mitchell as the projected starter at strong safety. Mitchell is good and figures to become even better, but Knight was one of the premier strong safeties in the league. As such, he was too expensive for the Saints, too.

The Saints appear to be in fine shape at one cornerback with Dale Carter as the starter, but Ashley Ambrose as the other starter? It's a coin flip how that could develop.

The Saints did pick up free safety Tebucky Jones before the draft in a trade with New England, and Jones, formerly designated as a "franchise player" at New England, will help if he lives up to his billing.

Even after getting Jones, though, the Saints still considered cornerback one of their priority positions of need in the draft.

The Saints, by all accounts, drafted some talented players, but if the measure of success in a draft is filling one's needs, the Saints came up short.

subguy 05-15-2003 06:10 PM

TOMPKINS: Saints strayed from target needs in draft
I am glad someone wrote this article for me. Because that would have been way too much typing.

lumm0x 05-15-2003 07:14 PM

TOMPKINS: Saints strayed from target needs in draft
I agree Subguy. I\'ll defend our draft with a comment like, I like each player as a player, just not as value for us at the position drafted. I agree each player we drafted has the ability to produce for us, but not at a need area and we haven\'t addressed those areas pre-draft or post-draft. I am hoping June 1st will be a welcome suprise.

rodjmaw 05-15-2003 10:09 PM

TOMPKINS: Saints strayed from target needs in draft
That is how I exactly feel. Why did they pass up on Rashean Mathis for \"Stinchcomb\"? Why did they pass on Bradie James? I like Cie Grant and Holland but I wouldv\'e pass on one of them for Bradie James. I rated this draft a C+.

my dream draft:
1. Jonathon Sullivan
2. Rashean Mathis :casstet:
3. Montrae Holland
4. Bradie James :casstet:
5, 6, 7 can stay the same

Cie just might make me forget bout \"bradie james\" but Stinchcomb I can\'t help to feel was a wasted pick. I wouldv\'e considered this draft a A+ if they pick Rashean Mathis

billybignuts 05-16-2003 12:54 PM

TOMPKINS: Saints strayed from target needs in draft
I put alot of faith in the Saints scouting team, over the last few years they have brought in some very talented players. They obviously saw something in Stichcomb that most \"experts\" didn\'t. As far as drafting a cornerback goes, if Carter, Ambrose, and Thomas play half as well as they have in the past, you will easily forget all the talk about going up to get Newman or Woolfolk. With the addition of Tebuck Jones and a hard hitter like Ruff to step up and stop the run, the Saint\'s defense will greatly improved.

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