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New Orleans Saints mailbag: A sneak peek at the Saints' options in the NFL Draft

this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; New Orleans Saints mailbag: A sneak peek at the Saints' options in the NFL Draft By Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune Welcome back to this week's first installment of the New Orleans Saints mailbag. Today's mailbag focuses on questions concerning the ...

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Old 03-03-2010, 11:21 PM   #1
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New Orleans Saints mailbag: A sneak peek at the Saints' options in the NFL Draft

New Orleans Saints mailbag: A sneak peek at the Saints' options in the NFL Draft
By Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune

Welcome back to this week's first installment of the New Orleans Saints mailbag. Today's mailbag focuses on questions concerning the NFL draft. I'll address free agency questions on Thursday and Friday as the Saints prepare to enter the market.
Here's today's Q&A:
Eliot Kamenitz/The Times-Picayune
Folks are still wanting the New Orleans Saints to replace Scott Shanle.
Q: Many draft analysts have us taking a defensive tackle in the first round, but I think we should go after a game changing outside linebacker to replace Scott Shanle. Shanle had a decent year, but he can not cover speedy tight ends or get after the quarterback consistently. I think we should draft Sean Weatherspoon out of Missouri in the first round, who has the speed to drop back in coverage or blitz from the outside, then we can draft a defensive tackle later in the draft to shore up our run defense. Your thoughts, please? Aaron Motwani, New Orleans.
A: First of all, Aaron, the draft is still two months away. Anything you read today will change several times before the end of April. These mock drafts are nothing more than idle speculation. Trust me, no one, including the Saints, knows who will be available at No. 32 right now. As far as the draft is concerned, my opinion hasn't changed.
If the Saints can find a defensive end with pass-rush skills at No. 32 then I think they have to take him. I can't argue with your draft strategy but Weatherspoon's strong performance at the NFL Scouting Combine might have elevated his stock into the mid- to late first round, ahead of where the Saints will select.
Some scouts think he'll be the third linebacker selected after Rolando McClain and Ricky Sapp. His Pro Day is Thursday so we should know more about his draft stock after that. By taking Weatherspoon in Round 1, you're neglecting the Saints' most pressing need, which is pass rush ability off the edge. The Saints need someone who can get after the quarterback in their front seven and I'm not sure Weatherspoon fits the bill.
The Saints need help at defensive end. Injuries have limited the production of Charles Grant and Bobby McCray. Grant's future is uncertain. He faces a possible suspension for violating the league's drug policy and also has a pending court case in Georgia. The Saints can't be certain of McCray's health so it makes sense to find some insurance and depth at the position. Besides, you can never have enough guys to get after the quarterback.
I could see the Saints going after a defensive end or even one of those hybrid outside linebacker-end types to work as a rush specialist in passing situations. Speed off the edge has been a glaring weakness in recent years. And I would disagree with you about Scott Shanle. He's a very solid player who excels in pass coverage. You're not going to find many linebackers in the draft who can cover tight ends like Dallas Clark and Visanthe Shiancoe in the open field. Pass coverage is one of the most difficult adjustments college linebackers have to make to the pros. I don't think you'll see someone come into the league that can match Shanle in this area.
Q: Jeff, for Pick No. 32, what position (DT, LB, DE) in the draft offers the best talent that the Saint's need? Don't you thing we can get a great deal on a secondary player at the end of the second round? Who would you see slipping to that spot? Erik T. Lang, Hattiesburg, Miss.
A: It looks like the Saints could address their needs for help along the defensive line with their first-round selection. As many as 11 defensive linemen are carrying first-round grades. The Saints really have no needs on offense other than possibly depth along the interior line. Otherwise, they are free to dedicate resources to their defense, which could use a playmaker in the front seven. The Saints do not need secondary help. They are overloaded with talent at safety and cornerback. I could see them using a mid-round pick on a cornerback to provide depth behind the top three of Greer, Porter and Jenkins but the club has more pressing needs at other spots right now.
Q: How many draft picks do we have this year, and what spots do we draft in? Also, I saw we just signed a fullback. I thought we couldn't sign any free agents until we lose one? Does that rule only count after March 1? Cody Jones, Ft. Smith, Ark.
A: Cody, the Saints have a pick in each round of the draft except the fifth round, which was traded to the Eagles last year for Philadelphia's fifth-round pick. The Saints used the pick to select punter Thomas Morstead. So, if you're counting, that's six picks. The official draft order will not be determined until next month, when the league announces compensatory picks at the annual league meetings March 21-24 in Orlando. And you are correct about the free agency rules. The conditions do not affect the 2009 league year. The 2010 league year begins March 5 with the start of free agency.
Q: To me it's obvious the Saints' three biggest needs are outside linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle. I was wondering what positions we will go after in the draft and if we will even attempt at free agency? Mark Hawley, Covington, La.
A: Mark, I agree with your assessment of the Saints' need. It's still a bit early to identify needs, though, because we still need to get through free agency. For example, if Darren Sharper and/or Scott Fujita sign elsewhere it dramatically alters the shape of the Saints' draft needs. And who knows what kind of role the Saints will have in free agency. They will be limited by the conditions of the uncapped year but could target a player for a trade if they see someone in the restricted market they value.
Q: Jeff, how do the guys from last year's draft that ended the season on IR affect this year's draft? Ray, Dallas.
A: Ray, it's hard to say how those players will affect this year's draft. The Saints can't really count on either Chip Vaughn or Stanley Arnoux until they see them on the field in conditioning drills this spring. Until then, they are total wild cards. Still, the club invested a pair of draft picks in both players and those are valuable commodities. I would think they want to give both players a long look during the offseason conditioning drills to see where they are at with their rehabs. Vaughn's status is particularly interesting because he adds to a crowded safety position that currently includes Roman Harper, Chris Reis and Usama Young. Unrestricted free agents Darren Sharper and Pierson Prioleau are also possibilities, as is cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who some NFL scouts believe can be a Pro Bowler at free safety. The club obviously has a lot of options at the position so I really don't see them drafting a safety this season


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