New Orleans Saints look to stay on top with solid 2010 draft
The euphoria of winning the Super Bowl is still prevalent virtually anywhere you travel around the New Orleans Area. Whether it is in the city, Kenner, Metairie, the north shore, the river parishes, St. Bernard Parish or on the entire West Bank, Saints fever is still contagious.
With the banquet circuit, parades and endless interviews finally subsiding for players, coaches, ownership and front office personnel, the business of improving the roster for 2010 is well underway.
Gone are Scott Fujita, Charles Grant and Mike Bell. Each case was different. Fujita received a lucrative offer he could not refuse from Cleveland.
While he was not a star, Fujita was a solid player and had a huge presence in the community. The rangy linebacker saw his numbers decrease annually in New Orleans. In 2006, he had 96 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two interceptions. In 2007, he had 94 tackles and three sacks with no picks. In 2008, he had 80 tackles, no sacks and two interceptions. In 2009, he missed five regular season games with injuries, recording 60 tackles with one sack. He will be missed but he can be replaced.
Grant was simply too expensive for an average, descending player. He is entering his ninth season. Injuries have caused him to miss several games over the past three seasons. His last good season was in 2006, when he recorded 65 tackles and six sacks while recovering a pair of fumbles. His best season was in 2004, when he had 10.5 sacks, an interception, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble while recording a career-high 80 tackles.
Unlike Fujita and Grant, Bell was not a starter. In fact, by season’s end, he was the team’s fourth running back, behind Pierre Thomas, Reggie Bush and Lynell Hamilton.
Bell started the 2009 season quickly, rambling for143 yards on 28 carries in the season opener against Detroit. He rushed for 86 yards and a score in a week two win at Philadelphia. In week 11, he scored a pair of touchdowns at Tampa Bay but after that, he was not as productive and eventually disappeared from the rotation with Lynell Hamilton filling the void. It was a no-brainer for the Saints not to match the offer for Bell by Philadelphia.
Also released were reserve guard Jamar Nesbit and veteran linebacker Mark Simoneau, who was injured in 2009.
While Darren Sharper has complained about not feeling the love from the Saints after a brilliant 2009 season, New Orleans has approached his situation correctly. Sharper will turn 35 years old during the 2010 season. That is up in age for an NFL defensive back. He is entering his 14th season. Sharper was tremendous in the first half of the 2009 season before injuries slowed him in the second half of the season. He had seven of his nine interceptions and all three touchdowns in the first seven games of the season.
Still, his nine interceptions, including three returned for touchdowns, along with his big hits and leadership are still valuable commodities for the Saints. Based on a lack of attention from potential suitors, look for Sharper to swallow his pride and don the black and gold again in 2010. There are worse things than playing for a defending Super Bowl champion.
The NFL Draft is approaching, set for three days from April 22-24. The Saints have clear needs at defensive end, defensive tackle and at outside linebacker. Should Sharper depart, safety would be another possible area to explore.
New Orleans has nearly a full complement of picks, one in each of the seven rounds with the exception of the fifth round. The Saints surrendered that pick in the deal to get punter/kicker Thomas Morstead a year ago which proved to be an outstanding investment.
Other areas to watch include guard, where Jamar Nesbit is gone. New Orleans would like to add depth behind Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks. Keep an eye on running back as well. While Thomas and Bush were good in 2009, this is still a position where the Saints would take a flyer on a prospect in the middle rounds if the right player was available.
As for what the Saints will do with their first-round choice, the “best player possible” approach has proven to be a sound one. Obviously, you hope that the pick fills a need as well.
I have scoured the web and publications to see what folks are projecting the Saints to do with their first round selection, the 32nd overall.
Names that pop up frequently with the Saints at #32 include defensive lineman Jared Odrick of Penn State, defensive end Everson Griffen of USC, defensive end/outside linebacker Brandon Graham of Michigan, defensive end Jerry Hughes of TCU, defensive end Derrick Morgan of Georgia Tech, defensive tackle Brian Price of UCLA, outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon of Missouri, safety Taylor Mays of USC and tight end Aaron Hernandez of Florida.
Odrick is 6’5, 304 pounds. NewOrleans.Com/Sports draft analyst Al Dupuy, owner and purveyor of Draft Day Report, has the Saints taking Odrick in his latest mock draft. Some have Odrick going earlier. If he is there at 32, he would be a nice fit. Despite his size, he moves pretty well, clocked at under 5.0 in the 40. He was the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year this past season. He has big hands and can bull rush.
Griffen is 6’3, 278 pounds. He has good speed and pass rushing ability. He runs in the 4.65 range, very good speed for a defensive end. He is an excellent athlete who had eight sacks for the Trojans in 2009 and 18 in his career. He is forgoing his senior season at USC and would be a nice player to develop. He started at USC since his freshman season.
Graham is 6’2, 268 pounds, very big for an outside backer. He is more of a striker than a runner. Graham is a disruptive force. He had 29.5 sacks and 56 tackles for loss at Michigan.
Hughes had 26.5 sacks at TCU in his final two years with the Horned Frogs and was a mainstay on one of the nation’s best defenses.
Morgan is 6’4, 275 pounds. He had 12.5 sacks and 18 tackles-for-loss for the Yellow Jackets in 2009. He is an intelligent player who plays hard and never missed a game at Georgia Tech.
Price is 6’2, 300 pounds though he can easily play at 315-320 pounds. He has strong hands and is quick for his size. He is described as tough and plays very hard. He could be a bookend for Sedrick Ellis for years to come.
Weatherspoon is 6’1, 239 pounds and runs well. He has been clocked under 4.5 in the 40 on several occasions. His stock has been rising for the last few months. He is described as a natural leader with a strong personality.
Mays is a splendid athlete. He is huge at 6’3, 230 pounds and looks great, in or out of uniform. Despite his size, Mays runs extremely well. He covers lots of ground and is a big hitter. He is not a ball hawk, having recorded just one interception in his last two seasons at USC but get this—he has been timed consistently in the 4.43-4.45 range. For his size, that’s tremendous.
Hernandez is your prototype NFL receiving tight end. Forget about blocking. Hernandez is a pass-catcher. Hernandez is 6’2, 250 pounds. If he reminds me of anyone at the pro level, it would be Dallas Clark. He has good speed, good hands and understands coverage quite well. Some see him as an H-Back type. He is a good receiving tight end. He had 68 catches for 850 yards and five touchdowns for Florida this past season.
With an uncapped year in 2010, you can expect several trades to be made prior to the draft or during the draft. The Saints have quality depth at wide receiver and offensive tackle to dangle as bait, if they choose to do so.
Of all of the mock drafts out there, the name that shows up most frequently for the Saints with their 32nd pick is Griffen.
When assessing the 2010 NFL Draft, you can add a pair of players to the mix from last year. A pair of 2009 fourth-round draft picks out of Wake Forest, Chip Vaughan and Stanley Arnoux, missed all of last season with injuries. Vaughn had surgery on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus while Arnoux ruptured his left Achilles tendon during the first practice of rookie minicamp.
Vaughn is huge, a 6’2, 221 pound safety. If Sharper returns, he can be brought along slowly. Arnoux He figures in the mix at weak side linebacker, if healthy.
The NFL is set up for the weak to get stronger and the strong to get weaker. Over the past decade, only the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts have sustained a high level of excellence while winning Super Bowls. Only the Patriots and Steelers have won more than one Super Bowl.
Can the New Orleans Saints join those ranks? It will take sound personnel decisions, smart spending and excellent talent evaluation and procurement to do so. The 2010 draft will go a long way in determining their fate.
New Orleans Saints look to stay on top with solid 2010 draft
Re: New Orleans Saints look to stay on top with solid 2010 draft
I trust in Sean Payton & Mickey Loomis to make the right moves & decisions to keep the Saints on top for a long time.
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