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baronm 04-14-2005 05:06 PM on the saints

New Orleans Saints

The Saints' inactivity during free agency has been puzzling. The organization has ample room under the salary cap to make upgrades at linebacker and right tackle, but has failed to do so. That not only increases the pressure but also decreases the flexibility for the Saints' 2005 draft plan.
That lack of urgency also has to be troubling for a head coach (Jim Haslett) on the hot seat, particularly considering how inconsistent the Saints' last two drafts have been.

Armed with one pick near the middle of each of the seven rounds, the Saints enter the upcoming draft with some clearcut needs. The organization has failed to land the prospects it wanted in the first round of the last two drafts (DT Dewayne Robertson in 2003 and LBs Jonathan Vilma and D.J. Williams in 2004), so a more aggressive strategy could be in place this year.
The problem the Saints face is that there doesn't promise to be a prospect with great value at linebacker or offensive tackle in the middle of the first round. One option could be to move up to secure a prospect such as Texas OLB Derrick Johnson or FSU OT Alex Barron. Another could be to take a chance on Georgia OLB/SS "tweener" Thomas Davis in hopes that he can make a quick and smooth transition to OLB.
The final option might be to trade back to stockpile picks and avoid reaching for a less-valuable prospect at one of the aforementioned positions of need. If that's the case, Washington OT Khalif Barnes or Florida LB Channing Crowder would be a prime target later in the first round.

Regardless, the Saints would like to add a right tackle and linebacker ( inside or outside because of the flexibility Courtney Watson gives the team) in the first two rounds. Whichever position they can't land in the first round, they are likely to target in Round 2, where NC State OT Chris Colmer and Nebraska LB Barrett Ruud would be possible candidates.

After that, the focus of the next few rounds should be on injecting youth into an aging secondary -- particularly at cornerback -- and adding depth to the defensive tackle wave. Some late day-one and early day-two prospects at those positions include DCs Stanley Wilson (Stanford) and Ellis Hobbs (Iowa State), DSs Donte Nicholson (Oklahoma) and Andre Maddox (NC State), and DTs Lynn McGruder (Oklahoma) and Mike Montgomery (Texas A&M).

In the final couple of rounds, finding young developmental reserves who could eventually push for backup roles at running back and quarterback will be important. Some names to remember include Michigan State RB DeAndra Cobb and Cincinnati QB Gino Guidugli.

Grading the past
Three-year tally
Year '02 '03 '04
Total picks 9 7 6
Starters 2 1 1
Backups 4 4 5
Other team 2 1 0
Out of NFL 1 1 0
Grade: C

First-round picks Charles Grant ('02) and Will Smith ('04) combined to record 18 sacks last year, but New Orleans' two other first-round picks haven't worked out nearly as well.

WR Donte' Stallworth ('02) remains inconsistent, and DT Johnathan Sullivan ('03) has been an absolute bust. In addition, second-round WR Devery Henderson ('04) appeared in just one game last year, and a hamstring injury hindered him for much of the second half of the season.

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