NFL Draft Focus: New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Times-Picayune beat writer
Mike Triplett took some time on his way to the Senior Bowl to discuss
the Saints and their offseason and draft forecast. Last year’s champs
finished 11-5 in 2010 and will pick 24th in the 2011



Total Yards 6th (372.5)

Rushing Yards 28th (94.9)

Passing Yards 3rd (277.6)

Points Scored 11th (24.0)


Total Yards 4th (306.3)

Rushing Yards 16th (112.3)

Passing Yards 4th (193.9)

Points Allowed 7th (19.2)

Interceptions 32nd (9)

Sacks T-18th (33)


Passing Yards Drew Brees (4,620)

Rushing Yards Chris Ivory (716)

Receiving Yards Marques Colston (1,023)

Sacks 2 tied (6)

Interceptions 2 tied (2)

Tackles Jonathan Vilma (105)


2010 Patrick Robinson, CB (2010 stats:
28 tackles, 2 PD in 11 games)

2009 Malcolm Jenkins, DB (2010 stats:
64 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack, 12 PD)

2008 Sedrick Ellis, DT (2010 stats: 44
tackles, 6 sacks)

2007 Robert Meachem, WR (2010 stats: 44
rec., 638 yds., 5 TD)

2006 Reggie Bush, RB (2010 stats: 358
rush/rec yds, 1 TD)  


DA: What is the biggest area of need for the Saints in the Draft?

MT: Well especially since they have the
24th pick, I’ve gotta think they are one of the
adamant believers in the best-available player theory. If you go back
over really the last 10 years since [general manager] Mickey Loomis has been around,
they really believe in the player that they have the highest grade on
regardless of position. They drafted Deuce McAllister a couple years
after they had drafted Ricky Williams, and they drafted Will Smith
after they already had two really good defensive ends in Charles
Grant and Darren Howard. So they really don’t get caught up in, ‘Oh,
our run defense was bad last year so we’re going to draft a defensive
tackle this year’, because they really believe it takes a couple of years
for a guy to develop. A perfect example is Malcolm Jenkins who they
drafted two years ago as a corner and then the next year they moved
him to safety. He was arguably their defensive MVP in his second
season. They find a way to get these guys on the field. Last year I
think they surprised some people when they took Patrick Robinson, a
cornerback, but they moved Jenkins to free safety and they wanted a
guy that they had targeted. So other than the fact that they won’t
take a quarterback or probably a guard, they really believe in the
best player available. But that being said, they do need at least
some front seven help in the first three rounds, particularly a young
defensive end that they like. Because that’s a position that you
can’t really find anywhere else. You can get some veterans in free
agency, like signing Bobby McCray and Alex Brown in free agency
who’ve been alright but nothing great, but if you want to get a
defensive end that’s really good I think you have to draft him.
They’re getting older at the position and they could really use a
more dynamic pass rush. So defensive end one, outside linebacker
two, and maybe defensive tackle three would be their top priorities with all other things being equal if they have a high
grade on those guys.

DA: The Saints were 4th in passing yards allowed yet ranked dead-last in interceptions. How much of the blame rests on lack of pass rush?

MT: I think the reason that they didn’t
force a lot of turnovers is because they weren’t ahead in games
nearly as much as they were last year when they were second in the
NFL in takeaways. They definitely did not disrupt quarterbacks and
force them into mistakes, and they played a lot of young quarterbacks
this year and they didn’t do a good enough job of putting pressure on
them and forcing them to throw it up for grabs. Their secondary is
very good across the board, their defensive coordinator is very good,
and their defensive lineman aren’t that bad but they really just did
not create a consistent pass rush. Part of that was strategy, and
they like really true 4-3 defensive ends who can hold up against the
run. So if they do look in the draft I don’t expect them to go after
any of these ‘tweener’ guys that had 18 sacks in college and weigh
250 pounds and everybody always says they’d be perfect fits as a 3-4
outside linebacker. They don’t usually target those guys. The Larry
English and Brian Orakpo types, those guys don’t really fit what they
like to do best.

DA: The Saints offense is one of the league’s best and Drew Brees was sacked just 25 times, but do the Saints plan to make upgrades on their offensive line?

MT: It’s interesting because the huge
wrinkle in all of this is the CBA and free agency and whether they’ll
have it before the draft. They have so many guys that are set to be
unrestricted free agents including their left tackle Jermon Bushrod
and their backup tackle Zack Strief. Last year they drafted a left
tackle in the second round in Charles Brown and I think they like
him, but he barely saw the field so there’s no way to tell if he’s
going to be a dependable left tackle for the future. But they don’t
have a need that they have to get a left tackle, although I think if
they had a really high grade on one they would still draft him. They
do have a second-year guy that they’re developing already and they
may re-sign Bushrod as a free agent. But I would never rule out a
left tackle for any team if they had a high grade on him.

DA: It clearly sounds like defense is a priority, yet there a few issues that need to be addressed on offense as well. Will they look at making improvements at the running back position?

Defense would definitely win a
tiebreaker over offense because one they’re already deep on offense
and two they believe they can put in late-round picks at running back
and receiver and offensive line because they’ve done a good job of
developing late-round picks at those positions. At [pick number] 24 you start to
think you’re drafting for the future rather than the present day.
Running back is still an interesting dilemma for them. The position
was loaded but they just had injury after injury after injury. So you
could say well they need a healthy young running back, or you could
say we’ve learned not to invest heavily in running back because they
get hurt so easily. Two years ago they were aggressively trying to
trade a future number one to get Beanie Wells because they loved him,
so they’re not opposed to the idea of going running back in the first
round and investing heavily in one. But I don’t think they would
unless they had a guy that was head-and-shoulders above everyone on
their board. Having said that I think they will draft a running back
in the draft as they have a first, a second, and two thirds. I
wouldn’t be surprised to see them take a running back with one of
those picks.

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