May 6, 2013

2013 NFL Draft Review & Season Outlook: New Orleans Saints

#9 Drew Brees, QB, Saints

*Click on a team's logo to go to their draft recap and season outlook page. A few will be posted each day in alphabetical order.

New Orleans Saints
Division: NFC South | Last Season Record: 7-9

What Needed to be addressed in the Draft: Moving to a 3-4 defense under Rob Ryan, the Saints have several areas they can address, but only a few picks.

A stud nose tackle in the middle rounds would be nice, as would a pass rusher. Even though the Saints like their young pass rushers, it would benefit them if they added another.

The secondary is also a huge concern. Both safety spots could be upgraded, and they should also look at a corner if they can. Plus, the left tackle position should be addressed with Jermon Bushrod departing.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

Round 1

15. Kenny Vaccaro, FS
Experience: Senior | School: Texas
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 217 lbs.

Analysis: This was a really good pick by the Saints. They have some young pass rushers, and could have targeted a guy like Jarvis Jones here, but they were able to land the top safety in the draft. Kenny Vaccaro can literally do it all, and is a big upgrade at safety.

Grade: A

Round 3

75. Terron Armstead, OT
Experience: Senior | School: Arkansas-Pine Bluff
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 306 lbs.

Analysis: When you may have found your starting left tackle in the 3rd round, it deserves an A+. Losing Jermon Bushrod meant that they needed to find his replacement. Terron Armstead could have snuck into the first round, so he is a steal in the middle of the 3rd round.

Grade: A+

82. John Jenkins, NT
Experience: Senior | School: Georgia
Height: 6-4 | Weight: 346 lbs.

Analysis: It is very important to have a quality nose tackle in your 3-4 defense. John Jenkins was once considered a first round prospect, so this is another good value pick. John Jenkins should start as nose tackle to begin the season.

Grade: A

Round 5

144. Kenny Stills*, WR
Experience: Junior | School: Oklahoma
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 194 lbs.

Analysis: Another good value pick by the Saints. Kenny Stills is a talented receiver who gives them more speed and upside at the receiver position.

Grade: A

Round 6

183. Rufus Johnson, DE/OLB
Experience: Senior | School: Tarleton State
Height: 6-5 | Weight: 266 lbs.

Analysis: I don't know much about Rufus Johnson. He was viewed as a potential sleeper in this draft, runs a 4.72 40-time, and has upside as a pass rusher. In the sixth round, the Saints have the luxury of taking a chance on another small school players (they have found success in the pass).

Grade: B-

2013 NFL Draft Overall Review:

Analysis: The Saints had just five picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, but they potential came away with 3 immediate starters, a future starter at receiver, and a sleeper pass rusher.

Kenny Vaccaro is versatile enough to cover tight ends, slot receiver, play in the box, etc. He's the type of play maker the Saints need in their secondary.

Terron Armstead has a very good skill set to be a quality left tackle at the next level. He could have gone much earlier, so this was a great value pick by the saints, as was potential starting nose tackle John Jenkins.

Kenny Still gives the Saints more speed and play making ability at the receiver position, while Rufus Johnson could be the next small school star the Saints have hit on.

Overall Grade: A-

Undrafted Free Agent Signings:

Most Notable

Chase Thomas, OLB
Experience: Senior | School: Stanford
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 243 lbs.

Analysis: I'm very surprised that Chance Thomas went undrafted. I'd be even more surprised if he doesn't make the roster. He was widely viewed as a 3rd or 4th round prospect, and a potential first round pick before the season began. For a team that needs to improve their pass rush, this signing makes a lot of sense.

Kevin Reddick, ILB
Experience: Senior | School: North Carolina
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 243 lbs.

Analysis: Kevin Reddick was also once viewed as a potential high draft pick, so his going undrafted is also a bit surprising. He would give the Saints quality depth at inside linebacker, and could develop into an above average starter.

Other Free Agent Signings

Shawne Alston, RB, West Virginia
Ryan Gaines, QB, Tulane
Ryan Griffin, QB, Tulane
Josh Hill, TE, Idaho State
Ryan Lacy, CB, Utah
Tim Lelito, G, Grand Valley State
Eric Martin, DE, Nebraska
Elliott Mealer, OL, Michigan
Keavon Milton, TE, Louisiana-Monroe
Ray Shipman, LB, Central Florida
Rod Sweeting, CB, Georgia Tech

2013 Season Outlook:

Analysis: The Saints suffered the consequences of "Bounty Gate" by not having their head coach for the entire season, and as a result, finished a disappointing 7-9.

This team will get right back on track. Drew Brees gets the ball out quickly, but he also has one hell of an offensive line in front of him. The only major question mark could be rookie left tackle Terron Amstead, assuming he beats out Charles Brown.

Brees also has a ton of weapons at his disposal. Both Marques Colston and Lance Moore went over 1,000 yards receiving, while Jimmy Graham had 982 yards receiving in 15 games. They also picked up a quality #2 tight end in Benjamin Watson this off-season.

The Saints have some talented backs, but averaged less than 100 yards on the ground as a team. With Chris Ivory now in New York (Jets), Pierre Thomas, and Mark Ingram will have more carries, meaning more opportunities to make an impact. And let's not forget about Darren Sproles who contributes equally in both the running and passing game.

Moving to a 3-4 defense under Rob Ryan, don't expect a smooth transition, but the defense picked up some key pieces last week via the Draft. Up front, Cameron Jordan and Will Smith who combined for 14 sacks last year, will be defensive ends in the 3-4 defense. They also have depth with Kenyon Coleman and Brodrick Bunkley. With John Jenkins in the middle, they are very formidable up front.

Junior Galette, Martez Wilson, and Victor Butler are all young, talented pass rushers with upside. However, they aren't very experiences coming off the edge, so we'll see if they are up to the challenge. Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne, and Jonathan Vilma all under-performed last season, but return as the top three inside linebackers.

The secondary was god awful last year. Both safeties graded out as the worst in football last season by Pro Football Focus, but they got at least an upgrade at one of the safety spots with first round pick Kenny Vaccaro. They also got a much needed upgrade at corner with free agent Keenan Lewis, but the rest of the secondary is still suspect.

2013 Season Projection:

Analysis: New Orleans is currently picking 19th overall in my 2014 NFL Mock Draft. They chose 15th in this year's draft. The Saints were a much better team than their 2012 record indicated, but return all of their key players on both sides of the ball, as well as some welcomed additions. Drew Brees should not miss a beat, and hopefully the defense won't be a liability as it was last season.

Projected Record: 9-7 (Worst Case) | 11-5 (Best Case)

Projected Finish: 2nd in the NFC South; Result: Miss the Playoffs