A few days have passed since the conclusion of the 2015 NFL draft and its given me enough time to digest what has transpired regarding the draft. I don’t grade drafts two days after the draft like some do because it is impossible to know how this years class will grade out without them even playing in an NFL game.
It’s also impossible to know what players game will take that next step to play at this level or who is the sleeper or steal of the draft is. Remember a few years back when khiry Robinson was invited for a tryout with the team? The Saints signed him to a contract for training camp. But all throughout OTA’s and mini camps he was not impressive and was one of many of the new faces that were extreme long shots. It wasn’t until the pads were put on did he transform into the player that we all know now.
The point I’m making is I try to look at it as – Players perform differently when thrown under this kind of pressure and until they start absorbing the daily responsibilities of what it’s like to be a professional and showing it when it really counts I try not to jump the gun on any player not drafted in the 1st round. The Saints have nine picks in this years draft and if five make the final 53 with two or three are starting then you had a damn good draft.
Lets start with the 1st round selections, after last year when Drew Brees was under constant pressure it was pretty glaring that the offensive line needed to be addressed. The Saints decided not to renew Jonathan Goodwin and target Seattle’s Max Unger in an trade and also send under performing guard Ben Grubbs off in another trade. Then with the 13th pick in the draft the Saints draft a tackle, my first reaction was – both the Saints starting tackles performed pretty well last year so why draft Andrus Peat when the roster had so many other holes?
The first thing I think is that he was the best player on their board at that time and they weren’t going to pass up a talent like Peat. But if you look closer the depth on the offensive line across the board was really a concern and with this pick you just put Zach Strief and Terron Armstead on notice that the best players will start and the line might be shuffled.
When asked if Strief or Armstead would be moved to guard Payton said “I don’t see that initially. Terron and Zach we feel are ones of veteran experience” That statement tells me that yes Armstead and Strief are the incumbents heading into camp but if Peat beats one of them out then they will be moved to guard or to a back up position.
So who is most likely to be moved between the two? In my opinion it’s Strief because – first, his age but also because the athleticism of Peat and Armstead, it makes the most sense. When late July rolls around this is the camp battle I’m looking forward to the most.
The next selection the Saints took at number 31 I think Saints fans saw coming a mile away, not the player per se but the position – inside linebacker.
The Saints as we all knew had glaring needs at inside linebacker, edge rusher, defensive tackle and cornerback, (no particular order) it didn’t take long for them to start addressing those needs with the selection of inside linebacker Stephone Anthony out of Clemson. I love this pick, I think he is the most safe bet to earn a starting spot in camp and if Dannell Ellerbe can return to his playing level when he was with Baltimore then this might be your two starting inside backers heading into opening weekend – need addressed.
It didn’t take long for the Saints to target an edge rusher kicking off round two with the selection of OLB Hau’oli Kikaha out of Washington. The Saints needed to upgrade here with an aging (and average) Parys Haralson, an often injured Anthony Spencer and Junior Galette with his league decision still looming to get some quality depth.
Kikaha is a pass rushing specialist racking up 13 sacks in 2013 and 19 last year – all of this coming off two major knee surgeries. Where Kikaha doesn’t have the greatest speed he makes up for in technique with various moves and exceptional hand work. Those injuries are always a concern but looking at the 2014 numbers he seems just fine. It seems to me at this time that his role may be as a 3rd down specialist until other aspects of his game come up to par – need addressed.
When it was the Saints turn to draft the 1st of their two third round picks Sean Payton couldn’t help himself and drafted quarterback Garrett Grayson out of Colorado St. I’m still not comfortable with this pick because there were other more pressing needs at this time.
I shouldn’t be surprised because the Saints are playing a wait and see game with Drew Brees by not offering to extend his contract just yet. My thinking is that the Saints are going to wait and see how Drew plays this year and then extend him while tutoring Grayson or if his decline is ramping up then they have a player that they believe can lead them in the near future – need questionable.
The Saints were quickly back on the clock a few picks later when it was time to pick the 2nd of their two 3rd round picks and they didn’t disappoint getting back to what the team needs – a cornerback, drafting PJ Williams out of Florida St.
Last year the corner spot (minus Keenan Lewis) was arguably the weakest link on the entire team and even though the Saints addressed the problem via free agency the nickle and dime package corner spots were still up in the air plus they needed quality depth there.
A few weeks back I did and in depth pre-draft look at the corners already on the roster, you can read it by clicking HERE
Williams is a very aggressive corner who loves to hit and is best suited for man press coverages, he’s also a very effective blitzer coming off the edge. It will be interesting in how the Saints want to use him, in my opinion he is best suited to play the outside but in all probability they try him covering the slot. I do think Williams is a bit raw and may not be ready to contribute right away, time will tell…I’m going to keep a close eye on him come training camp time – need addressed
When the 4th round started Jeff Ireland snuck out of the war room and proceeded to kill the main circuit breaker that controls all the phones at the Saints faclility – smart move.
After Mickey Loomis finally restores power to the war room the 5th round was underway and the Saints continued their trend of revamping the linebacker corps drafting OLB Davis Tull out of a small college, Tennessee-Chattanooga.
Now I’m not going to sit here like a lot of people and tell you he’s the steal of the draft before he’s played a down in the NFL but I will tell you at the college level he was a damn good football player with football player being the key words here – the young man is a gamer and you can tell football runs through his veins. You can also throw out that small school tag because just look at the current Saints roster, it is littered with small school players…if you can play, you can play and that’s it. Judging by fan reaction to this young man, it’s not even training camp yet and he’s a fan favorite – need addressed
At this point I’m sure more than a few Saints fans were thinking are the Saints ever going to address the interior of the defensive line? The Saints did just that with their 2nd pick in the 5th round drafting Fresno St. defensive tackle Tyeler Davison. The best way to describe Davison is big, thick and strong who was very consistent throughout his college career.
With Brodrick Bunkely and John Jenkins rotating in that spot last year look for Davison to try and push for reps and hopefully get a foothold of the spot and knock Bunkely from the rotation – big time need addressed.
Just when we thought the Saints were finished with the 5th round Loomis orders two office interns tackle and hold down Jeff Ireland and quickly hops on the phone to trade up from the 6th round to draft Damian Swann a cornerback out of Georgia. The defensive draft onslaught continues with this pick and at this point in the draft giving up a 6th to grab a corner is really no big deal.
One thing Swann has is plenty of is SEC experience starting in every game the last three seasons, I think he is best suited as a slot corner in the NFL and will bring depth to a position that was once the weakest part of the team but now suddenly looks crowded. As I stated earlier in regards to PJ Williams, that corner spot battle in camp is going to be intense – depth need addressed
With the draft almost coming to a close Loomis throws Payton a bone and lets him draft a toy for his chess game – Running back/return specialist Marcus Murphy out of Missouri. I spent a little time last night looking at some tape of Murphy and you might as well get used to it folks but he has Darren Sproles type traits.
Besides the obvious which is size, what most stuck out to me was his initial burst to the hole. When Sproles was a Saint I sat through all of his training camps and what continued to amaze me about him was his acceleration through the first ten yards, Murphy has that. I’m not saying Murphy is the next Sproles because Sproles skill set is truly unique, I’m just saying parts of his game remind me of what I saw in Sproles.
Murphy’s key to earning a spot on the final 53 will come down to special teams which he excels at. During his career at Missouri he returned four punts and three kick-offs for touchdowns. The battle between Murphy and Jalen Saunders for that return man spot will probably go down to the wire.
We have a lot of time between now and when camp starts, I will be attending the three days of mini camp to get a first look at the new players (even though they will just be running around in shorts) and between now and then I will dig deeper into the roster with some UDFA’s pieces coming up.
This early on everybody is hyped on the draft class ready to move forward and put that dismal 7-9 season in the rear view mirror and I for one can’t wait for the camp battles to start….bring it on.