As we enter the last month without football, I know every football fan out there is eagerly awaiting for the season to start. With not alot of news to be had in the month of July, I decided to see if I could make some predictions for the Saints 2015 draft class. I will post a best case, worst and most likely to happen scenario for all of the Saints rookies. With all that being said, let’s get started.
Andrus Peat was a surprise selection to many Saints fan including myself. But I did like it. The brain trust went best player available rather then reaching for a need. Peat was a standout left tackle for Stanford and even though he did struggle at times with speed rushers, his upside is sky high. And being a Stanford product you know he is well coached, and has extremely high character.
BEST CASE SCENARIO- Peat comes out in training camp like a hurricane. Show’s that he was the best tackle in the draft and supplants Zach Strief as the right tackle by the middle of pre season. Has a standout rookie season while providing masterful protection to Bree’s and is a road grader in run blocking.
WORST CASE SCENARIO- Peat struggles in camp and in pre season to adjust to the speed and power of the NFL game. With this in mind Sean Payton keeps him as the swing tackle. But in the middle of the season Peat is asked to start due to injuries and struggles badly, showing he needs more time to season and grow. Finishes the season with only a few starts and a generally negative grade in all aspects.
MOST LIKELY TO HAPPEN- Peat is not a complete package; he does need seasoning and time to learn. But he is a very smart player and I think competing against Zach Strief is going to be a blessing. Strief is a lunch pail, hard working tackle that has been among the NFLs best right tackles for 2 years now. Competing with such a distinguished veteran is going to bring out the best in Peat. I think Peat will start one or two games midway through the season, play well but generally see the field as only a backup or as a heavy tight end. Peat is the future and but Strief is a grizzled and capable veteran who will be able to hold off the promising youngster for at least this season.
Stephone Anthony was one of my favorite selections of the draft. I thought he combined elite athletic ability with a incredible feel and love for the game. He had to fight to reclaim his job after injuries but reclaim it he did and went on to have a excellent 2014 season with the Tigers. I am very excited what he will do for Rob Ryan’s defense.
BEST CASE SCENARIO- Anthony hits the ground running in training camp and in pre season, looks like an absolute stud during the days of August. He then carries that momentum over into the regular season and never looks back. Starting all 16 games at the middle linebacker position, he racks up 120 plus tackles, five sacks, forces several turnovers and is a generally plague upon offenses. He gives Rob Ryan something he has never had before, an elite player manning the middle of his defense.
WORST CASE SCENARIO- Anthony struggles to harness his amazing talents and is pushed down the depth chart by David Hawthorne. When he does get to play Anthony struggles to finish tackles and the speed of the NFL games gives him fits time and time again. Finishes the year with no starts and leaves the Saints wondering if they will need to draft another middle linebacker in the 2016 draft.
MOST LIKELY TO HAPPEN- I fully predict that Anthony, like Peat, will face a hard battle for a starting job from the veterans above him. But the difference being that the starter Peat is facing is clearly a rock at his position. While Hawthorne and Humber are decent players, neither should be an overly hard challenge for the talented Anthony. He is extremely talented and the Saints are excited to have someone like him. He should start day one and be a force in the middle. One hundred and forty plus tackles, four to five sacks, and a few turnovers could be the kind of impact that Anthony will have in 2015.
Hau’oli Kikaha was honestly one of my favorite players in the draft. And anyone who read my mock draft could tell I was extremely high on him. I nearly broke a leg jumping up and down when I heard the Saints picked him. He did tear two ACLs in college, in 2011 and in 2012, but the past two seasons he has looked like a beast rushing the passer. Many would argue he was the lesser member of a formidable pass rushing unit but I disagree. His hand usage is nearly perfect and plays extremely hard. I can’t wait to see what he can do in 2015.
BEST CASE SCENARIO- Kikaha is able to beat out several more established veterans for the role of OLB. He show’s a real commitment to stopping the run and playing in coverage, all the while still being a force as a pass rusher. During a rookie season that merits rookie of the year consideration, Kikaha has ten sacks, forces five fumbles and is able to net an interception and return it for a TD. He makes alot of so called draft professionals look foolish for saying he’d go undrafted.
WORST CASE SCENARIO- Beginning in training camp, Kikaha’s lack of athletic ability is readily apparent and really hinders his ability to rush the passer vs NFL quality tackles. He isn’t able to surpass the veterans on the roster and is relegated to special teams and a situational pass rusher.
MOST LIKELY TO HAPPEN- Kikaha will take time to adjust to the NFL, like 95 percent of all rookies. But even as he is still growing and learning, he can be a great pass rusher for the Saints. As the season wears on, I fully expect him to be more comfortable as a base package defender–the kind of guy that does not need to be subbed out in packages because he has a inherent weakness in his game. Sometimes a great motor, and sheer will to compete and win will triumph over being an average athlete. Do I think he can compete for defensive rookie of the year ? Yes I think I can, but will he ? Most likely not, his game needs refinement and he isn’t a complete defender……yet . If he comes out and starts the season like a pineapple out of a cannon then yes he could very well be a defensive rookie of the season. I will err on the side of caution and predict Kikaha to have between 35 and 40 tackles, seven to eight sacks and force two to three fumbles. All the while winning the hearts of Saints fan as a new found favorite player
Garrett Grayson The Saints threw quite a pre draft smoke screen when it came to if they would select a quarterback in the draft. When they picked Garrett Grayson with the 75th the fan base wasn’t really sure what to make of the selection. Most draft experts panned the selection, saying that the Saints should have added more players to a thin defensive unit. I personally like the choice though. Bree’s can’t play forever and its best to plan for the future as much as possible. The Steelers learned this in 1983 when they passed on Pittsburgh native Dan Marino to get a defensive linemen, then later that same season starting quarterback and future Hall of Fame inductee Terry Bradshaw missed 15 games and retired from football at the end of the season. The Saint’s would prefer to avoid a similar situation befalling them.
BEST CASE SCENARIO- This is easy and almost not worth writing. Grayson should not see the field except for the odd blowout game and to maybe hold the ball on field goals and PATs. All he needs to do this season is sit and try to learn as much as he can from one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. If he attempts zero passes this year then I am happy and I think everyone else would be too.
WORST CASE SCENARIO- This is also easy and something that most Saints fan do not want to think about. If Brees goes down Grayson will have to step in an attempt to quarterback the Saints. I do not want to fathom this, I think Grayson could do a good job but I still believe he would struggle badly.
MOST LIKELY TO HAPPEN- The Saints are likely to blow out a team or two during the 2015 season so I can imagine Grayson will see the field during those said blowouts. No need to risk your sure fire hall of fame quarterback during a 40 to 14 pasting. Grayson will chuck a few passes, maybe show some of that sneaky athletic ability and not much else. He really just needs to sit, learn , enjoy being a Saint and living in New Orleans.
P.J. Williams When it was announced the Saints had selected P.J Williams with the 78th pick of the draft, I won’t lie I was a little disappointed. I was hoping the Saints would beef up the defensive line or maybe add a offensive linemen. But in Loomis and Payton I trust. And after I did a bit more reading up on Williams, the more I liked the pick. He is a talented player who may be suited to a hybrid role of part safety and part corner. Possessing not only great athletic ability but great instincts, Williams has all the tools to be a great player in the NFL. That is if he can keep his nose clean and stay out of trouble.
BEST CASE SCENARIO- Williams comes out strong during camp and is able to lock down the nickel cornerback job early. He uses his experience having come from a major college powerhouse to help him adjust to the speed of the NFL. As the season wears on, Williams is able to supplant the slower, older and somewhat penalty inclined Brandon Browner as the number two cornerback opposite Keenan Lewis. Williams only snags two interceptions but is able to deflect 14 passes and rack up 60 plus tackles in a stellar rookie debut. Giving Saints fans a hope that the successor to Jabri Greer has been found at last.
WORST CASE SCENARIO- At the start of training camp Williams looks good, is playing good and looks to be ready to compete. But then his old habits flair up and he is cited for an off-the–field issue that cost him a few games. Williams comes back after week 6 but looks confused and is behind his peers when it comes to learning both the pro game and Rob Ryan’s scheme. Has some good moments as a rookie but the ends the season near the bottom of the depth chart and with the coaching staff wondering if he committed to the game.
MOST LIKELY TO HAPPEN- The Saints preached heavily before the draft how they wanted to draft only high character guys who fit with the team. So picking Williams, who was cited for DUI shortly before the draft, came as a bit of a surprise. Though the charges were dropped, it still left me scratching my head. However after studying Williams, I have decided that I was too harsh in my initial judgment of him. While I don’t think he will be able to displace the current projected starters at cornerback. I think he will be an excellent number 3 or 4 who will give Rob Ryan and Dennis Allen a speedier corner who can go toe to toe with smaller receivers and win. Having no experience as a nickel back, I think that job will be someone else’s. But I still think he can snag an interception or two and play a key role on special teams and in relief duty.
Davis Tull The selection of Davis Tull was a happy surprise for me. I will be honest I had never even heard his name but after I did some research I was very happy. He was a highly recruited prospect from Tennessee until he broke his femur during his senior year of high school. Even after that devastating blow, he worked hard and was able to be a walk on at Tennessee-Chattanooga where he became a 4 year starter. He was also a 4 time All American for Division One FCS. He was so good at Tennessee-Chattanooga–it begs the question of if he had gone to a program like Alabama or Florida, could he have put up the same numbers ? I don’t see why not.
BEST CASE SCENARIO- As the summer winds down and the Saints start training camp, Tull surprises the coaches by being 100 percent recovered from his off season shoulder surgery. Tull is able to use that enormous drive that he possesses to steadily move his way up the depth chart. By the end of training camp, Kikaha and Tull are both unexpected rookie starters at OLB. During the regular season Tull is able to use his motor, great hands and his sneaky athletic ability to surprise and overwhelm many a opposing offensive linemen. His ability’s and talent level give Rob Ryan a weapon to unleash on opposing offenses. By the end of the season he is considered for defensive rookie of the season after racking up nine sacks, four forced fumbles and two interceptions.
WORST CASE SCENARIO- Tull’s off season shoulder injury proves more serious then expected and he enters training camp unable to compete for a roster spot. As week three of the pre season rolls around Tull is finally able to get some game action but its clear that the lack of real world reps has hurt him. He looks rusty and hesitant in his movements. He flashes some moments during pre season but enters the regular squarely as a special teams player and little more. As the season wears on and injuries mount Tull is able to make some plays here and there but is never able to be consistent enough to elevate himself past more established veterans.
MOST LIKELY TO HAPPEN- I really do believe the Saints entire 5th round draft haul will be looked at as steals in the near future. But I think Tull will the best one of them all. He has proven already that he simply does not know the meaning of the word quit. Him and Kikaha remind me so much of each other and I like that alot. I think both will be future stars for the Saints. I think Tull will take time to recover from his injury and that he will need some adjustment time moving from college ball to the NFL. But once he figures out what is going, I am very excited for his potential. A rookie season with 20 or so tackles, 3 to 4 sacks and a forced fumble or two is not out of the question.
Tyeler Davison With the selection of the Tyeler Davison I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, the team had finally addressed one of the thinnest defensive lines in pro football. The “Rhino” as he was called at Fresno State is built like a fire plug. At a shade over six foot tall and 316 pounds, Davison is low to the ground and looks like a worlds strongest man competitor. He was a all state wrestling champ in high school so I guess that plays into it. What excites me most about Davison is that he played over 80 percent of Fresno states defensive snaps last season. He also plays like a beast in the middle of the line, always trying to impose his will on the offensive linemen across from him. This is the kind of defensive linemen that the Saints have been missing for a number of years.
BEST CASE SCENARIO- Davison uses his immense strength, and desire to win to muscle his way into a starting spot on the Saints defensive line. During pre season Rob Ryan moves him all over the line and uses him in every single spot, but nothing phases the former Bulldog. Living up to his nickname, Davison creates havoc on opposing offensive lines all regular season long. With proper coaching Davison unlocks his potential and harnesses his immense strength and talent. He quickly becomes a fan favorite and the “Rhino” help leads the Saints defense back to respectability.
WORST CASE SCENARIO- Coming from a smaller program like Fresno State leaves Davison unprepared for the NFL. He has trouble adjusting to the strength and size of pro offensive linemen and isn’t able to influence running or passing plays like he did at Fresno State. Unable to beat out other linemen for snaps and playing time, Davison plays mainly on special teams and little else.
MOST LIKELY SCENARIO- I do have very high hopes for Davison. I think the basic building blocks for an extremely good NFL linemen are there, they just need teaching. His size and strength are perfect for the Rob Ryan scheme. He can play any position on the line and I think that will be a huge boost for him. If he is able to come out strong in camp and keep it going through pre season and into the regular season, 25 to 35 tackles and 5 sacks is not out of the question. That’s high numbers I know but the Saints are very thin on the D line when it comes to established talent, and Davison has the talent to be a real star for the Bayou Boys.
If there was ever a cornerback who could fit into the Rob Ryan system, that would be Damian Swann. He had some rough moments at Georgia but overall he was an extremely good player for the Dogs. He is physical and loves to attack, he is also a very good blitzing cornerback. He can play all over the field and has that swagger that allows to forget when he is beat and focus on the next play. He is buried in a sea of other cornerbacks and will have to work hard to separate himself from an extremely crowded group.
BEST CASE SCENARIO- Sensing that Swann is best suited for the slot, Rob Ryan and Dennis Allen have Swann focus entirely on that one area during training camp and he blossoms right away into an impact defender. Despite being under 200 pounds, Swann has no fear in covering bigger targets and makes himself known with every hit. He gives Ryan a weapon to use on passing downs as his ability to blitz comes as a nasty surprise to opposing offenses. Swann finishes the season with 20 plus tackles, one interception, a forced fumble and three sacks.
WORST CASE SCENARIO- Even though he possesses immense talent Swann struggles to separate himself from the pack during training camp. As the preseason fades into the rearview and the regular season heats up, Swann finds himself as a reserve player and is unable to muscle his way into anything more. He has some good moments as a rookie and improves as the season goes on, but never turns into the impact slot defender that was hoped when the Saints drafted him.
MOST LIKELY SCENARIO- Swann will in my opinion be a star at slot corner. I think if he focuses on that area and works hard he can be a real weapon for the Saints. Will he be a stat sheet stuffer ? Not at all, but I think he will provide a solid corner who can blitz when called upon and won’t be a liability in the run game. And most importantly I think his tackling ability will be a cut above what the Saints have gotten from other corners in seasons past. One to two interceptions, a sack , a fumble returned for a touchdown , 15 to 20 tackles and 10 passes defensed would be a nice rookie season for Swann.
Marcus Murphy Let’s all be honest with ourselves, the Saints return game has been pretty awful the past couple of season. Hopefully Marcus Murphy, who returned 7 kicks and punts for TDs during his career at Mizzou, can improve that. At five foot eight and a shade over 190 pounds, Murphy is built like your ideal return man. His long speed and overall agility are limited but he does possess the ability to make a quick cut and then streak down field for a huge gain. He is a willing pass protector, though his size limits how much he can actually do.
BEST CASE SCENARIO- Murphy is able to step into the return game during training camp and immediately gives the team a boost in that area. Makes several big plays during training camp and pre season and locks down the job over other players. During the regular season his ability to give the Saints offense great field position helps Drew Bree’s and company’s efforts. As the regular season goes on, Sean Payton finds ways to get Murphy the ball in the offense and he provides yet another element that opposing defenses must account for. He finishes the season with two kick and one punt return touchdowns as well as two receiving touchdowns. He also averages 26 yards a kick return and 13 yards a punt return.
WORST CASE SCENARIO- During training camp Murphy is unable to separate himself from other players in the return game. Players with more experience are able to keep him from seeing the field and Murphy is almost an afterthought as training camp and pre season come to a close. As the roster cuts are announced, Murphy is cut then after clearing waivers, is placed on practice squad.
MOST LIKELY SCENARIO- Murphy was picked for a reason and I believe that reason was for the return game. His size and ability to make one cut and be gone are perfect for the role. Will he return five kicks for touchdowns, I don’t think so. What really matters is if he gives the Saints offense a short field to work with. If you are starting the ball at your own 40 or even mid field, your offense is really in the opposing defenses wheel house. I see a kick and punt returned for a touchdown,maybe one or two offensive scores and a seasons worth of great field position as the extent of Murphy’s season. And that’s not so bad for a 7th round rookie from Mizzou.
I really hope everyone enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed typing it. I am really excited for the Saints 2015 season and I expect great things from the team.