The New Orleans Saints made a surprise selection in the third round of the NFL draft when they selected linebacker Alex Anzalone. This was a highly anticipated pick by Saints watchers who expected the Saints to select a pass rusher ranked as a round two or three selection in a very deep defensive draft. Instead they choose a linebacker buoying up the belief the team believes in its free agent pass rusher, Alex Okafor. What did they see in Anzalone to make this selection?
The oft-injured Anzalone is believed to possess first rate football skills. In the Saints opinion, he is the only linebacker in the draft who excelled at all three linebacking positions as well as in pass protection. Has good lateral movement and can burst into an alley. Mike Detillier described his style of tackling as “Attacks ballcarriers like they stole something from him as a kid.” He is a smart player who is rarely caught out of position. Locker room leader who other players listened to. Our Lads states “Shows man-to-man skill with the ability to mirror cuts and stay in phase with a back or tight end up the field.” Thinking about a 6 foot, 3 inches, 241 linebacker lining up against running backs and tights ends in the NFC South does my heart good. Physically gifted but has arms and needs to improve his technique against quality blocking.
The only consistent risk contemplated for Anzalone is his injury history. Mickey Loomis addressed this when asked: “We talked about it a lot,” Saints general manager Mickey Loomis said. “Our doctors did a pretty thorough exam. We talked about the shoulders he’s had a history of that, and yet, they felt good about it. He’s a very instinctive player,” Loomis said. “That’s probably what jumps out at you. He’s very smart. … And he’s a playmaker.”
NFL.com analysis. SOURCES TELL US. “You saw at (Senior Bowl) practice how gifted he is athletically. He just has to prove he can stay on the field.” — NFC Personnel Director. NFL COMPARISON. Vincent Ray and Jonathan Casillas