Few teams are in a position where they can essentially eliminate one position from their draft board altogether, but that’s exactly where the Saints find themselves when it comes to interior lineman.
New Orleans is home to (potentially) the best duo of guards in the game in Jahri Evans and Ben Grubbs. Both were pro bowlers in 2013, and neither is in play for free agency this year (although they both take quite a bite out of the salary cap at $9 million and $11 million respectively).
What’s more, the Saints also have had the luxury of anchoring their offensive lines with one of the most underrated centers in the game: Brian De La Puente.
Two year’s ago De La Puente was considered to be the second best center in the league by Pro Football Focus, and despite being an unrestricted free agent this year there’s a good chance his being under-the-radar will help the Saints keep him in the Big Easy for a reasonable price.
Even if De La Puente ends up going the way of Carl Nicks and Jermon Bushrod the Saints like what they have in backup Tim Lelito, a versatile interior lineman with great upside.
This year’s draft is a deep one, however if there is one position lacking great talent it’s at guard/center. After looking at cover32’s top 10 prospects at the interior line positions it doesn’t look like there’s a clear-cut replacement for De La Puente if New Orleans decided to go that route, and there certainly isn’t anyone that is a plug-and-play option better than Lelito.
Moving forward, if De La Puente is re-signed then the Saints interest in a guard/center in this year’s draft drops to zero; however, if he chooses to hit the open market I wouldn’t be surprised to see them take a look at a potential backup in the middle-to-late rounds.
To find out who made the grade in our top 10 guard/center prospects list, click here.