For fans of football (that’s not of the soccer variety being played in Brazil), this is perhaps the most boring period of the year; free agency and the draft have come and gone, OTAs are over and training camp is yet to begin. With a lack of things to discuss, I figure I’d turn my thoughts to next year’s draft. While I’m at least half a year too early in thinking about this, there’s nothing else out there that strikes me as interesting.
Assuming that the Saints have their full allotment of seven draft selections for next year and are not awarded a compensatory pick here are the positions I think we’ll target (in descending order of importance), and some players that we could pick up in the 2015 draft. Here are options for the first three rounds:
3) Offensive Guard
The Saints have been blessed with excellent offensive guard play since the Payton-Brees era began. Pro Bowl guards like Jahri Evans, Carl Nicks and Ben Grubbs have limited hits to Brees while paving the road for the likes of Deuce McAllister and Pierre Thomas to excel at running the ball.
The guard position makes this list largely because the Saints need to get younger at the position. Grubbs will be 31 years old entering the 2015 season, while Evans will be 32. While none of us believe that their play will deteriorate enough to cause alarm bells to ring, the fear is that there won’t be enough depth behind in case something were to happen to either of them.
Add to that the fact that Evans’ cap number will be $10.2 million in 2016 (of which only $1.5 million would constitute dead money), and it won’t be a surprise if the Saints draft someone in 2015 to take over Evans’ spot in the starting lineup in 2016. Likewise, Grubbs’ 2016 cap number is $10.3 million (with only $3 million constituting dead money) – the same scenario could be applied to him.
In all likelihood, both of them could restructure their contracts in the next offseason, keeping them with the team beyond the 2016 season. However, drafting a young guard would potentially allow the Saints leverage in those contract negotiations as well as increase the competition – and thus the performance – at the position.
Adam Shead, an Oklahoma Sooner, is a prospect I like that could be available in the third round (again, based on premature projections). He’s able to anchor solidly and uses his hands well, and has a lot of experience playing on a good line. If he can improve his ability to pull-block and seal players at the second level, he’ll be a great fit for the Saints.
2) Edge Rusher
This is a tricky position to place importance upon, as it could hinge on Junior Galette’s season. It goes without saying that the Saints will hang onto Cameron Jordan as one rushing machine of the base 4-2-5 defence. While the team would be happy to have Galette at the $2.9 million cap charge he’s currently pencilled in for in 2015, a 12-sack (or more) season this year from Galette will allow him to void his contract and seek a new contract. With the Saints already tight against the cap limit, they’ll likely let him walk. If that was to happen, this position would be the most important heading into the 2015 draft. If not, this position will rank lower in importance. Second-most important thus seems to work for now.
Regardless of whether we draft an edge rusher to replace Galette or to provide depth to the starting pair of Jordan and Galette, one thing is certain: the draftee will have to prove himself to be at least average against the run too.
Someone I like to fill that role is Texas Longhorns DE Cedric Reed. From the little tape I watched of his 2013 teammate Jackson Jeffcoat, I remember Reed standing out far more often. Reed tied for second in tackles on the team with 75, and notched 18 tackles-for-loss, 18 QB pressures, 9 sacks, 4 forced fumbles and 4 pass break-ups. He’s productive and has the size to be a menace in the pros. He’ll likely be available in the second round, according to current (very premature and thus, not too accurate) projections.