You’ll get zero argument that the Saints need defensive upgrades out of this year’s NFL draft.
The question, and where you’ll likely find people disagreeing, is exactly where the upgrade needs to come.
Some will say defensive end. Others will say linebacker. And some will say safety.
In a way, they’re all correct.
And in this draft in particular, it appears New Orleans, at No. 15 in the first round, could help itself at any of the positions of need.
We’ll start at the end position. Cameron Jordan is a bonafide starter and could benefit from the switch to the 3-4, which he played in and excelled in in college. But Will Smith is sitting at the other end and he’s not exactly a 3-4 end. The backup, Kenyon Coleman, could become the start by training camp. He started five games with Dallas last season before tearing the triceps muscle in his left arm.
But both Coleman and Smith are reaching the late stages of their careers and the Saints need to get younger and more athletic there. There will be options. Mike Mayock of NFL Network thinks Damontre Moore could be an option for the Saints. Bjoern Werner or someone else could still be available.
At linebacker, the Saints appear to be set on the inside with Curtis Lofton and Jonathan Vilma, though there’s question about the latter of this duo. Vilma had troubles when he younger and healthy in a 3-4 and now that he’s older and coming off an injury, you have to wonder if he can handle it any better now.
Outside, though, could be the main problem for New Orleans. Victor Butler comes over in free agency from Dallas and will inherit one of the starting positions. But who starts opposite of him is an unknown. Junior Galette and Martez Wilson will get their shot but getting a future starter in this draft is a big possibility.
Again, there will be options. Jarvis Jones will likely be there; Alec Ogletree also will likely be there. Do the Saints take a flier and go with Manti T’eo (unlikely)?
And then there’s safety. While New Orleans appears set with Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper, they may not be as solid as we think. Jenkins seems to have plateau below his potential. He might benefit from Rob Ryan’s new defense, though not as much as Harper. While fan consensus is that Harper and his expensive contract need to go, he had his best seasons as a pro under Gregg Williams, whose aggressive play-calling will be matched by Ryan.
Still, should the Saints want to go there, there are possibilities, beginning with Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro and Florida International’s Johnathan Cyprien. Both could be available.
In other words, the Saints have needs that a selection in the first round could help fill. And because it’s a deep draft, New Orleans could find a player in the third round that can help.
But the good news is that New Orleans has options, about the only good thing that can come from a 7-9 season. Selecting at No. 15 in this draft isn’t a bad thing.