METAIRIE, La. ― Now the real fun begins.
The Saints will try to address roster needs they were unable to with their six picks of the 2010 NFL Draft when they picked up four offensive players and two on defense.
With the draft being cut to seven rounds, finding undrafted free agents has turned into a absolute must and New Orleans, under the guidance of Head Coach Sean Payton and General Manager Mickey Loomis have done just that.
Running backs Pierre Thomas and Lynell Hamilton as well as linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Jo-Lonn Dunbar were all picked up by the Saints in the immediate aftermath of past NFL Drafts. Additionaly, Jabari Greer was an undrafted free agent who caught on with Buffalo and wide receiver Lance Moore did the same with Cleveland.
“Casillas, Hamilton, Thomas – you could keep going with guys who earned a spot,” Payton said. “Once they’re here it’s really of no importance how they got here. I think all the teams take this time seriously.”
Hours after the draft finished, UNLV linebacker Jason Beauchamp was the first undrafted rookie free agent who reportedly signed with the Saints.
Meanwhile, the Saints finished the draft addressing several needs, including defensive tackle, cornerback and tight end.
New Orleans took Florida State cornerback Patrick Robinson with the No. 32 pick of the first round, giving the Saints an extra defensive back that can make a difference. With the uncertainty behind Darren Sharper’s re-signing with the Saints, Robinson gives New Orleans the possibility of moving 2009 first-round pick Malcolm Jenkins to safety.
In Friday night’s second and third rounds, the Saints picked USC offensive tackle Charles Brown. The move could spell the end for Jammal Brown, New Orleans’ Pro Bowl left tackle who hasn’t signed his restricted free agent tender.
The Saints could have as many as five tackles on their roster heading into minicamp or training camp – Jon Stinchcomb, Zach Strief, Jermon Bushrod and the two Browns.
However, Loomis said taking Charles Brown doesn’t hasten the exit of Jammal Brown.
“We certainly didn’t draft Charles with the idea that we’re moving on from Jammal,” Loomis said. “It wasn’t the case at all, in fact, we like the tackles that we have. Jammal’s obviously been to the Pro Bowl and although he was injured last year, we know he’s a very good player.”
A round later, the Saints picked up Miami tight end Jimmy Graham, a player who will be a project for New Orleans to develop. He played only one year of collegiate football after four years of basketball.
“People use the term upside,” Payton said. “I like all the measurables we saw with him. I think he understands and will continue to get better. That’s one of the things you saw this year with him playing.”
On Saturday, the final day of the draft, the Saints finally filled their need in the center of the defensive front seven, trading their 130th and 201st picks to Arizona to move up and take LSU defensive tackle Al Woods.
Woods worked out with the Saints during pre-draft workouts and the New Orleans staff had extensive notes on him after covering LSU’s Pro Day on-campus workouts fully.
But the Saints weren’t done, moving back into the sixth round of the draft to take Boston College center Matt Tennant. New Orleans traded their 2011 fourth round pick to Jacksonville to get the center.
Finally, with the last regular pick of the draft at No. 239, the Saints took Oregon State quarterback Sean Canfield.
“He’s a lefty. We think he’s accurate,” Payton said. “We think he’s a good decision maker. He really played a year-and-a-half there. Mickey (Loomis) is pretty close with the coach there, who has worked here before. Overall, there was a lot that went into that; a lot of research just trying to identify a (third)-day quarterback that might be available, and he was one of the guys.”