Ralph Malbrough / Contributing Writer
NEW ORLEANS - The New Orleans Saints completed the 2013 NFL Draft Saturday and then signed a bunch of undrafted free agents you and I have never heard of except for Ryan Griffin from Tulane. So what did they accomplish?
Best-case scenario is Kenny Vaccaro is the next Sammy Knight, Terron Armstead is the next Willie Roaf and John Jenkins is the next Norman Hand. Worst-case scenario is Vaccaro and Jenkins are the second coming of Malcolm Jenkins and Jonathan Sullivan.
The second one’s pretty frightening no? Which one is it? I have no idea and neither does anyone else. Maybe it’s because I’m getting old but reading someone on Twitter tell me they know John Jenkins is a horrible pick because they watched three Georgia games and are an ESPN Insider is pretty annoying. The same goes to guy gushing how Armstead ran the fastest 40 time by an offensive lineman at the NFL Combine. An offensive lineman’s ability to run the 40-yard dash is about as relevant to the job of blocking other fat guys as Barack Obama’s ability to play the banjo is to being president. When was the last time you heard anyone mention how fast offensive linemen ran during a football season? Second Tuesday of last week probably.
I actually really liked what the Saints did for a couple of reasons.
First, I disagree with experts who think safety wasn’t a need for the Saints. Advanced football statistics websites like Pro Football Focus have Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper rated as bad, real bad. When it comes to missing tackles both are at the top of the list.
Harper is a guy who has always been good at blitzing, struggles in coverage, and now he is 30. Malcolm Jenkins is average and always will be. Even if Vaccaro is a complete failure it will be fun dumping on an entirely new safety.
The second reason I liked what the Saints did is they balanced the need to get better in 2013 with the future. Terron Armstead might not see the field this year but could be a solid replacement for Jermon Bushrod by 2014. Rookie receivers struggle to see the field under Sean Payton but Kenny Stills has blazing speed and by next year could Devery Henderson 2.0.
(Devery Henderson’s time as a Saint is over and he was one of my favorites. He made himself a damn good receiver who could block and he did it for almost a decade. He was exactly what you hope for out a second round draft pick. Fans always seemed to want more from him or wanted to trade him but teams need Devery Hendersons to win Super Bowls.)
The final reason I liked the Saints draft is Mickey Loomis showed restraint. The Saints under Loomis have a history of trading picks to draft a player or get someone from another team. They did it to get Sedrick Ellis, Mark Ingram, Thomas Morstead, and Jeremy Shockey. Granted they did use the fourth round pick they got for Chris Ivory to trade up to select John Jenkins but in 2014 they will have all their draft picks. As tempting as it is for fans to want the Saints to keep giving away a little bit of the future for the chance to win now doing so eventually will come back to haunt a team. It couldn’t have been easy for the Saints to sit through the second and fourth rounds with no picks and not make a deal for a player they wanted. In 2014 we’ll be glad they did so.
What’s a realistic production expectation for the Saints 2013 draft? 15 sacks, six interceptions, and 1,200 yards receiving seem fair right? No? If Kenny Vaccaro starts 16 games and one other pick is a significant contributor then the past weekend will be a success.
I enjoyed the draft more than I have in a long time. It was probably because 2012 was just so miserable and this draft was the end of Roger Goodell’s gut punch to us. Saints fans will hate Goodell forever but unlike heading into 2012 the possibilities for the 2013 Saints seem limitless. The only thing left do is wait, be bored by baseball, and count the days until the Saints host Atlanta to open 2013.
Ralph Malbrough is a Saints fan living in Houston. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, find him on facebook, follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/MilneMalbrough or download his podcast at ITunes.