METAIRIE, La. — Let the speculation begin.
With the main thrust of free agency finished and with the 2013 NFL draft now complete, the next logical step – or illogical depending on your point of view – will be to start guessing who did the best this offseason.
Not to be a fun sponge, but it’s a wee bit too early to be calling for the next Super Bowl champion because of the way this offseason has gone.
When New Orleans won Super Bowl XLIV, it appeared the Saints had filled all the gaps and needs the following offseason. But they hadn’t.
Fact is, so much goes into winning a Super Bowl that it’s impossible to truly surmise on the last weekend of April what’s going to happen the following February.
I know, breaking news.
It’s impossible to know how these players’ games will translate to the NFL. And that goes for any of the 254 players drafted the past three days.
But that’s not what fans want to hear or read right now. And far be it from me to keep you from reading it.
So here’s our quick analysis
They seem to have addressed needs in the draft by taking versatile safety Kenny Vaccaro, a large defensive tackle in John Jenkins, a receiver in Kenny Stills while grabbing projects Terron Armstead and Rufus Johnson.
While not necessarily filling a position of need – the Saints have incumbents Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins still under contract and backups Isa Abdul-Quddus and Rafael Bush still around – Vaccaro gives New Orleans a versatile defensive back. He can play both safety positions as well as the nickel corner. He’s an athletic, big-hitting player who could find a way onto the field early in his career.
It’s unlikely that Armstead, out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, earns the starting left tackle position. But it’s easy to see that the Saints like what they got. He’s an athletic, quick offensive lineman who impressed in his pre-draft workouts. He has the same background as other Saints linemen; specifically Jahri Evans and former starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod, who went to small schools but succeeded in the NFL. He looks like a great grab in the third round.
In our eyes, this pick was a steal. New Orleans not only offloaded Chris Ivory, but the Saints were able to package the pick they received with their own to move up and grab Jenkins. He doesn’t need to be a star for the Saints. They need him to eat up space in the middle of the 3-4 defense and that’s something he can do. He’s quick for a 359-pound human being and could help instantly in a rotation with Brodrick Bunkley and Akiem Hicks.
The Saints weren’t necessarily targeting a receiver coming into the day, coach Sean Payton said, but they found one in the fifth round. Stills leaves as one of Oklahoma’s best receivers, in the top five in both receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. With Devery Henderson all but assured of not returning, Stills will give the Saints a speedy receiver who could potentially help early.
This is another project. A veritable unknown coming out of Tarleton State, the Saints obviously weren’t far off on him. General Manager Mickey Loomis said after the pick, another team’s front office member texted him to let him know they were high on the outside linebacker. If his game translates to the NFL, the Saints could have found another late-round steal. He finished with 17 ½-tackles for a loss, including 10 sacks, his senior season. It looks on paper to be a great value pick in the sixth round.
While I won’t put a grade down, I will say this appears to be a quality draft for the Saints.