In the run up to this year’s NFL Draft, the general consensus is that the Saints will go with some kind of edge rusher.
Mike Mayock, the NFL Network’s draft guru, agrees.
To a point.
“I’m a big believer that need can’t trump player,” Mayock said during a more than two-hour conference call. “If you have a need and that need is generally commensurate with the top end of your board, go for the need.”
New Orleans, which finished the 2012 season by giving up more yards than any other defense in NFL history, is switching to a 3-4 defense under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Two players could fit the Saints’ needs, Mayock said, but both come with question marks.
Jarvis Jones was a play-making specialist at the University of Georgia. But he has been diagnosed with spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal cord’s open areas. Team physicians at Southern California didn’t clear, precipitating his transfer to UGA, where he played two highly-productive seasons.
Demontre Moore, on the other hand, has a “work ethic” problem, Mayock said.
“He looks the part for a 3-4 outside linebacker,” Mayock said. “However, there’s some off-the-field work ethic with him where teams are really nervous about him despite his ability.”
Adding to the question of what the Saints will do, though, is that there are other areas of need.
Offensive tackle is a position that coach Sean Payton in the past has said worries him. New Orleans lost starting left tackle Jermon Bushrod in free agency this year. The primary backup, Charles Brown, hasn’t proven that he can stay healthy for a full season since coming into the league as a second-round pick in 2010.
New Orleans also could be in play at safety. The Saints brought in Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro for a pre-draft visit and if he’s there at 15, Mayock wonders if the Saints might go in that direction.
“If Jarvis Jones and Demontre Moore are 20 and 30 on your board and you’re drafting 15,” Mayock said. “Why are you reaching for one of those guys if another position of need, like safety, has the top-ranked guy available? What if the kid from Texas, Vaccaro, is sitting there and you don’t really like the edge guys, to me, you go get the football player.
“I don’t think you reach.”
Still, Mayock thinks it could come down to whether the Saints are willing to take a chance on two players with upside but questions.
“It’s really going to be intriguing when New Orleans gets on the clock if Jarvis Jones and Demontre Moore are sitting there and I really feel like they will be and whether or not they’re willing to pull the trigger there,” he said.