Opinion: Saints draft was better than you think

The draft analyst says he likes what he's seen with the Saints draft.

There’s what you hoped for, what actually takes place and then viewing both sides … perhaps even a few things hadn’t consider.

That, in a nutshell, is the 2017 New Orleans Saints draft.

ANOTHER VIEW: Saints Draft? Meh...

I’ve been there, on both sides of the fence.

A year ago, my No. 1 priority was an edge rusher and a cornerback. Instead, the Saints chose a defensive tackle and a wide receiver.

I ranted and raved and proclaimed that the Saints just don’t get the draft. As it turned out, Sheldon Rankins looks pretty good and no Saints’ fan regrets picking Michael Thomas.

Not shockingly, my top two wants going into this weekend’s draft was for New Orleans to pick an edge rusher at 11 and then a cornerback at 32.

Once again, Sean Payton and Company didn’t listen to me.

And yet, I’m overjoyed with what transpired.

No, I didn’t want at cornerback at 11. The Saints have never had an elite cornerback in the club’s 51-year history. Cornerbacks tend to take too long to contribute and they only get hurt in New Orleans.

The Saints think Marshon Lattimore has a chance to be a plus-cover corner. All Saints’ fans can do is watch and hope that finally comes to pass.

And sure, the sixth-round pick threw most of us for a loop. He didn’t even play last season.

Every selection in between, however, should have been exciting for Black-and-Gold fans.

Like them all individually or not, the Saints addressed all of their needs. No, perhaps not in the order most of us wanted, but holes were filled.

The needs were edge rusher, cornerback, offensive tackle, third-down back and just generally anything that could possibly help the deplorable defensive and special teams units.

Before you overly criticize the club for waiting until its sixth and seven picks to address the edge rusher need, consider a few things.

One, let’s say the Saints only had three picks in the first three rounds and picked a cornerback, a tackle and an edge rusher. More of the reaction would have been, right positions, but wrong order.

Well, they did get an edge rusher in the third round. It just so happened to be the sixth pick, so it seemed like they were ignoring it too long for the impatient fan base. In the end, a third-round rusher is a third-round rusher.

Secondly, don’t ignore the Jeff Ireland factor. For several years there, the Saints weren’t very good at the draft.

Ireland seemingly has added more discipline to the club’s war room over the last few years by convincing them to stick to their grading process.

The edge rushers apparently weren’t as high on their board, so they stuck to their grades.

I’m been shocked at how many people have criticized the Alvin Kamara pick, or rather the Michael Thomas acquisition of this year's draft.

Third-down back was a big need and they addressed it in the third round.

What could possibly be wrong with that? Sure they traded to do it, but in a deep draft, the call was that a third-round pick in 2017 is better than a second-round pick in 2018.

Remember the glorious 2009-11 era? There was Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush and Mike Bell/Mark Ingram.

The screen pass was a huge part of those championship offenses. The screen pass wasn’t almost non-existent at times last year and Travaris Cadet was disappointing with too many dropped passes.

The offense needed Kamara. Just like Thomas last year, Kamara was Payton’s radar from the beginning and he was right.

There were also plenty of questions about the offensive tackle at 32. For those skeptics, I have two questions.

How many games has Terron Armstead missed over the past two seasons (9)? And how old is Zach Strief (33)?

Then there’s the injury concerns. Those are real. The injury paranoia among Saints’ fans is real, especially on defense. Only time will tell on those.

But also don’t forget about special teams. Folks, one of the biggest misnomers about the Payton era is that defense has been the worst aspect of the team.

That’s not accurate. It’s been the special teams by a long shot.

The Saints got way more athletic in this draft. The jury is still out on how many games safety Marcus Williams, Kamara, linebacker Alex Anzalone and edge rusher Trey Hendrickson will start.

But all of those guys, if healthy, should enhance the special teams considerably.

A better offense, more talent on defense and better special teams should equal more early leads and more running plays and more gambling for opposing offenses.

That was the secret from 2009-11 and Saints are closer to getting back to that formula than they've been in the last four seasons.

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment