People are always looking for the next great player, the next face of the franchise, and the NFL draft is where they look. For Saints fans there aren’t a lot of players on the current roster that warrant legendary status. Of course, Drew Brees is without question the greatest Saints QB of all time with a Super Bowl ring to prove it. He came via free agency when the San Diego Chargers drafted Philip Rivers and decided an injured Brees was expendable.
In the 2016 draft, quarterback is not the highest priority – so let’s look at the Saints needs and a comparative current or former player they should look for this year with their first pick.
When looking at Saints greats and future greats there are several players drafted in the first round that have lived up to their billing. Will Smith and Cameron Jordan are the most recent All-Pro players on the defensive line. Jordan was drafted in the first round in 2011 and Smith was the 18th pick overall in 2004. Smith played from 2004-2012 in 139 games and had 67.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. Jordan has played in 80 games (every game since 2011) and has 39 sacks and 1 interception. The Saints have never had an All-Pro defensive tackle picked up in the draft. Sedrick Ellis in 2008 is the closest they have come and he played in 70 games but only recorded 12.5 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
2016 Draft Options
Since opinion varies widely as to who the Saints will go for in the first round let’s take A’Shawn Robinson and Sheldon Rankins, both projected as defensive tackles, as our next potential All-Pro defensive linemen. Rankins scored better in every single combine test – for speed, quickness, explosiveness and strength. Although Robinson is slightly taller and has a longer reach, Rankins is the more versatile and polished player. The chart below shows how both of these men stack up to former/current Saints.
|Will Smith||DE||6’3″||267||4.49||7.42||4.05||38 1/2″||9’9″||30|
|Sheldon Rankins||DT||6’1″||299||33.5″||5.03||7.44||4.59||34 1/2″||9’8″||28|
Players who have success in the NFL must be physically gifted, but often what separates the great from the good are not found in combine numbers. That is the immeasurable that makes every draft pick a gamble. Based on numbers alone, Rankins is the better physical specimen with A’Shawn Robinson more closely resembling Sedrick Ellis than Cameron Jordan. Both of these players have had major success in their college careers. Although I like Rankins better, I think the Saints may get a future All-Pro with either one of these draftees.
Wednesday we will preview the linebackers and defensive secondary available for the Saints.