While I certainly applaud the Saints for showing restraint in the beauty contest that is free agency, I am hopeful that they will continue to search for help on the defense. They added linebacker James Laurinaitis and Nate Stupor, a special teams expert this week. Laurinaitis may not be able to overcome his recent injury woes and the Saints have an excellent young MLB in Stephone Anthony, but his is a proven leader on and off the field and the Saints may be able to catch lightening in a bottle for next year. Stupor played for the Falcons last year and is also a linebacker, but he is seen as primarily a special teams force. He can certainly add depth on the defense but will not challenge for a starting role.
So what do the Saints really expect through the draft and training camp releases? Three picks in the top 100 means even if they hit on every pick they won’t address all of their concerns They need a bookend rusher opposite Cameron Jordan, additional help at linebacker both inside and out, a safety, a cornerback and some depth. And that is just on the defense!
Based on recent drafts managed by Mickey Loomis and Sean Peyton the team won’t even get two starters, much less five! The 2015 draft brought in Andrus Peat (8 starts), Stephone Anthony (16), Hau’oli Kikaha (10), Damian Swann (7) and Marcus Murphy who contributed primarily on special teams. Their other four picks were Garett Grayson (QB of the future), PJ Williams (IR) and David Tull (IR) and a defensive tackle in Tyeler Davison who managed 1 sack. Draft 2014 was even worse, with only Brandin Cook (WR) and Vinnie Sunseri (SS) contributing and Sunseri missed most of last season on IR.
So how do they improve through the draft? One would assume they pass on a quarterback for several rounds since they picked Grayson last year and re-signed McCowen as the backup. Based on any number of mock drafts, Saints are assumed to be going after defensive line help with the number 12 pick.
This seems to be a safe bet, considering the depth of the draft at this position, and names like Sheldon Rankins (DT, Louisville), Jarran Reed (DT, Alabama) and Kevin Dodd (DE, Clemson) are likely suspects. It is possible Shaq Lawson (DE, Louisville) would also be available and is an edge rusher with a mean streak the Saints desparately need.
Many are hoping the Saints will go after WR Laquon Treadwell, the Mississippi alum who terrorized LSU during his career. Let’s hope Loomis and Peyton stick to need for at least one round. By round 2 you start seeing a run at linebackers and both Deion Jones of LSU and Kamalei Correa of Boise State are outside backers that have incredible upside. The Saints have passed on LSU defenders before (see Patrick Peterson and Tyraunn Mathieu) and lived to regret it. Although many rank Correa higher, perhaps the Saints will shoot for a local product.
Whatever they do, let’s hope they don’t rest on the three players they have signed thus far in free agency! Trades, additional free agents and the draft are all needed to improve this team.