Thursday, April 22, 2010

2010 NFL Draft: First Round Is for the Birds

New Orleans Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis once entertainingly quipped that the Saints had all of the love in the world for UFA free safety Darren Sharper but just not all the money.

The Saints first round, 32nd overall pick is a sign that the organization now has neither for the future Hall of Famer.

Rather than addressing what seemed to be the obvious weakness of the Saints defense, the front seven, outside linebacker and defensive tackle in particular, the team used their selection on a defensive back.

In my five years of observing Saints draft fests, I have never witnessed a euphoric moment transform into a wake after quarterback Drew Brees announced cornerback Patrick Robinson's selection. And not even having the franchise's greatest hero promulgating the pick could take the obvious sting out of it, part shock that the front seven was not enhanced, part realization that it was a sign that the Sharper era in organization is at a close.

Granted the Saints' options at that point weren't stellar. The Atlanta Falcons grabbed the highly coveted Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon (a fear I hope that could have been mitigated by trading up) and then the Arizona Cardinals snagged Tennessee defensive tackle Dan Williams.

With the pickings slim, it would have seemed that a trade down would have been in order. Granted that's assuming anyone was interested in accommodating them and/or assuming general manager Mickey Loomis was interested in such a move.

As mystifying of a pick as it was, it's hard to question the judgment of the man who was the architect of the defending World Champions. Loomis's fingerprints were all over the team that hoisted the Lombardi Trophy in his 2009 off-season free agent acquisitions, last minute trades and last year's then-controversial move to trade up to get a punter.

Most fans thought that was insanity; I didn't. However, I'm no more of a fan of this selection as I was that of safety/cornerback Malcolm Jenkins last year. I thought that USC linebacker Brian Cushing was the smarter move. Cushing's ProBowl rookie season and Jenkins' unremarkable validates my position.

Unless of course Jenkins blossoms into a star like the much maligned Robert Meachem did, a pick which I favored and stood by while the Crescent City's sportsbloggery angrily hurled their rhetorical feces at the Tennessee wide receiver.

Going into the draft, Saints brass joked about how much they liked being last. There was less pressure in terms of making a decision and later in conducting negotiations with the 32nd overall pick, who would not command as much money as an earlier selection.

But after watching coveted players get swooped up by the competition, picking last is definitely for the birds.

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