NFL Draft Day is one of my favorite times of the sports calendar. Even more so than post-season (last year’s excepted) as the Saints ARE ALWAYS (Mike Ditka years excepted) in the Draft but not always in the playoffs.
Admittedly, I have more of a general manager-mind than a coaching-mind.
My coaching skills are limited to the following: don’t throw too much; kick/punt on 4th down; get your team properly acclimated to cold weather when playing on the road during the winter; and don’t try to execute a double-reverse with Reggie Bush and Devery Henderson when you have the lead. And that’s about it.
Hence 95% of my criticisms of head coach Sean Payton since 2006 are within the realm of the aforementioned.
But drafts picks and trades are my thing.
Since 2006, I accurately predicted three out of four 1st round draft selections, even the trade-up for USC defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. The only one where I was wrong was last year’s Malcolm Jenkins pick; I kind of figured the Saints were going in that direction buy I didn’t want to believe it and/or hoped someone else would have taken him.
My choice was USC linebacker Brian Cushing, who was plucked by the Houston Texans on the very next pick. Jenkins had an unspectacular year in 2009 as a fill-in cornerback; Cushing made the Pro-Bowl.
But enough of that. Hopefully the Ohio State defensive back will make as much of a fool of me as Tennessee wide receiver Robert Meachem made of his legion of haters in 2009.
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I remember during the 2007 NFL Draft when Saints owner Tom Benson shuffled his way to the stage to address the surly fans griping about the Meachem pick.
I was a little surprised by the move as Benson has never pretended to be much of a man of the people and one to face off with a circus tent full of inebriated Saints fans. But then again, Mr. Benson is a product of the 9th Ward, historically the toughest neighborhood in New Orleans when it was predominantly white and when it became predominantly black.
Amazingly, the fans quickly shifted their mental gears and gave the owner a rousing ovation. After some small talk Benson closed with the statement, “I have some bad news for you all. Next year you’re going to have to wait even longer for our pick when we choose at 32”. If you’re reading this column, you probably know the implication that picking at 32 means you’re team won the Super Bowl.
That or Ditka snuck in another trade.
While Mr. Benson was probably just trying to be cute with his rah-rah talk, I’ve waited for those words to one ring true. And they finally have.
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With the 32nd selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, the World Champion New Orleans Saints pick…
I’m counting on the front office pulling a “Crazy Ivan” or in the Saints’ case a “Loony Loomis” move and trade up to snag Missouri linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
Weatherspoon at one time was within the Black and Gold’s reach at 32nd but other teams have taken notice. He’s like another Jonathan Vilma when it comes to being a leader on the defense.
And he can play even if he is a tad undersized…though not to the same degree that Jason David was the Billy Barty of defensive backs and made Saints fans weep over the memory of Fred Thomas.
Outside linebacker is a position of need for the Saints, only behind defensive tackle. Though the team has a lot of young players at that position that fill the vacuum left by Scott Fujita, none of them strike me as having the same potential as Weatherspoon.
Over the weekend, I had a conversation with a local figure of prominence that is very familiar with the NFL and he’s also high on Weatherspoon. I won’t mention his name as we were shooting the breeze off the record but this expert is also hoping for a trade up.
I’m of the philosophy that drafts should be about addressing the needs of today and tomorrow. As Mike Detillier mentioned in the interview I conducted with him, a good general manager has to be cognizant of not only this season’s holes but also next season’s due to age, contracts and “signability”.
The Saints are going to be a totally different team in 2011, which could turn out to be a lot like 1993. But that’s a screed for another time.
In order to get Weatherspoon, the Saints will have to get somewhere in the late teens, drafting no later than 22. And that’s a stretch at 22nd.
San Francisco has two picks in the draft (13 and 17) with its second being just ahead of the Atlanta Falcons, who choose at 19.
The Saints have some decent trade bait with tackle Jammal Brown, who has Pro Bowl credentials and a full regular season’s rest on Injured Reserve on his résumé
Detillier believes Brown could be worth 2nd and a 5th round picks; how about swapping a firsts and throwing in a third? The team could also move one of its wide receivers.
If the Saints were unable to make the move on Weatherspoon, the second option would be to trade down with an early round team that needs a quarterback that’s still on the board.
The Saints would be in an excellent position to haggle their way out of the 1st round, collect high 2nd and 3rd selections. And then you still have Brown to deal away and maybe a wide receiver.
Does anyone think an ornery Lance Moore is going to get what he wants from Loomis once the salary cap is reinstated? As they say in Cut Off, Hell Non!
If the Saints trade down (or if they get stuck with number 32), look for the team to draft the best defensive tackle available OR the best tight end available, though I’m betting on the former more so than the latter.
Drafting a pure defensive end isn’t likely Alex Brown and Jimmy Wilkerson signed with the Saints, Anthony Hargrove’s potential shift back to that spot and/or the selection of a “tweener”. Expect the Saints to address that spot in the 2011 NFL Draft’s first round.
Hopefully the Saints won’t be stuck on 32 as this is a deep top 100 and the Saints have a lot of UFA 2011 insurance policies to acquire.
In addition to linebacker and tight end, the Saints are going to be looking to pick up a running back (no move on signing a veteran at this position with good reason) and a safety (Usama Young is not the answer).
Pat Kirwin’s NFL.com three round mock draft has the Saints picking in an ideal world: Weatherspoon falling to 32nd (it’s raining manna); running back Toby Gerhart of Stanford in round two; and Louisiana Tech defensive tackle D’Anthony Smith late in the third round. Maybe the last one will happen.
With the Brown trade, the Saints will hopefully have no less than 4 picks in the first three rounds and maybe 5.
As it currently stands the Saints have six picks and will be drafting 32nd (1); 64th (2); 95th (3); 130th (4- after the compensatory picks trickle in); 201st (6); and 239th (7). The Saints traded their 5th round pick to Philadelphia to grab punter Thomas Morestead.
Nothing like a slew of touchbacks and a historic onside kick in the Super Bowl to quiet the natives on that trade.
Here are my picks, with trades factored in:
Round One Sean Weatherspoon Linebacker Penn State (trade up)
Round Two Anthony Dixon Running back Mississippi State
Round Three Torrell Troup Defensive Tackle Central Florida (trade- JB)
Round Four D’Anthony Smith Defensive Tackle Louisiana Tech
Round Five Nate Byham Tight End Pittsburgh (trade- JB)
Round Six Nick Polk Safety Indiana
Round Seven Not Ryan Perrilloux Quarterback Anywhere but J’ville State*
Couldn’t resist but I think the athletically talented though judgmentally challenged Saint John the Baptist Parish native has done enough damage to Louisiana sports. The young man needs to go as far away northeast or northwest he can get. That said, the Saints will likely pick a quarterback to have someone in line if the “don’t think able” happens to number Nine.