The Onside Kick is pleased to present its latest interview with college football expert, WWL AM radio contributor and NFL Draft guru Mike Detillier.
In this installment, Detillier offers his take on the Saints' number one pick, the recent re-signing of free safety Darren Sharper, the Black and Gold's linebacker corps, second-year defensive back Malcolm Jenkins's role in the 2010 season and the Saints free agency moves.
Due to the length of the interview, it has been broken into two parts.
TOK: How would you grade the Saints draft?
MD: When you add the acquisitions of Alex Brown and Jimmy Wilkerson, two really good players, via free agency, I would give them a solid B. You filled “need” spots at defensive end, added cornerback depth, a good young tight end prospect and you added 2 future starting type people along the offensive line with Charles Brown and Matt Tennant.
The Saints still need to address better depth at halfback, outside linebacker and probably a veteran quarterback. There are some people out there in the free agency market at both halfback and linebacker. Man, the quarterback spot is another story.
It’s scary to think what would happen if Drew Brees went down for any length of time. But to be honest Indianapolis is in the same spot. The one area I still think this team needs to also upgrade is at defensive tackle, but overall they got good value and they addressed needs, short term and long term.
The Saints found out that picking last is totally different than picking early or in the middle of the draft.
TOK: Would you say that the Saints used the 2010 draft primarily to cover 2011 expected needs?
MD: To a certain extent, especially across the offensive line, but picking CB. Patrick Robinson in Round 1 was to upgrade the team this season. TE. Jimmy Graham can help this team this season. It’s a real fine balance to walk on. You have to trust what you grade out and pick “need” spots, but also you have to look at things this season and beyond.
TOK: How surprised were you that the organization drafted a cornerback with its first round pick?
MD: It wasn’t what I thought they would do early, but once you think about it the choice made sense. This defense really played poorly when Randall Gay, Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer went down to injuries during the season. Good one-on-one cornerbacks are as hard to find as top pass rushers. In this defense it is essential to have multiple really good match-up cornerbacks, especially in a league that uses three wide receiver sets about 40% of the time.
I think the world of Tracy Porter and I am convinced he is one of the top two or three young cornerbacks in this league today, but he has missed time each of the past two seasons due to injuries.
It is hard to find even above-average NFL style cornerbacks after the season starts and remember last season the team had to go out and sign Chris McAlister and Mike McKenzie for a stretch. It was obvious both players’ talent had diminished.
Then there is the Darren Sharper factor. There is no doubt that due to the one-year deal with Sharper and the fact that he is coming off of a much more serious knee surgery than we had known about also factored in.
Remember that Reggie Bush had that microfracture knee surgery and he was well into the season before we saw him at full strength. Malcolm Jenkins will work at both cornerback and free safety, but I feel as though he will more the majority of the time at free safety. He is the free safety of the future and maybe even a good portion of this season. That really is his best spot for the pros. Jenkins has the ball hawking skills you want at free safety, just like Sharper has, and Usama Young doesn’t have those skills playing the ball well in flight. Moving Malcolm to safety takes away another matchup cornerback from the roster.
When you add it all up you can see why this made sense.
TOK: You felt on draft weekend that whenever Darren Sharper would sign it would be a short term, but did it surprise you it was back in New Orleans?
MD: I really believe due to the age and injury factor I felt it had to be short term deal, but I was glad he was back in New Orleans. To be honest I thought he was gone. We knew that he hadn’t got a great offer from anyone yet, until Jacksonville stepped in late, but I really couldn’t see him sign on with the Jaguars. They aren’t a team that is close to being really good. If that offer was from the New York Jets or the Minnesota Vikings than that is a different situation, but it wasn’t. For whatever reason I thought the Dallas Cowboys would come in late and snag him. I am glad they didn’t.
He brings so much to the table, football wise. He is savvy and Darren is still a good football player, if healthy. He also is a good teacher of the game to the younger guys. He works on certain techniques with them and he is constantly talking to them about watching for certain tip-off details. He is a super mentor to the young defensive backs.
TOK: Would the Saints have drafted either DT Dan Williams or DE Jerry Hughes had fallen to them?
MD: Either one, but you didn’t have that choice. Yes, I am convinced they would have selected either one, Williams or Hughes, ahead of Patrick Robinson.
But we all saw that there is a lot of water to go in the pond before you select at #32, but I would like for them to pick there again in 2011.
TOK: The Saints did not draft a single linebacker or a running back though these were considered positions to address due to free agency losses. Why do you think they took no action in the draft?
MD: I thought that they would address the running back issue via veteran free agency. I think a lot of Justin Fargas, who the Oakland Raiders released earlier in the year and he would be a great “fit” player here. But money and his health are issues at the present time and they just signed P.J. Hill, who they had last season and I was impressed with Hill. He lost a lot of weight and he ran hard between the tackles. He also showed a little more speed and quickness than the P.J. I saw at Wisconsin. What he needs to work on is catching the ball better and improving his pass protection skills and techniques.
I am a big believer that you never have enough good runners on the team and it is a position that gets nicked up quite a bit.
I am surprised about the linebacker position. They have brought in Clint Ingram for a visit and there certainly are some ties to him with Gregg Williams and his stint in Jacksonville. The same is true if they would pursue a trade with Washington for Rocky McIntosh. I would be surprised if they didn’t upgrade the linebacker spot before training camp starts. Something seems to be brewing at the outside linebacker spot.
TOK: Are the Saints right to have so much confidence in their current linebacker corps?
MD: Vilma is a terrific football player and Shanle is a good starter also. Jo-Lonn. Dunbar is a good prospect. He is smart, very instinctive and a really good openfield tackler. He has started a few games, but can he hold up for a 16-game season and does he match up well in coverage spots?
We are fixing to found out about those issues, but I do feel as though he is going to get some strong competition.
Jonathan Casillas is very athletic, he has 1st rate range and he covers well. He is not real big though and he needs to get much stronger to take on and defeat blocks at the point of attack better. Jonathan is smart and what sticks out about him to me is how well he matches up in coverage spots. Let’s see how well he handles the physical side of the game.
With Stanley Arnoux we didn’t see him at all last season because of the Achilles injury. I spoke with him late last season and he told me he couldn’t wait to get back on the field and that he was about 90% and this was in early January. When he was initially selected Gregg Williams said he would play the weakside spot. In college Arnoux was super smart, very instinctive and he was a very tough little guy out on the field. He is not real big, 6-0, 235, but he is a playmaker and he fully understands the game.
What I want to see is how well he takes on and shed off blockers when running plays are directed right at him. He also looked a little stiff in coverage, but the Wake Forest coaches loved him and he seemed to always be in the thick of the action.You have a lot of incomplete resumes there, but it will be the most watched position in training camp.