In the second part of The Onside Kick’s pre-NFL Draft interview with WWL AM radio sports commentator and college football expert Mike Detillier, the draft analyst examines positions of need for the Black and Gold, the value of running back Mark Ingram to the Saints, where LSU standout defensive back Patrick Peterson will be drafted and whether the “Son of Ironhead” will be sporting a fleur-de-lis on his helmet in the 2011 season.
And a reminder, those still interested in acquiring Mr. Detillier’s 200-page draft guide, which also contains valuable information for Fantasy Football aficionados, can order the book from www.mikedetillier.com.
TOK: What would you say is the number one priority for the New Orleans Saints to address via the 2011 NFL draft?
MD: First, always look for players that fit what you do best offensively and defensively, but the top need for the Saints is to upgrade the defensive line at both end and tackle. This team needs to generate a better and a more consistent pass rush. All season long the Saints could not get a good pass rush unless they brought extra people and they need to get someone who can get that extra push from the middle or off the edge.
TOK: You have LSU’s Patrick Peterson as your top rated player in the draft, what do
you think would be the lowest selection he could fall to?
MD: I gave him a lot of consideration at the #2 spot to Denver and I have him going to Arizona at the #5 spot, but I don’t think he gets pass the #7 spot and if Arizona doesn’t take him I expect a team, like the Houston Texans, to try and trade up to select him. The 49ers would love to land him if he falls that far down to the #7 spot.
TOK: You were one of the very first to say that Cam Newton would be the first pick
overall pick in the draft. How much of a certainty is he going with the top pick?
MD: It came down to him and Blaine Gabbert. The Panthers need help at quarterback and it just came down to the upside and the “Wow” factor around Cam. He is still rough around the edges as a passer and his accuracy wanes at times, but he has the tools to develop into a big time performer, if the commitment on his part is there. He reminds me a lot of a more athletic version of what the Buccaneers have in Josh Freeman. Carolina needs a “buzz” player and in this draft Cam is it.
I feel pretty strongly that Cam will be the top guy, even though Peterson, Von Miller, Marcell Dareus, and A.J. Green are higher rated players. Every quarterback picked in this draft early will be overdrafted and that includes Newton and Gabbert.
TOK: You are a big fan of Mark Ingram and I have heard you believe he will be a top
NFL back. Why are people on ESPN and the NFL Network bashing him so much and
trying to put others at the top running back spot?
MD: I really don’t get it to be honest. The guy has been a terrific college player and even after coming back from a minor cartilage repair on his knee he still averaged over 5 yards per rush. He reminds me so much of Emmitt Smith when he came out of Florida. He also is a very good receiver coming out of the backfield and he has been well drilled in pass protection sets. He is a three down back and you don’t find many like that. Ingram is also one of the most competitive guys you will ever meet.
He is a Top 20 type player, but this stuff about the knee and other items are being fed to many by agents who want to lower his draft stock and increase the stock of their own players. There is also the devaluation of the running back position today because it is manned by committee. His knee is fine.
TOK: With that said couldn’t you get real good value in rounds 2 and 2 at running back?
MD: Yes. That is part of what has happened to Ingram and every other back looking to sneak into Round One. It is the feeder system today, college football, that has turned into running back by committee and you just won’t find an Adrian Peterson-type player often and the value of the halfback spot has diminished.
TOK: I would love to be a fly on the wall if Ingram, Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn and
Muhammad Wilkerson are all on the board when the Saints pick at 24.
MD: I agree. Do you go with the bigger need and pick the defensive lineman knowing that you can get a good back later or do you go with the top back in this draft and cut loose Reggie Bush for good. Bush is just too injury-prone in my opinion to pay the top dollars for.
Also you know those defensive linemen will get swooped up quickly and you may not get a shot a highly rated lineman ,even late in Round 2.
TOK: Would the Saints be interested in Cameron Heyward at 24? It seems you and most
others have him going late in Round One instead of in the mid-20’s.
MD: I would say no at 24, but if they traded down it would be a strong possibility. Cam is a good kid, big, powerfully built, but he is inconsistent. He has looked really good at times, but he has looked very average other times. He is versatile, could play defensive tackle or end, but it is his inconsistent nature that will drop him late into Round One or real early in Round 2. He also doesn’t have a mean streak in him. That is something his dad had that he doesn’t. He needs someone to light his fire on a consistent basis.
TOK: Does having running back Pierre Thomas under contract mean the Saints won’t be
looking at a running back in this draft?
MD: Saints will be looking at the running back spot in this draft. No question about it. They don’t have one healthy back on the squad. Pierre, Chris Ivory, Lynell Hamilton and Reggie are all rehabbing injuries or surgeries. You never have enough good backs. That was evident on this team last season. Pierre’s new deal will not affect their thinking on picking a back in this draft. The real value of backs is going to be in Rounds 3 and 4. They are going to have a host of productive NFL backs picked in that section this year.
TOK: Will the Saints pursue a kick returner in this draft?
MD: Yes, it may be early if a receiver like Randall Cobb-Kentucky, Jerrel Jernigan-Troy or even a Titus Young is available. They need a good slot end who can spread the field and help out in the return game. If not, later on someone like Louisiana Tech’s Phillip Livas is a strong possibility late. I covered Livas at South Terrebonne High School and he was a terrific running back there. He has become a good slot end, punt and kickoff return man and he could play halfback in a pinch. He reminds me a lot of another South Terrebonne product who excelled in that same slot/return game portion of the game in the pros in Clarence Verdin. This team needs to get a quality return man.
TOK: Which position is more of a priority for the Saints to address, defensive end or outside linebacker?
MD: Good question and you could have a strong debate on either side, but I side with defensive end. Nothing is more important in the 4th quarter than a pass rush and when you run a 4-3 defense you want that pressure from the defensive ends.
I would look for this team to add a quality starting veteran outside linebacker once free agency starts up, whenever that is.
TOK: With the release of tight end Jeremy Shockey and with David Thomas a potential
free agent, will the Saints pursue a tight end somewhere in the draft?
MD: Yes. This team loves the multiple tight end sets and there is room for another tight end on the roster. Ideally with a young talent and a potential star player like Jimmy Graham you would like to bring in a veteran player, but with no free agency yet I could see them get a tight end, especially with one of the two 7th round picks. With the first four picks in the draft I expect the Saints to pick a defensive lineman, an outside linebacker, halfback and wide receiver.