The return of Sean Payton performed wonders on a disheartened Saints ball club from the year before. The defense played tremendously better under new defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan. 1st round pick, safety Kenny Vaccaro, showed their faith in him is just, proving he could be a possible pro bowl safety in the future. Now that they decided to sign arguably the best safety in the league, Jairus Byrd, to pair up with Vaccaro; corner is really the only position needing to be filled in the defensive secondary. New Orleans did bring in veteran, Champ Bailey, into the defensive backfield for the Saints; but the all pro is starting to show the wear of a 16 year NFL veteran. Bailey dealt with injuries all of last year, only playing in five games; and did not record one interception for the first time in his career. Corner Keenan Lewis played admirably well as a first year starter with New Orleans, recording four interceptions on the year, a personal career high. Other issues that the Saints may be looking to address are the offensive line, and possibly a dynamic slot wide receiver.
As the NFL Draft Daily dissects the NFL draft prospects, there are only two possible positions that we feel New Orleans may address in the first round. With all of the offensive lineman worthy of a first round pick already taken off the board, wide receiver or corner becomes the top priority. It’s a tough decision to make for the Saints, as good as the top tier of the wide receivers are; the second or third round prospects could be just as good. The drop off between the top five defensive corners and the rest of the pack is quite significant, if the Saints passed on one now, they may regret it as the draft continues on. A prospect from Virginia Tech, Kyle Fuller, more then likely would have been put in the same class as the top two corners of the draft, if he had stayed healthy his senior season. Fuller showed signs of top prospect material when Virginia Tech played Alabama. The senior was all over the field making plays on the ball, and jumping in front of an AJ McCarron pass for an interception. Standing at 6ft tall, Fuller fits the mold of teams looking for a bigger corner who can play both man and zone coverage.
Prospects at the wide receiver come in abundance for the pass happy Saints; it all just depends on what type of receiver they are looking for. Are they looking for a speedy inside and outside option like an Odell Beckham Jr.? Or someone used as big target in the red zone, like an Allen Robinson or Jordan Matthews? With Colston already on the roster and Jimmy Graham being Brees’ big red zone target already; the NFL Draft Daily feels they may look for the slot wide receiver option who can also play outside. Possibly players like Colorado’s Paul Richardson or South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington; could be options in the 2nd or 3rd rounds. Offensive line still would need to be addressed as well, with offensive tackle and center still needing to be resolved.
Either way the Saints go, they will always be in good shape with Drew Brees under center and Sean Payton in his ear. Since Payton became New Orleans head coach in 2006, they have had only one losing record; not counting the year he was suspended. New Orlean will make their later offensive line picks work, as they add weapons for Brees; and talent on the defensive side of the ball for Rob Ryan. The New Orleans Saints are in a prime position to compete for years and can only get better from here.
This article is one in a series, published daily, providing analysis, insight and predictions leading up to the NFL draft and beyond.
Commentary by Justin Huffman