Saints select Odell Beckham #KRM
The New Orleans Saints are entering an interesting time in franchise history.
For the past eight years, the Saints have been set at quarterback with Drew Brees running the show. In that time they have made five playoff appearances and captured a Super Bowl. But Brees just turned 35 years old, and while he has only missed one start during his time with the Saints, he is certainly much closer to the end than he is the beginning.
With that in mind, the Saints have to decide the best direction to go come draft day.
The Saints have tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Marques Colston, but after releasing veteran wide receiver Lance Moore they are thin at the receiver position. In addition to Colston, the current roster includes Chris Givens, Charles Hawkins, Joe Morgan, Kenny Stills, Andy Tanner and Nick Toon – a group that has a combined 46 career receptions.
Clearly, the Saints need help here and, as luck would have it, this year’s draft class is deep at wide receiver.
Candidates on offense
Colston is 6-foot-4 and Graham is 6-foot-7, so if New Orleans wants to give Brees another big target to aim for, they could select Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin, who is 6-5.
According to his NFL.com profile, Benjamin is “a tight end-sized, intimidating, big-play receiver with a rare wingspan, (one who) has the overall strength, length and wide catching radius that will demand extra coverage be rolled his way. Showed continual improvement, is still growing into the position, and possesses the traits to become a legitimate No. 1 receiver. A very intriguing mismatch weapon with ascending talent.”
With opposing defenses having to focus on Colston (an average of 78 receptions, 1,077 yards and seven touchdowns over the past five seasons) and Graham (average of 90 receptions, 1,169 yards and 12 touchdown receptions over the past three seasons, Benjamin would be a third option, allowing him to grow into the position.
The Saints could also go the hometown route (a favorite ploy of Ohio State fanboys everywhere) and select LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham, the Paul Hornung Award winner as the nation’s most versatile player in 2013.
Beckham is a “talented, competitive, productive, inconsistent college split end who projects as a big-play receiver in the pros. Offers versatility to toggle between “X,” “Z” and slot given his ability to stretch the field and run after the catch. Brings added value as a kick returner.”
A player that offers versatility in the passing game? Sounds like someone who would be appealing to Saints head coach Sean Payton.
Candidates on defense
On the defensive side of the ball the Saints were a surprise last year (at least to us) under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. After two underwhelming years in Dallas where Ryan’s defense was 16th and the n 24th in points allowed, Ryan came to New Orleans in 2013 and the Saints finished fourth in the NFL in points allowed and fourth in sacks.
The team was busy in free agency, signing safety Jairus Byrd to replace Roman Harper and cornerback Champ Bailey to replace Jabari Greer. Even with those moves they could still use help in the secondary, especially at cornerback as Bailey will be 36 by the time the season starts this fall and talked about retirement last year in Denver.
If they decide that they need help now, rather than taking a risk that they can get 16 games from Bailey, the Saints could look at TCU cornerback Jason Verrett, the co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year.
Verrett is “a tough, scrappy, undersized nickel back with potential to ascend to a No. 2 CB if he can stay in one piece. Is not the physical prototype for the position, but compensates with outstanding athleticism, blazing speed and a tenacious temperament. Is a terrific football player who boasts toughness and competitiveness.”
The concern with Verrett is his health. He had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in the spring of 2012, suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee and had surgery in January of 2013, and suffered a torn labrum last season, which was surgically repaired in March. That’s a lot of mileage for a player who hasn’t even stepped on the field for an NFL team.
If Verrett’s injury history scares off the Saints, they could take a look at Alabama linebacker C.J. Mosley, the Butkus Award winner and SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2013.
Mosley is a “smart, instinctive, fast-flowing, every-down linebacker capable of manning any position in a “40” front or steering a defense from the weak side in a “30” front, where he starred for a national-championship defense as a junior and carried the Tide as a senior. Has the football temperament, desire and work habits to emerge as a tackling machine in the pros. Has Pro Bowl potential.”
Sounds like someone that Ryan could do some damage with.
While the Saints were fourth in the NFL last season in sacks, playing in a division where you have to face Carolina’s Cam Newton and Atlanta’s Matt Ryan twice a year may mean the Saints subscribe to the theory that “you can’t have too many pass rushers,” which means they could look at Boise State’s Demarcus Lawrence or Auburn’s Dee Ford.
Lawrence is described as “a loose, explosive, long-limbed athlete, (one who) consistently pressures the edge and harasses quarterbacks. His pass-rushing ability rates among the best in this year’s class, and he holds mass appeal. Lacks ideal stoutness at the point of attack, but could thrive as a 4-3 right end or 3-4 rush linebacker, and should contribute readily on passing downs.”1
Ford is a “high-motor college left defensive end perhaps suited for a rush linebacker role in the pros. Has added more than 50 pounds to his frame since arriving on campus and has demonstrated the desire, work habits and competitiveness to develop into a productive edge rusher if he can stay healthy and is programmed to go get the quarterback only.”
So, the Saints are on the clock … what’s the pick?
As appealing as it may be to go defense, New Orleans needs to max out on offensive weapons for Brees while they still can. Even if the defense has some holes in it, with another offensive threat on the field, Brees should be able to outscore the opposition most weeks.
While Benjamin is an intriguing option, the Saints will go the hometown route and, for the 10th time in franchise history, select a player from LSU: Odell Beckham.
Thank you Tom, up next is the guy who kicked this all off with the Texans and Blake Bortles, our man in Singapore,