Big moves have been made in free agency for New Orleans. What was expected to be an abysmal offseason has so far been very exciting making Saints fans ready for the season to start. Unfortunately, many months separate us from the beginning of football season. In the meantime, we still have the draft to look forward to. While speculation has been made on the direction the Saints may go both early and late in the draft, the positional needs have changed following the recent moves in free agency.
First off, as you may know, Jabari Greer, Jonathan Vilma, Roman Harper, Will Smith, Lance Moore, and Darren Sproles will not be back next season. On the bright side, the Saints managed to bring in one of the top free agents available, free safety Jairus Byrd, while also re-signing right tackle Zach Streif. These moves will drastically change the Saints draft strategies. Now let’s look into some of the positions New Orleans may be interested in drafting.
I won’t go into this one too much since the Saints managed to re-sign right tackle Zach Streif. I like Armstead a lot and think he will be a very solid starter on the left side. While I have nothing wrong with Streif, he is a great run blocker and an adequate pass blocker, depth for the big men up front is a need for New Orleans.
With Garret Hartley gone, the Saints have two kickers currently on the roster that have a viable chance of the being the starting kicker for next season. If they want to go a route other than Derek Dimke or Shayne Graham, they may address this position somewhere in the mid to later rounds of the draft or bring in an undrafted free agent to compete with Dimke and Graham.
5. Defensive Line:
The Saints have some real talent on the defensive line. Unfortunately they lack depth. Cam Jordan, Akiem Hicks, and John Jenkins are talented, young defensive lineman that can prove to be solid starters, while Bunkley may be another cap casualty for New Orleans. Behind these guys, the Saints don’t have too much. I don’t think they will address the defensive line early but they will probably look to add depth in the later rounds of the draft.
4. Outside Linebacker:
Victor Butler should be back next season, and hopefully he lives up to the expectations he had entering last season. The Saints also have sub-par pass rushers that will be solid in Rob Ryan’s defense, but what if the Saints bring in someone early to really make that rush linebacker a position of strength. Most of the Saints pass rush came from up front from players like Cam Jordan.
Brian De La Puente has not been re-signed, and while he isn’t a top notch interior lineman, he played well for New Orleans the past couple years. The Saints may plan to shift Tim Lelito to center, much like they did with De La Puenta just a couple seasons ago. Whether they do this or not, the center position as well as depth at all the interior line positions could use some depth. They may target a center in the mid rounds as the Saints have had so much success bringing in mid to late round offensive lineman and building them into very talented players.
2. Wide Receiver:
When your top three receivers are two running backs and your tight end, odds are you don’t have a very talented wide receiving core. Drew Brees has done an incredible job with the receivers he has been given, but another talented receiver could really be beneficial to an already talented offense. I would not be surprised if the Saints drafted two receivers as I see a need for receivers of different skill sets. Most Saints fans want the Saints to draft a deep threat receiver, and I agree with them. New Orleans was lacking in terms of a vertical threat last season which made it a bit more difficult for the offense to get going. Joe Morgan has recently been re-signed though and he could possibly fill those shoes. I also see a major need for a true number one wide receiver. Notice I said wide receiver and not tight end. If a number one wide out is put in place for New Orleans, a team won’t be able to put their number one corner on Graham. Colston doesn't appear a number one receiver anymore, and as much as I hate to say it, I don’t know if he will be back after this coming season unless he takes a pay cut. With such a talented receiver class, the Saints may opt to take two in the draft this year, bolstering the receiving core tremendously and giving them an extra spark on offense.
The Saints defensive backfield looks very strong when healthy: key word healthy. Patrick Robinson has not proven he can stay healthy, while Kenny Vaccaro’s rookie season was cut short due to a season ending ankle injury. Adding another cornerback would give the Saints some depth, as well as add some breathing room incase more injuries occur throughout the season. Robinson’s injury really exposed Corey White, the Saints 3rd cornerback when thrust into a starting role. While White was adequate when acting as the third cornerback, it didn’t seem he could handle covering a team’s number two receiver. The draft is deep at cornerback, whether they decide to take one with the 27th overall pick or a bit later.