Owners of seven (for now) picks in next month's draft, the New Orleans Saints will have every opportunity to add young talent at multiple positions across the roster. Best players available, needs and luxuries will be addressed. One need that should be considered heading into the draft is the Center position.
Having lost last year's starter Brian de la Puente to the Chicago Bears via free agency, the Saints are expected to give 2nd year pro Tim Lelito the opportunity to make the job his own. The team will surely look to add competition for Lelito, whose natural position is at Guard.
Though most of the team's action is free agency seems to be done, former Saint Jonathan Goodwin could be an option on a short-term deal at the veteran's minimum. Goodwin, who spent five seasons in New Orleans between 2006 and 2010, helping the team to a Super Bowl title in 2009, has been linked with a return to the Crescent City. However, if the team is as high on Lelito as they are said to be, they could well look to the draft to bring in another young player to compete for the job.
The Saints have a nice history of selecting offensive linemen in the mid to late rounds of the draft, and this is a route that the team could again look to explore in an effort to add depth and a possible starting option for the middle of their line. Should they venture down this path, there will be a nice pool of available Centers to consider on days 2 and 3 of the draft.
The team has already met with both Florida State's Bryan Stork and USC's Marcus Martin. Both players come from blueblood programs and have played against stout competition in their college careers. Florida State's Bryan Stork has already met with the Saints.
Stork, listed at 6-4 315, was the recipient of the Rimington Award in 2013, given to the nation's top Center. He was also a first-team All-ACC selection last year, and helped the Seminoles win the BCS National Championship.
Martin, a 6-3 320 underclassman, played in a pro-style system with the Trojans and has graded out as a possible day 2 pick. He made a total of 33 starts during his career and also spent time at Guard. Having missed the Trojans' bowl game with a knee injury, Martin appeared back to full fitness at February's scouting combine in Indianapolis.
Other names to keep an eye on are Oklahoma's Gabe Ikard, Ohio State's Corey Linsley, Utah State's Tyler Larsen and Tennessee's James Stone. All of those players are likely day 3 picks, and the Saints could wait till the later rounds to try and pluck a value pick from the remaining crop of available Centers.
With less than a month remaining until the draft begins, the Saints continue to meet with players at all positions and are likely beginning to zero in on their final draft board. Though likely to be down the list, Center is a position that should, and will likely be addressed next month as the team continues to position itself for another postseason run in 2014.
Saints Draft Picks as of now
- 1st round (27th)
- 2nd round (58th)
- 3rd round (91st)
- 4th round (126th)
- 5th round (167th)
- 5th round (169th) *
- 6th round (202nd)
*- from New England via Philadelphia
Also, for your reading-