New Orleans Saints 2012 NFL Draft Team Needs
The events of the offseason have made it easy to overlook the fact the New Orleans Saints won the NFC South in 2011 with a 13-3 record before losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.
The Saints already did not have their first round pick due to last season’s draft trade that allowed them to move up and select running back Mark Ingram, and they lost their second round pick in 2012 as part of the punishment handed down by commissioner Roger Goodell for the team’s ongoing bounty program. They are expected to appeal all of the punishment they have received, including the lost draft picks this year and in 2013, but for now let’s assume they will not have a selection in the first two rounds of the draft later this month.
Not having a pick until the third round stands to make it hard for New Orleans to bring an influx of young talent in, and losing some key players with wide receiver Robert Meachem, cornerback Tracy Porter and offensive guard Carl Nicks leaving in free agency will make things even more challenging.
Let’s look at some of the most notable roster needs the New Orleans Saints may look to fill in this year’s draft if they can.
As previously mentioned, the Saints lost Meachem to the San Diego Chargers via free agency but they were able to re-sign Marques Colston. Otherwise the other wide receivers on the roster include recognizable names (Devery Henderson, Lance Moore) and unproven commodities (Adrian Arrington). Bringing in a young, dynamic talent may not be immediately necessary with how quarterback Drew Brees spreads the ball around, but this year’s class of wide receivers is deep enough that a talented player that can challenge for a significant role could fall to them in the middle rounds.
Losing guard Carl Nicks hurts, but the Saints have signed former Baltimore Ravens guard Ben Grubbs to replace him at left guard. Elsewhere along the offensive line, an upgrade may be needed at center over incumbent starter Brian De La Puente. Left tackle Jermon Bushrod is due to become a free agent after the 2012 season, and he may be too expensive to retain. Over at right tackle Charles Brown, who started five games last season before going on IR, and Zach Strief are expected to compete for the starting job. A young offensive lineman that has some versatility may be hard for the Saints to pass on.
Middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma is at the center of players implicated in the bounty scandal, though the Saints did sign Curtis Lofton away from the division rival Atlanta Falcons as a possible fallback plan. 2011 draft pick Martez Wilson and free agent signing Chris Chamberlain are in the mix for starting jobs at outside linebacker, along with Scott Shanle and Will Herring as well. Losing Jo-Lynn Dunbar to the St. Louis Rams in free agency furthers thins the Saints’ depth here, and depending who the team loses when punishment is announced for players in connection to the bounty system linebacker may become a fairly immediate need for New Orleans when they do go on the clock later this month.
Defensive tackles Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin are both unsigned as of this writing, leaving the Saints thin in the middle of the defensive line and Sedrick Ellis is entering the final year of his contract. New Orleans has signed Broderick Bunkley via free agency to help fill the void if Rogers or Franklin leave, but depth has to be a concern here with just five defensive tackles currently on the roster. It would not be too surprising to see the Saints’ first pick be a defensive tackle, but other needs may trump that some.
Tracy Porter signing with the Denver Broncos creates an open starting spot at right cornerback for the Saints, though former first round pick Patrick Robinson looks likely to have a shot to earn the spot. The other starting corner, Jabari Greer, is 30 years old and is slated to become a free agent after the 2012 season. This position may fall by the wayside given how few draft picks the Saints will have this year, but using a late round pick on a cornerback looks fairly likely at this point.