Top Five New Orleans Saints 2014 NFL Draft Targets
Sean Payton is back in the saddle and with him the fledgling hopes of the New Orleans Saints. A new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan is in charge, fresh faces on defense bring him the needed talent and there is always Drew Brees. There is nothing to suggest the Big Easy won’t see a competitive team in 2013. Still, there are lingering questions that can’t get answered this season. They can only hold out hope some of them work out with players already on the roster. However, given the need to plan ahead for next season and the projections for how New Orleans does this year what are some likely targets they can pinpoint in the NFL draft next May?
Aaron Murray – Quarterback – Georgia – 3,893 yards, 36 TDs, 10 INTs
Saints fans can live in denial all they want but facts are facts. Drew Brees is still an All-Pro. He is also a 34-year old All-Pro. Sooner or later they have to think about putting somebody on the roster who can study under him as a potential replacement. Aaron Murray out of Georgia fits a very similar profile. While not ideal in size like Brees, he does compare where it counts. He is accurate, aware, has great arm strength and is comfortable inside the pocket. His mechanics are already pro ready and his experience has helped him learn to make great decisions on his throws. Throw in great leadership qualities and he is just what the Saints want studying under Brees and Payton.
Kyle Van Noy – Outside linebacker – BYU – 13 sacks, 22 tackles for loss
New Orleans knocked out a lot of their defensive needs in the recent draft but it was impossible to cover them all since there were so many. Rob Ryan has a tall task ahead of him and likely can’t fix everything in one year. The most glaring need for him is at linebacker, especially on the outside where he will require pass rush. Everyone remembers Ezekiel Ansah getting all the attention back in April, but he wasn’t the most productive pass rusher at BYU last year. That was Kyle Van Noy. His 13 sacks blew Ansah away and another year of experience means will only get better. His relentlessness, effort and speed is exactly what the Saints don’t have enough of on their defense. This makes the pick too easy.
Antonio Richardson – Tackle – Tennessee
A key loss for New Orleans this off-season was two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jermon Bushrod. While not the best lineman in the league, his reliable protection will be missed whenever Brees drops back for a deep pass on third and long. That makes refilling the line with high end talent a priority on draft day. Though the Saints don’t mind using late round picks, they can’t pass up someone like Antonio Richardson. The massive tackle out of Tennessee (6’6”, 335 lbs) had a great year in 2012 and played his best against top competition. His footwork is refined and fluid, while his long arms grant him plenty of advantages over pass rushers. Another year in college will prepare him for NFL level and the speed he is likely to see.
Brandon Coleman – Wide receiver – Rutgers – 718 yards, 10 TDs
No team can ever have enough wide receivers and give how often the Saints like to throw, then it makes perfect sense keeping the coffers full. Another aspect of their draft strategies is taking players who might not initially impress. Brandon Coleman fits that profile. His production at Rutgers last year was good but not eye-popping. What does catch the eye is the body. He is 6’6” and is a thick 220 lbs. Though not straight-line fast he uses good route running and length to catch passes. Once he learns to use his bulk and developing strength to his advantage, scouts see a player who can dominate almost any coverage he faces for four quarters every game. It is this specific skill set that will intrigue the Saints into adding him into their arsenal.
Max Bullough – Inside linebacker – Michigan St. – 109 tackles, 2.5 sacks
Finding an outside threat tops the list for Ryan and the defense. Still, they can’t do much without an inside linebacker either. New Orleans will have to face Steven Jackson, Doug Martin and DeAngelo Williams this season and probably some very good NFC South running games for years to come. That makes finding tacklers on the inside critical. Bullough isn’t on many radars yet out of Michigan State. It doesn’t matter. The kid can play. His most striking feature is the ability to shed blocks, making him an ideal run defender. A 6’3” frame and good awareness means he can lend just as much help in coverage against tight ends. Speed won’t win him many one-on-one matchups but his ability to tackle and blitz the quarterback make for an ideal fit in the Ryan defense.