Even as a die-hard Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan, even I picked the New Orleans Saints to win the NFC South last season. What was not to love? They added a big play-maker in Sedrick Ellis to their defensive line as well as Jonathan Vilma to their linebacking corps. When push came to shove, this offense lacked a powerful running back and the defense simply did not live up to expectations. Darren Sharper and Jabari Greer have been added to this defense to give it some juice. With a solid draft, the Saints just might be NFC South favorites once again.
On to their draft range with the No. 14 overall selection:
Chris Wells: I took a TON of heat in February when I mocked Chris Wells to the Saints both on this forum and on the SaintsReport forums. Even with Knowshon Moreno available, Wells is a better fit for this offense because of his size, power, and short-yardage capabilities. Reggie Bush is an elite No. 2 back, but he can't carry the load. With the signings of Sharper and Greer, as I anticipated the Saints to make some moves on defense, Wells is very much in play here.
Brian Cushing/Clay Matthews: I really do not feel like either of these players will be chosen by New Orleans. Yes, there is a hole at linebacker opposite Scott Fujita, but neither of these players have the value of a No. 14 selection in the 4-3 scheme.
Malcolm Jenkins: Darren Sharper is not the long-term answer at free safety. This defense has given up a ton of big plays, and Jenkins would be a great fit at free safety if he does not work out at cornerback. If he does not start early on, he would be a great nickel corner, which is something you need in the NFC South. I think Jenkins is the favorite here to the Saints, with Wells a close second.
Outside linebacker will still be a need, and I think the Saints might target Tyrone McKenzie or Marcus Freeman in the third or fourth rounds. In the later rounds, I like Nic Harris, Moise Fokou, Jaison Williams, and Anthony Heygood as good fits on this defense and as special team contributors.
Ever since Jeff Faine headed for Tampa in free agency, center has been a need. Antoine Caldwell, Jonathan Luigs and Eric Wood are third-round possibilities, and would be immediate starters.
If the Saints do not go with Chris Wells at No. 14, I think Andre Brown and Rashad Jennings would be good fits on this offense with their size and power in the third or fourth rounds.
More depth at the tight end position is a must. Anthony Hill, Cameron Morrah and James Casey would all be solid fourth- or fifth-round picks and provide some potential behind Jeremy Shockey.
One of the biggest needs on this team is kicker. When I was at the Senior Bowl, after every practice, there would be a Saints scout talking to special team players such as long snappers, punters and kickers. I think this team is seriously considering drafting a kicker late and the favorites would have to be Graham Gano, Jose Martinez, and maybe even Sam Swank. The Saints will do a ton of work on this position because they messed up last year with Taylor Melhaff.
The Saints have a few needs on their team, but there is no denying their talent offensively or their potential on defense. The South is a brutal division with Carolina and Atlanta to compete with, but this could be the year everyone doubts the Saints and they win the division. Problem is, they can't do this without a great 2009 NFL Draft.