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New Orleans Saints Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell - @draftcampbell
June 27, 2013

Solid Starter

Kenny Vacarro, S, Texas - Round 1
The Saints had one of the worst pass defenses in the history of the NFL last year, so fortifying their back end made a lot of sense. New Orleans needs Vacarro to contribute immediately. He could be an immediate upgrade over Malcolm Jenkins or Roman Harper. Vaccaro is an instinctive and rangy defender who should help New Orleans defend the middle of the field.

Despite Texas' defense struggling, Vaccaro was very good in 2012. He was a tough run-defender and excellent in pass coverage. The senior recorded 92 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, five passes defensed, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. One of Vaccaro's best draws is his ability to line up and cover slot receivers or tight ends in man coverage. That is a difficult attribute to find, and it gives the Saints' defense more versatility in how to match up on receivers. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Vaccaro has good agility and length to handle all types of receivers.

Scouts told me before the draft that they liked Vaccaro, but disliked that Texas didn't line him up deep very often. They wanted to see how Vaccaro handled covering the deep part of the field, but he was typically in the box or in the intermediate portion of the field. Thus, the rookie may need some developmental time to play deep centerfield.

Still, New Orleans feels that Vaccaro is a perfect scheme fit for new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Considering how terrible the Saints' secondary played in 2012, Vaccaro could be a quick upgrade and contribute right away for an improved pass defense next season.

Most Likely To Bust

Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas Pine Bluff - Round 3
I really don't believe Armstead is going to bust, and I think he was a great pick by the New Orleans in the third round. However because of his weak level of competition and being slightly undersized, I would have to choose him of all the Saints' picks as the most likely to bust. That being said, I think there is greater likelihood that Armstead works out.

New Orleans has been awesome at taking mid-round offensive linemen and turning them into good starters. The Saints did that to form the best guard tandem in the NFL with Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks before losing the latter in free agency. The team also did that at left tackle with Jermon Bushrod. While he wasn't an elite left tackle, he was good enough for New Orleans' passing offense to be a point machine. Bushrod was signed by Chicago this offseason, so the Saints had to go back to the mid-rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft to find his replacement.

New Orleans could have landed a steal with Armstead. The 6-foot-4, 310-pounder is a touch undersized on length, but he is very quick and athletic. Armstead is very mobile for his size and also was a track champion. He put on a show at the Combine, running the 40-yard dash in a blistering time of 4.71 seconds. That was the fastest of any offensive lineman. Armstead also did well on the bench press (31 reps) and in the field drills.

While Armstead didn't see good competition in college, he was excellent at the Senior Bowl. Armstead was a real fighter and was an impressive blocker in pass protection in the one-on-ones. Armstead is a nice project for the Saints to develop at left tackle. Many thought that he was going to go early in the second round, but New Orleans was able to steal him in the third.

I have to pick one player as most likely to bust and considering his level of competition, it could be possible that Armstead isn't up to the task of making the jump.

Potential Boom Pick

John Jenkins, DT, Georgia - Round 3
The Saints had a great draft - especially working without a second-round pick - and one of the picks that made it was so impressive was landing Jenkins in the third round. I knew scouts who felt he should go late in the first round or in the early second round. The massive Jenkins (6-3, 359) is extremely stout at the point of attack and is able to cause disruption.

Jenkins is a load at the line of scrimmage who can collapse the pocket while stuffing runs. He had an excellent senior season, racking up 50 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack in 2012. Jenkins stood out with good games against Missouri, South Carolina, Florida and Auburn. He played well in the SEC Championship and beat Alabama guard Chance Warmack for a sack.

Jenkins was simply dominant at the Senior Bowl. He destroyed interior linemen with his bull rush and showed some serious explosiveness off the snap. The only blocker who could hold his own going against Jenkins was Kentucky guard Larry Warford (a third-round pick of the Lions).

New Orleans is transitioning to a 3-4 defense and Jenkins is a perfect fit as a nose tackle. He was the second-best nose tackle prospect in the draft, behind only Star Lotulelei. Jenkins played that same position for Georgia the past two seasons and the disruption he caused help the Bulldogs linebackers - Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree - stand out.

I think Jenkins is going to be extremely disruptive in the middle of the Saints' defense. He has the shear power to run over centers. Jenkins can also eat up double-teams to free up New Orleans' linebackers. It wouldn't be surprising if Jenkins becomes one of the top 3-4 nose tackles in the NFL. Landing him in the third round was a major steal for the Saints.

Future Depth Player

Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma - Round 5
The Saints landed a nice value pick with Stills in the fifth round and the early returns during the offseason program around him have been good. It makes sense because he is a perfect fit in New Orleans' passing offense. Stills (6-1, 194) is fast and plays bigger than his listed measurements. He ran the Combine 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds, too. Stills totaled 82 receptions for 959 yards and 11 touchdowns last year as Oklahoma's No. 1 receiver for Landry Jones.

Currently, Stills is in competition with Nick Toon and Joe Morgan to be the third receiver. Stills was a good receiver in college, but was never a dominant force. He looks like a capable NFL backup who can contribute to the Saints' offense in a similar manner to former Saints Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson. Stills can be a downfield threat for New Orleans. It looks very possible that he will total some decent production and provide the team with a quality backup receiver.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

15. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas: A- Grade
This is a very good pick by a smart team. The Saints had major issues at safety, and Kenny Vaccaro is one of the top players available. With Matt Ryan and Cam Newton in the division, New Orleans absolutely had to upgrade its secondary. Malcolm Jenkins and Roman Harper weren't cutting it.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

75. Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff: A Grade
It was sad to see Steve Gleason announce this pick. I don't understand why there's no cure for ALS yet, but hopefully that'll change soon. At any rate, the Saints made an outstanding selection with Terron Armstead, who is raw but has first-round talent. There was some speculation that Armstead could sneak into the end of the first round, so New Orleans just made a terrific value pick.

82. John Jenkins, NT, Georgia: A+ Grade
The Saints are absolutely killing this draft. John Jenkins was considered by some to be a late first-round prospect, but he fell because there just wasn't a league-wide need for nose tackles. The Saints probably don't mind too much because they needed a big defensive lineman in the middle of their new 3-4.

144. Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma: A- Grade
Receiver wasn't a perceived need for the Saints heading into the draft, but there was room for improvement with Devery Henderson gone. Kenny Stills was a fourth-round prospect, so New Orleans is getting good value with him.

183. Rufus Johnson, DE/OLB, Tarleton State: C Grade
Rufus Johnson is the first rush linebacker drafted by the Saints, and it's a bit surprising that they waited this long for one. Johnson wasn't deemed a draftable prospect, so this is a pretty big reach.

2013 NFL Draft Team Grade: A . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

New Orleans Saints Season Preview

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Walt 04-04-2014 07:12 pm (total posts: 3)
11     1

The Saints also signed Marcus Ball one of the best S in the CFL
Biggest Needs Now 03-19-2014 11:51 pm (total posts: 1)
22     1

1. WR
2. CB
3. ILB
4. OLB
5. C
wicket 03-11-2014 11:41 am (total posts: 1)
2     1

Saints team needs by now are incredibly flawed. Its

1 Corner
2 Wide Receiver
3 (Free) Safety
4 Center
5 Offensive Tackle (right)
6 Inside Linebacker
7 Tight End
8 An outside linebacker that is good in coverage (not a pass rusher!!, in Nickel the outside spots are manned more than adequately with Jordan and Galette)
9 Running Back
10 Kicker

Basically. Dont give the saints pass rushers, running backs, or DLinemen (certainly not the latter) anymore please!
punch a hipster in the face win a 20 dollar bill!!!! 02-11-2014 02:02 am (total posts: 1)
4     217

hey the saint's still have fans?

figured that band wagon was stripped and burned
SaintsMock 01-23-2014 06:05 pm (total posts: 3)
14     11

Rd 1: Allen Robinson, WR Penn State
Rd 2: Bradley Roby, CB Ohio State
Rd 3: Jeremiah Attochu, DE/OLB Georgia Tech
Rd 4: James Hurst, OT North Carolina
Rd 5: Bryan Stork, C Florida State
Rd 6: Kenny Ladler, S Vanderbilt
Chase 01-21-2014 06:58 pm (total posts: 1)
22     2

I think the contents of the list are accurate, just perhaps a little out of order. Like Nate said, CB and a play-making WR are top priorities this off-season.

Jabari Greer is no guarantee to return and is on the wrong side of 30. We saw what happened in the Eagles playoff game when Keenan Lewis was out. Reliable corner depth is a must as the jury is still out on Corey White.

The Seattle game also showed that there is no receiver outside of Graham that can get consistent separation. If Graham is being bracketed, someone should be open and they just weren't for what seemed like the second half of the season.
Nate 01-21-2014 12:14 pm (total posts: 1)
22     2

Walt, I think you are way off on team needs for the Saints.

At the top of the list should be CB or WR... Upgrading the Safety and LB positions should be completely secondary.

I can't figure out why you are so down on David Hawthorne, when the guy actually played pretty well this year down the stretch.

I also think your grade on Zach Strief is completely off-base as well. One bad game does not make him a 2 star caliber free agent. He's been one of the Saints BEST lineman over the past 4-5 seasons due to his consistency.
Clint Cooper 09-13-2013 01:13 pm (total posts: 1)
10     7

Mark my word, the Saints linebacker corps is going to be a top ten group by the end of the season. David Hawthorne is finally healthy. Curtis Lofton looks much improved. Martez Wilson and Junior Galette seem to be finally healthy and they can be beasts on the field. Will Herring brings some good things to the table. Ramon Humber looks great in this scheme.

And mark my word, Parys Haralson is going to rejuvenate his career and have an awesome season with the Saints. Getting him as a replacement for Will Smith was a huge, huge upgrade.
Mr Saints 09-09-2013 10:54 pm (total posts: 15)
24     4

Hey said we had no pass rush?how bout 3 sacks yesterday!!!!!bad defense?how about holding Matt Ryan to 17 points!!!!!you have as much credibility on your saints opinions as Walt does on his eagles opinions.
Football Madman 08-29-2013 11:51 am (total posts: 1)
2     42

I have a hard time seeing how transitioning to a 3-4 will help this team. They had a hard enough time getting to the QB running a 4-3.

The Saints will be improved and should be playing motivated football with the return of Sean Payton. However, it will not be enough to overtake the Falcons

Mr Saints 08-02-2013 12:05 pm (total posts: 15)
6     5

There were 3 main problems with the D last,Will Smith couldn't stop the run and barely got any pass rush.two,Sedrick Ellis was an absolutely no pressure and was weak in run support.then there's Patrick Robinson.he should be a dime corner at best.he is possibly the worst run defense corner in the NFL and has no business covering guys like Mike Williams or Julio Jones.what did we do?we switched to a 34,making Smith just a depth player,let Ellis go and now he's on the bears,and Keenan Lewis is a MAJOR upgrade at #2 corner.the lineup I have is-LE,C.Jordan NT,B.Bunkley RE,A.Hicks LOLB,M.Wilson LILB,D.Hawthorne/J.Vilma RILB,C.Lofton ROLB,J.Galette(/W.Smith(I don't think so)) CB,J.Greer SS,K.Vacarro FS,M.Jenkins CB,K.Lewis I think this group will be much better.Hicks is really good at stuffing the run and the ILB core is the team strength and Galette will have a bigger impact after having 5 sacks as a 3rd down player(smith got 6 playing all 3 downs).if Vacarro can cover slot guys&tight ends and be the run defender everyone days he is that will be main concerns are that our sack leader is now a 34 end,can Martez Wilson,a former ILB,still be a good cover LB in addition to being a 5th rusher and will Malcom Jenkins also concerned with the run coverage of Galette because he had only 20 tackles and Wilson has the same concern since he only had 19 tackles last year.however I think they'll be about 25 and will be more effective at getting turnovers.
Lance 07-16-2013 12:08 pm (total posts: 1)
6     18

The Saints defense is still horrid in a talent sense and Rob Ryan has only had one top 16 defense in his career, IIRC. They'll have to rely on the offense to get them through the season so it's up to Ingram to live up to expectations to balance that out, but I don't have high hopes of that happening.
Little Problem 07-16-2013 11:58 am (total posts: 2)
10     6

"The Saints didn't do anything at inside linebacker, so they'll be counting on better play from Curtis Lofton and David Hawthorne. Both were big-name acquisitions last spring, but they were major disappointments in their first years in New Orleans. Perhaps having a real coach on the sidelines will help. "

Hawthorne injured his knee and was out for the season in 2012

Loften was the only bright spot in the defense in 2012.
Mr Saints 07-16-2013 10:43 am (total posts: 15)
4     19

Saintsfan I agree.maybe we could draft Mariota in round 1 or Terrance Broadway from ULL in round 2 or 3
Rod Guidry in Sacramento 07-13-2013 11:31 am (total posts: 6)
48     5

My only argument is on Most Likely to bust. Terron Armstead has a very good chance to start, even as a rookie. The Saints have the best offensive coaching staff in the entire NFL, and can get him ready. Also looking at your comment on Armstead as a bust, it sounds like you did not really want to make that pick. As indicated by your individual grades, you gave Armstead an A as a being picked. On the other hand you gave Rufus Johnson a C. He also comes from a small school also, in fact I have never heard of the school before the Saints drafted him, whereas I have heard of Arkansas Pine Bluff. So it would seem like he would have been the choice as indicated by your grade of a C. I believe none of our draft picks will be a bust. You may have to look at our undrafted rookies to find one.

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