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.
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.