By Casey Gisclair
With nine picks in the 2015 NFL Draft, executives with the New Orleans Saints entered the week knowing they had a lot of flexibility as they attempted to fix their team.
When it was all done, General Manager Mickey Loomis seemed to fire those bullets with precision and pin-point accuracy, picking up just about everything that was lacking within the Saints’ depth chart.
New Orleans was on the clock often throughout the three-day, seven-round NFL Draft, opting not to trade any of their picks in an effort to boost the depth on a salary cap-depleted roster.
But at least to my untrained, naked eye, the team’s moves were more good than bad.
Let’s start with the little bit of bad new—at least in my eyes.
I was shocked that New Orleans took an offensive tackle with the No. 13 pick in the draft. With a ton of the top defensive players in the draft still on the board, I thought for absolute certain that Loomis would dial up some help for defensive coordinator Rob Ryan at No. 13.
Listen, I have nothing against offensive tackle Andrus Peat. I think he’s going to be a quality tackle in the league for the next several years. But most mock draft projections had Peat going in the late teens or early 20s. If that math is right and the Saints coveted him badly enough, they could have possibly traded down, scooped up a few extra picks, and still gotten Peat.
But that’s just about it for the bad news. The rest of the Saints’ draft was pretty darned good.
With the No. 31 pick, New Orleans got a lot better on the defensive front with Stephone Anthony – a guy that is one of my sleepers for the entire draft.
In the Saints’ system, pass rushing and playmaking are huge needs. Anthony should be able to provide that from Day One. He won’t be the impact player Jimmy Graham will be in 2015, which means the Seahawks will win that trade in the short haul. But over the future, Anthony could be a player that makes that trade a win.
On Day Two of the draft is where the Saints made the most hay. In the second and third rounds, New Orleans nabbed Washington outside linebacker Hau’Oli Kikaha, Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson and Florida State cornerback P.J. Williams.
To me, all three are home run picks.
Kikaha is a football player. Pure and simple. A tackle machine at Washington, the linebacker was a tackle machine with the Huskies throughout his career. He slipped to Rd. 2 of the draft because he ran a 4.9-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Yes, that’s a concern. But some players are above scouting numbers and measurable. To me, Kikaha is one of those. The kid’s a football player. He’s going to bring heart and hustle to the Saints’ linebacker corps.
As far as Grayson? He’s a worthwhile successor to Drew Brees. A smart, savvy quarterback in college, I like Grayson’s makeup and build. He seems to be a lot like Brees in that he’s not the most physically imposing quarterback, but he uses his mind to make all of the plays necessary on the field. With about two years to study, I think Grayson could be ready to roll – either for New Orleans or in a trade. Either one holds value for the Saints.
And with Williams, New Orleans continued to stockpile new bodies in a secondary that was pathetic in 2014-15. If the kid can come in and contribute in the nickel or dime packages, it’ll be a bonus. Anything different from what the team did last year will be an upgrade.
I’m not going to sit here and proclaim that the Saints’ picks in Day 3 will be Hall of Fame caliber. Anything after the third or fourth round is a crap shoot.
But I like Chattanooga linebacker Davis Tull’s tape. He seems to be a nice pass rushing threat. I also like the fact that Missouri halfback Marcus Murphy is good at special teams – something that is always needed on any team.
Tyeler Davison is a big body and can probably make the team, as-can Damian Swann, who will again build that secondary’s depth.
So when it all adds up and it’s time to grade the Saints, I think that New Orleans did pretty dog-gone well.
I think Mickey Loomis and Co. earned themselves a solid B+ for their efforts.