Will Saints’ draft philosophy hold true to form?
In this week’s NFL draft, what will Sean Payton do? If the past is a barometer, Payton will draft at least one defensive back and one offensive lineman.
Since the Payton/Mickey Loomis era kicked off in 2006, the Saints have had 61 draft picks. Fifteen of those were defensive backs and 12 were offensive linemen.
This trend continued in 2015 when the Saints drafted Stanford offensive tackle Andrus Peat in the first round and then used two later picks on cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Damian Swann.
The Saints’ draft of a year ago looks solid, and it could look even better if two picks, Williams and linebacker Davis Tull, can contribute after spending the entire season on injured reserve.
The biggest improvement in the 2016 Saints could be a breakout season from Peat, fellow first-round pick linebacker Stephone Anthony or second-round pick and pass rushing specialist Hau’oli Kikaha.
In the meantime, here’s a question: Even though the Saints need help on their defensive line, what happens if Ole Miss wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is still on the board (likely) when the Saints pick 12th?
There is a lot to like about Treadwell, and he fits the Sean Payton wide receiver profile. He’s tall – 6-foot-3 – will catch the ball in traffic and he doesn’t turn 21 years old until June 14.
In his 2016 NFL draft preview, Nolan Nawrocki got an unnamed scout’s take on Treadwell.
“He comes down with a 50-50 ball like Calvin Johnson, he runs routes like Julio Jones and he blocks like Mike Evans,” the scout told Nawrocki. “I know he’s not going to run fast, but he plays fast.”
A 4.65 40-yard dash time could slide Treadwell to the middle or late first round. At pick No. 12, Treadwell would present Payton, general manager Loomis and chief scout Jeff Ireland with an interesting dilemma.
So, what do the Saints need more, an interior defensive tackle or a big-play wide receiver?
The answer is defensive tackle, of course.
But, what do the Saints need more, a good defensive tackle or a potential difference maker at wide receiver? I would say, go for the difference maker.
Right now, more than anything, the Saints need talent that is not just good but great.
Think back to the 2009 Super Bowl champions. Defensive end Will Smith and safety Darren Sharper had career seasons. On offense, the Saints had Drew Brees at quarterback, and Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks formed the best guard tandem in the NFL.
When the Saints won their first 13 regular-season games in 2009, they did so with the plenty of good players, led by a few great ones.
Draft-day decisions can elevate or haunt a franchise.
In 2014, 11 teams passed on LSU and Newman school wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Ten picks later, the Cleveland Browns selected quarterback Johnny Manziel. Sixty-two players in the same draft, including Saints second-round pick cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste, were selected ahead of LSU and Lutcher high school’s Jarvis Landry.
In two seasons, Landry has 1,915 receiving yards and nine touchdowns for the Miami Dolphins.
What is truly amazing is how hundreds of NFL scouts, coaches and general managers can look at the same player and arrive at a very different conclusion.