Feb 27, 2012; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Regina defensive lineman Akiem Hicks does a footwork drill during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-US PRESSWIRE
We come to the final NFC South Draft Recap, evaluating the New Orleans Saints' draft today. The Saints have been hit hard this offseason. Coaches have been suspended, key players will miss games, and they lost the best left guard in football. As if that wasn't enough, they also lost their second-round picks this year, and the next. And in all that chaos, they're installing a new defense with some very limited personnel. Good fun. Let's see who they brought in to help them.
The New Orleans Saints traded this year's first-rounder along with last year's second-rounder for the right to select Mark Ingram. Then they lost their second-round pick because of the bounty scandal. This left them with just five selections in this draft, one in each of the third through seventh rounds.
Round 3, Pick 27 (89th overall): Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina
the first selection the New Orleans Saints made was a player from Canada. Akiem Hicks was originally a junior college player who signed at LSU in 2009, but he was ruled ineligible due to recruiting violations. In response, he moved to Canada to play in college there. As could be expected from this kind of history, he's a raw but talented defensive lineman. He's a typical boom-or-bust pick, and he has the body to work in a variety of roles. He certainly fills a need for the Saints, who have next to nothing along the defensive line.
Round 4, Pick 27 (122nd overall): Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
Nick Toon is a big, physical receiver who could help a New Orleans offense that really doesn't need even more help. He's a good route-runner, can pluck the ball out of the air away from his body and can create some yardage after contact. He won't be a number one receiver or a deep threat, but he'll be a productive player in this offense.
Round 5, Pick 27 (162nd overall): Corey White, S, Samford
A versatile defensive back who might be able to play cornerback in the NFL. A physical player who is most likely to be a special teamer, like most fifth-round picks. The Saints don't really have a need at safety, as Malcolm Jenkins is very good, while they just gave the overrated Roman Harper a contract extension a year ago.
Round 6, Pick 9 (179th overall): Andrew Tiller, G, Syracuse
The Saints received this pick from the Miami Dolphins, in exchange for Reggie Bush and New Orleans' own sixth-round pick. Tillman is a big, physical lineman with good physical tools but poor technique. A lot of upside here, but could easily bust out quickly.
Round 7, Pick 27 (234th overall): Marcel Jones, T, Nebraska
Another huge offensive lineman with a lot of potential, but poor technique. Upside, but there's a reason why he fell to the seventh round. At this point you can't expect anything, but the Saints could stand to eventually upgrade their offensive tackles.
What needs didn't they fill: pass rusher
As with the Atlanta Falcons and the Carolina Panthers, the New Orleans Saints need to find pass rusher. They have no quality pass rushers on the roster, as most of their defensive linemen are big run-stuffers who struggle to get to the quarterback. They used to be able to rely on Will Smith, but he looks like he's done as a pass rusher. He turns 31 and hasn't topped 7 sacks since 2009. The Saints added Akiem Hicks, but he's far from a sure thing, and certainly no edge rusher. In fact, this entire defense needs an upgrade, as they have been mediocre at best the past years. The Saints added just two defensive players, though, and can't expect a big jump in quality of play this year. They did bring in defensive guru Steve Spagnuolo as their defensive coordinator, but he relies on creating pressure with four down linemen. And with this group of defensive linemen, he can't do that.