The New Orleans Saints and offensive firepower are often referred to in synonymous terms. That shouldn’t change for the foreseeable future.
They recently took care of the biggest obstacle facing the front office. Sean Payton signed a five-year contract which will make him the highest paid coach in the NFL. While Joe Vitt has done a decent job keeping the team focused and motivated after the Saints were mathematically eliminated from postseason aspirations, Payton is one of the best coaches in the NFL. It was mandatory for him to return as head coach.
While Steve Spagnuolo’s defense has sorely missed Jonathan Vilma, it became apparent over the course of the 2012 season this defense needs more than the contributions of just one player to rebound from a unit currently ranked 31st in pass defense and 29th in rush defense.
General Manager and concurrent head of Basketball Operations for the New Orleans Hornets, Mickey Loomis, has filled the pipeline with promising defensive prospects the past few drafts. Many of them are starting to bloom and form a solid nucleus of talent. In fact, three of Saints most proven vets are 30 or older. Vilma and Safety Roman Harper are both 30, while Defensive End Will Smith is 31. But outside of the unproductive Sedrick Ellis, 27, who is likely to sign elsewhere once the free agency period begins, the future could be bright with the emergence of higher profile guys like DE Cameron Jordan, 23, and CB Patrick Robinson, 25, combined with the pleasant surprise development of less heralded players such as third-round selections Akiem Hicks, 23, and CB Johnny Patrick, 24. Even UFA Junior Galette, 24, has come on this season with five sacks.
Curtis Lofton, 26, is as tough and dependable as a team could wish for at the middle linebacker position. So what’s missing from this group? First and foremost, this group could use an infusion of explosive players capable of consistently making game-changing splash plays.
With New Orleans projected to select around No. 15 overall, the first two picks Loomis and his staff make could be along the defensive line.
1st round – Dion Jordan, DE/LB, Oregon
Height – 6-7
Weight – 248
Jordan arrived in Eugene as lanky tight end. He moved over to defense as a sophomore and hasn’t looked back since.
With the emergence of team’s use of nimble, power-forward sized tight ends throughout the league, this Chandler, Arizona native could be the perfect antidote. He also has the speed to shadow receivers in the middle of the field. But Jordan’s biggest upside resides in his ability to rush the passer. Not weak by any means, but he would be well served to add about 10-15 pounds
If the draft order played out according to highest ceiling, there’s little doubt Jordan would be a top five selection.
2nd round – Forfeited as part of Bounty-gate punishment
Technically, Roger Goodell has gone on record saying he could possibly restore the Saints 2013 second round selection in lieu of a later-round pick. Until he does, however, it’s assumed they will be without this pick.
3rd round – Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State
Height – 6-1
Weight – 295
This 2012 All-Big Ten First Team selection and Senior Bowl invitee is one of many prospects whose performance in practices as well as in the game on January 26, 2013, could significantly boost or hinder his likely draft placement.
Regardless, Hill would be a welcome addition as part of a defensive line rotation on the Saints.
Other needs for 4th round and beyond: CB, LB, OT