The New Orleans Saints had a down year in 2012, which was to be expected after head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the entire season. The Saints’ coaching situation was in a shambles, and nobody took charge over leading that team. This year will be a different story, as the Saints will come back with their leader and head coach, as well as a new defensive coordinator in Rob Ryan. The addition of Rob Ryan means that the Saints will also be transitioning to playing a 3-4 defense, which changes their needs up a bit.
This team needs help defensively, and badly. They ranked 32nd in the NFL in yards allowed, and were just flat out terrible. That alone shocked me because they have so many talented players on the roster, especially on defense. None of it came together last year, though, and the Saints missed the postseason as a result. Here are their top needs in my opinion, in no particular order.
1. Defensive Line
The New Orleans Saints impressively ranked 32nd in the NFL despite having four first round picks starting on their defensive line. Cameron Jordan, Broderick Bunkley, Sedrick Ellis, and Will Smith all were selected in the first round of their respective drafts, and it seemed like they couldn’t make an impact together this last season. Cameron Jordan is the best player in the group and had a fantastic season last year statistically, but everybody’s roster spot is fair game after that. He will also have the easiest transition to the 3-4 defensive scheme having played it at California. Sedrick Ellis is a free agent and likely will be let go. The Saints drafted Akiem Hicks in the third round last year, and he could very well be a big piece of their new defensive puzzle. I still think this team needs to add another big man up front in this year’s draft.
2. Rush Linebacker
I’m not sure what the Saints will do with Will Smith, who is consistently one of their better pass rushers, but I think the only player on the roster who really benefits as a potential rush linebacker in a 3-4 defense is former third round pick Martez Wilson. Wilson is an incredibly gifted athlete, and likely will go into next year as one of the starting rush linebackers for this team. That being said, one of their biggest problems last year was an inability to generate consistent pass rush. They had just 30 sacks all last year on a team that features so much talent. That will likely be addressed in the early portions of the draft, potentially in the first round.
3. Wide Receiver
I may be a sort of minority here, but I think this is a major position of need for the Saints. They’ve been able to get by with guys like Devery Henderson and Lance Moore who are very capable players, don’t get me wrong, but there is a ton of room here for upgrade. Marques Colston is a top receiver in this league, but he’s had some injury problems. I think you have to consider Jimmy Graham an extension of the receiver position, but this is a Saints team that ranked first this past year in the passing game, with nearly three 1,000 yard receivers. That being said, I think you need to continue to put stars in this offensive lineup to make it even more deadly.
4. Offensive Tackle
Jermon Bushrod is a free agent, and the Saints had Zach Strief starting at right tackle last year. I don’t know if they’d take an offensive tackle with their first round pick, but despite having a couple of guys developing from previous drafts, I think this is an area of the team that New Orleans will look to upgrade after making a big splash signing Ben Grubbs at guard.
Brian De La Puente had a solid first season with the Saints, and he’s a restricted free agent this offseason. The Saints don’t have much/any depth here. This could be a position they look to address in the third round.
The Saints had some problems at cornerback this past season. Johnny Patrick was not great and Corey White showed promise prior to hitting something of a rookie Wall. Patrick Robinson has seven INTs over the last two seasons, but the team needs some youth and depth here. Jabari Greer is set to be 31 this offseason so the Saints could look to use a pick here.
7. QB of the Future
Drew Brees won’t be around forever, and while the Saints probably expect him to be around for quite some time, I think they could look to add a young, talented signal caller at some point in the near future to learn behind him for a couple of years.