Friday, April 3, 2009

No way Sean Payton takes an offensive player in the 1st round again, right?

Two big pieces of news hit the NFL world yesterday, and the result has been shaking up boards on almost every mock draft site. For those of you living under a rock, Jay Cutler was traded to the Chicago Bears for 2 first round draft choices and Kyle Orton. The other announcement was that BJ Raji of Boston College, a consensus top 5 pick on most draft boards, failed a drug test. What does this mean for the Saints? Well, unfortunately I think this moved Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins up one slot on most NFL team's boards. Jenkins is the player most people see the Saints taking at the #14 slot, provided they don't trade down for extra picks in a year where they are short on selections.

But do I think the Saints will take Jenkins? Maybe. The big question in this year's draft is whether the Saints will draft based on need, or settle for the best player available. It's the big question every year. Sean Payton's first year in New Orleans, he used his first round pick on running back Reggie Bush. At the time, the Saints had Deuce McAllister (the greatest running back in Saints history), Aaron Stecker (a versatile jack of all trades player) and newly added Michael Bennett (who was thought to serve as a reliable backup). It was pretty clear that while the Saints seemed stacked at that position and needed help pretty much everywhere else, they decided Bush's talent level was just too good to pass up. In 2007, after a terrible year which saw the Saints' defense falling part, they selected wide receiver Robert Meachem. At the time, the Saints had a rising superstar in Marques Colston, a reliable veteran starter in David Patten, a player Sean Payton trusted implicitly in Terrance Copper, and a player with very similar attributes to Meachem in Devery Henderson. In 2008, Sedrick Ellis, defensive tackle out of USC, was the selection. This draft pick occurred, despite the fact that opposing teams threw up and down the field at will on the Saints, and despite the fact that veterans Hollis Thomas, Brian Young, Kendrick Clancy and Antwan Lake already gave the Saints plenty of bodies at the position.

So the common demoninator in all of these examples is that the Saints never use their first round pick to reach for a specific need, and don't expect them to do it this year. The Saints "needs" this year are a short yardage specialist, pass rushers, and playmaking coverage players that don't get beat over the top. They've already added Heath Evans, Rod Coleman, Paul Spicer, Jabari Greer and Darren Sharper. Those 5 players fit into the need category, which now allows Payton regime to continue doing things the way they've always done: using the 1st pick for the best available player. My point here is don't be shocked if Beanie Wells, Clay Matthews and Malcolm Jenkins are all available and the Saints pick someone else. Tomorrow I will reveal my mock draft for the first 15 picks, including the Saints pick at #14.