Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Saints would be foolish to go running back at #14

Does it bother anyone that talk of the Saints drafting either running back Knowshon Moreno or running back Chris "Beanie" Wells is picking up steam? It should. If the Saints pass on an available Malcolm Jenkins at #14, they are ignoring a glaring deficiency that has plagued them for years. Jenkins is clearly a player that can help them. He's physical, he's got terrific instincts, and he's got an extreme amount of potential at a position the Saints are desperate to improve. Moving away from Jenkins for a moment, it is most important that the Saints draft defense with that 1st pick. At #14 the Saints will be able to select SOMEONE with tremendous talent. Their defense was #23 in the league last year and their offense was #1. Period. One side of the ball needs the help.

The main reason people want to see the Saints draft a running back: the struggles to convert on short yardage situations. My take: GET USED TO THOSE STRUGGLES. The Saints are the #1 offense in the NFL, but that comes at a cost. Their offensive line is built to primarily promote the passing game. The label the Saints get as "soft" or "finesse" has a lot to do with how much they throw the ball. They are not a traditional power I formation type offense that pounds it up the middle every play and occassionally throws to keep the defense honest. Teams with that type of offense are excellent at converting on third and short. They're also not as dangerous on every single snap. This offensive line relies more on technique, quickness and deception. They are not the type of offensive line that will maul you over. While Reggie Bush is clearly not built to convert on 3rd and shorts either, my point is that the team's struggles in short yardage situations have more to do with the offensive line and less to do with the running backs.

There is no question the Saints could use a more powerful back, and there's a few other draft picks and a free agency period that can help address the issue. But Pierre Thomas is a pretty tough customer and Heath Evans is versatile enough to get scrappy yards when necessary.

Bottom line: if they Saints pick Wells or Moreno, they are passing on 1st round talent on the defensive side of the ball. In my opinion, based on the struggles of the past two seasons, that would be insane.