BAYHAM: It’s Draft Day In NOLA

For the first time since 2011, the New Orleans Saints will have a first round pick in the NFL Draft.

After trading their 2012 first round selection to score a late first round pick in 2011 that was used to draft Alabama running back Mark Ingram and then losing last year’s second round selection as part of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s chastisement of the franchise in the wake of the Saints’ alleged bounty program, both the team’s front office and the fans are excited to have the chance to bring in a player who could potentially contribute immediately.

The conventional wisdom has the Saints using their 15th overall pick on a defensive player, more specifically a pass rusher who would fit in the team’s new 3-4 defensive scheme.

At the top of many people’s wish list is LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, who is pegged to play outside linebacker in the NFL.

Unfortunately Mingo is projected to be off the board by the time the Saints pick.

Local draft guru Mike Detillier predicted that the Buffalo Bills would use their eighth overall pick on Mingo while Sports Illustrated’s Peter King believes the New York Jets will land Mingo with the next selection.

And with the Saints already coping with limited options thanks to “Not So Jolly” Roger’s pick plundering, the Black and Gold would be hard pressed to move up in the draft.

If Mingo is not available, Georgia’s Jarvis Jones is a possibility though he will more likely than not be off the board as well.

The good news for the Saints is that this is considered a relatively deep defensive draft so there will playmakers around come the 15th overall pick and probably into the first third of the second round.

Having the ignomy of fielding what was statistically the worst defense in NFL history last season and being out a second rounder, the Saints need to look at trading back. No matter how talented whomever gets picked at fifteen, that individual cannot fix all that was wrong with the 2012 defense.

And though I have beaten the drum loudly on the need to draft quality linebackers since the team unwisely chose defensive back Malcolm Jenkins over top notch college linebackers who transitioned well in the professional level, I believe through free agency and the shift in scheme and personnel to the 3-4, upgrading the linebacker position is not a priority.

The talent is already there; they (Martez Wilson and Junior Gallette) just haven’t had the opportunity to prove themselves.

Safety is the greater need, particularly with this being the final year of starting free safety Malcolm Jenkins’s contract.

Unless the Saints can bait the Jets into swapping first round picks as part of a bundled Chris Ivory trade, general manager Mickey Loomis needs to explore swapping first rounders with a late drafting team and picking up either a second round or third round selection.

And though I am very much a Chris Ivory fan and am hesitant about depleting the running back corps after what happened in 2010, the violent-running Ivory needs to be moved for financial and strategic reasons. Even if the Saints retain Ivory for 2013 this will likely be his last season in a Saints uniform as he is understandably anxious to see more playing time.

A third round pick would be ideal, though it seems that the Saints would be willing to settle for a fourth round selection, which in a way would be a bargain considering Ivory made the team as an undrafted free agent.

The player I am big on in the draft is Fresno State free safety Phillip Thomas.

DetillĂ®er considers him a ballhawk, which is what the Saints desperately need in the backfield. Thomas isn’t expected to be drafted until the third round so if the Saints front office can swing a deal with a late drafting team looking to move up, they could grab Thomas in round two while using the newly acquired late first round selection to choose a quality outside linebacker or defensive tackle.

Short of Mingo or Jones falling to the 15th slot, the Saints need to cut the best deal possible to secure multiple picks.

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