BAYHAM: Looking At The Saints’ 2014 Draft Options

NFL Draft time, the most exciting sports day(s) of the year without a single bit of actual football activity happening.

Yet the feeling is electric.

If you don’t believe me, just look at how the NFL has transmogrified the once mundane process of franchise executives affixing exclusive claim of top college football talent into a media circus and a ratings bonanza.

How it went from a two day event a few years ago into a three day affair that consumes most of the sorts media oxygen at a time when three other professional sports leagues are active, with two in the midst of playoffs.

The league is exploring the possibility of taking its show on the road in future years to truly amplify its potential as a marquee event.

So why the intensity over something that should seem so uneventful. Unlike a preview of a boxing match, there’s no smacktalk or canned personal drama to be unleashed. Actually the star athletes for the most part dress and behave as if they are going into a church baptism and not a joining an exclusive club of sports superstardom with the biggest paycheck of their young lives just around the corner.

Mostly because something even remotely related to professional football is more interesting than basketball or baseball on their best days. Basketball might be trendy and baseball the nation’s pastime but football is the essence of America: distinct, brutal, violent, brash, powerful and competitive.

And for a nation of football addicts the draft represents the first “hit” since the Super Bowl crash and three months of cold turkey.

The growth of fantasy football has also driven up interest in the draft, because there are millions of aspiring general managers for spend hours researching players and wagering millions in their late August and early September fantasy league drafts.

There’s also the gambling by proxy aspect of the draft- will the highly touted prospect replicate on the NFL level what he achieved on the college gridiron? Even 5th, 6th and 7th round picks will enjoy a shot of fame as local fans immediately become experts on their college stats once their names are read at the podium.

And many of these young men will be just as quickly forgotten as they wash out of training camp, get cut after the conclusion of exhibition season or get relegated to the faceless practice squads.

But for a moment, the guy who gets chosen 210th overall will matter. His upside and potential heralded, perhaps overoptimistically. His Twitter followers expanded by fivefold.

The Who Dat Nation go into this first post-Ingram trade and Goodell chastisement draft with first and second round picks, which is good because this is considered to be a deep draft.

Saints General Manager Mickey Loomis has done a masterful job making the cap numbers work and bringing in some free agent upgrades on both sides of the ball, especially with the signing of free safety Jairus Byrd, which brings to the team a ball hawk defensive back they’ve lacked.

The Black and Gold’s two biggest holes are at wide receiver and return specialist.

The departure of wide receiver Lance Moore and trading running back Darren Sproles (who had almost three times as many yards as a receiver than as a running back in 2013) created voids that need to be addressed. That both players also served as a kick and punt returners exacerbated matters.

Ideally the player the Saints would pursue in the draft is LSU’s Odell Beckham, Jr. Unfortunately, the Saints first round pick is at the number 27 slot and the Tiger wideout is not expected to last on the draft board beyond the late teens.

There’s always the possibility of trading up, something Loomis has proven in past drafts more than willing to do. However giving away picks might not be a wise move in what is considered to be a well-stocked draft.

My purple and gold educational background (or rather attendance….or rather my diploma) notwithstanding, Quarterback Drew Brees needs targets and the Saints need to develop a better return game. Beckham, even at a premium price, solves both and the Saints should not rule out dealing their first and their third round picks to land him, though I would image it would not cost that much to leap up that far, especially if teams are itching to hoard picks. He’s worth two prospects because Beckham will be a sure thing for whichever team he suits up for.

In the event they are no able to arrange a deal to land Beckham, the Saints should remain in the hunt for a quality wide receiver. Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews would contribute to the team as a successor to Marques Colston and should be available if the Saints stand pat at 27th. Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin are also possibilities.

The next area where the Saints need help is at cornerback, where Patrick Robinson and Corey White have been the more exploitable options for opposing quarterbacks and receivers. Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller might still be around if the Saints went in that direction in the first round, though Florida’s Marcus Roberson might be a better value selection in the second round. I can’t see the Saints leaving the third round without drafting at least one cornerback. If they wait that long, Lindenwood (Missouri) cornerback Pierre Desir ( native of Haiti) or Florida’s Louchiez Purifoy could be selected.

Another spot would be tight end, particularly with all pro Jimmy Graham’s longterm status with the team in doubt. Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz could be a good insurance policy in round two.
Adding to the offensive line, linebacker corps, running back committee and digging for a good kicker should be considered with the remaining picks.

If I were GM- trade for Beckham, even if packaging it with a third round pick with first round swaps, failing that a top notch wide out not named Marqise Lee; pick Fiedorowicz in the second and if he is not available go with the best cornerback on the board; pursue a shifty running back and best possible center with the fourth and fifth round selections; if the Saints still have their second fifth round choice, look at what’s left in the linebacker corps and take a kicker with the final pick – which this year will come in the 6th round since they don’t have a 7th round pick.

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