In the second half of Mike Detillier’s interview with The Hayride, the WWL 870 AM contributor and college football expert offers his take on why the Black and Gold defied conventional wisdom on pursuing an offensive lineman earlier in the draft, makes a prediction about which former Saint will be “back in that number” in 2014, how LSU’s popularity in the draft will attract more talent to the university’s football program, his view on the rest of the NFC South’s draft classes and a number of other topics related to the 2014 NFL Draft.
1.) Were you surprised by how late the Saints were with selecting an offensive lineman?
It just didn’t break right for them on a center. Sometimes the draft just doesn’t supply you with those type players at the right time. A good center is hard to find also. Tevon Rooks is a development guy. He came out of the JUCO ranks at 255 pounds. The heaviest he was at Kansas State was 280. There aren’t any 280 pound tackles in the NFL. He physically got stronger and picked up weight in the off-season. He told me he is up to 305 today working out in Dallas. But he is rough around the edges as a technician and he is a future guy. Interesting athlete and there is no doubt this team will bring in a veteran center as an insurance policy in case Lelito doesn’t work out as well as you thought he would.
Jonathan Goodwin would seem to be the logical choice here. He knows the system and he is still a solid player. But for some veterans it is the old “Joe Johnson” line he used with me one time, “Practice is for the uneducated. Veterans know how to play in games.”
I expect them to sign Goodwin before training camp.
2.) LSU had the most players drafted of any college. Is this a sign of a quality football program or a signal that the players are not confident that they will have an opportunity to play for a national championship?
It is about the new CBA more than anything. Since 2006 LSU has had 60 players picked, more than any other SEC school and only USC had more picked with 61. But today it is all slotting on how you get paid and many of these young men go to school to play football and further their education in football.
There is no huge signing bonus for rookies anymore and so you win the football lottery by getting picked or signed and making a NFL team and you win the Powerball by getting to be an unrestricted free agent after four years.
Like it or not, it is part of the football world we live in and if you are a LSU fan, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, USC, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Florida State and Oregon, it is going to happen often.
But that unpaid advertisement about LSU with the most picks in this draft and the 2nd most since 2006 is given out to all these 14, 15 and 16 year olds who watch the draft process and see how many players LSU produces. You have to give Les Miles credit for what he has done in recruiting to get all that talent to come to LSU after Nick Saban left and he is fighting Saban for a lot of that talent.
Today LSU is a national recruit team. That really was not the case under Saban. It might have been if he stayed. But kids from Illinois, California, Oklahoma, North Carolina, New Jersey, Tennessee are at LSU and the usual recruiting grounds in Florida, Texas, Mississippi and Georgia.
This is a quality LSU program and I really think with a reload year, LSU has a real shot to contend for the National Championship in 2015, if they can develop Brandon Harris in 2014 and early 2015.
Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron is maybe the best pickup they have had in recruiting.
3.) Did you expect Tulane kicker Cairo Santos to be drafted and does he have the leg strength to kick in the NFL?
It was 50/50 for me if Cario would get picked. It won’t be his leg strength that will get him a NFL career, but it will be his accuracy. He handles pressure well and he will need to get stronger, but he has the accuracy skills to kick in the NFL. Many times for kickers it is being in the right spot.
4.) Was the selection of strong safety Vinnie Sunseri a reaction to the collapse of the Saints’ secondary after Kenny Vaccaro went down in the Carolina game?
No, Vinnie was first a special teams pick and then what he brings to the table in nickel and dime sets. He is like a coach out on the field.
He has great knowledge on all those different sets Rob Ryan likes to use.
5.) Where did you think the Saints missed a good opportunity in the 2014 draft?
I don’t know about missing, but the SEC quarterbacks, A.J. McCarron, Zach Mettenberger and Aaron Murray dropping I really thought this might be the spot to look for a young quarterback to groom behind Drew Brees. Lots of rumors that the Saints tried to get up in Round 5 to select Aaron Murray, whose overall game is similar to Brees.
Once you passed on those guys in Round 4 to pick Khiri Fortt, Murray and McCarron were gone when up in Round 5.
6.) How did the rest of the NFC South fare in the draft?
The Tampa Bay Bucs really did well, another king-sized end in Mike Evans and he is very gifted, a huge target at tight end with Austin Seferian Jenkins, a very good all-purpose back in Charles Sims and wude receiver Robert Herron is a good slot receiver. The Bucs “D” is already pretty good, so that this was a good draft class for them. Best in the NFC South.
Carolina Panthers needed help at tackle and also at cornerback and they didn’t get any of those type players. Kelvin Benjamin is another huge target guy at wide receiver and a terrific red-zone guy. But he needs to be motivated.
Defensive end Kony Ealy is a really good edge rusher and with some off the field issues with Greg Hardy he gives them that insurance policy.
Love the Trai Turner pick. I think he is a future All-Pro guy at guard. Tre Boston is a former cornerback now playing free safety. Really fine athlete and rangy, but losing Steve Smith because of a financial decision and Jordan Gross retiring really hurts the offense.
For the Falcons I really like the Jake Matthews pick. Instant starter at tackle, the best technician in this draft class as an offensive lineman.
Defensive lineman Ra’Shede Hageman is an interesting pick. He is a huge man in the middle and when the spirit moves him he is special, but his play is wildly inconsistent and he is a stock-market guy that you don’t know what type of effort you will get from week to week.
Safety Dezmen Southwood is a super physical player in run support and he will knock your jock off if you cross his area catching the ball. He is still not a refined pass cover guy, but he brings a very physical presence to the ATL defense. I like Devonta Freeman as an edge runner and 3rd down receiver. They also got two good linebacker prospects in Prince Shembo as an edge rusher and Yamin Smallwood as an inside linebacker. But the Falcons still lack a real threat as an edge rusher at defensive end and they don’t have that heavy duty runner to carry the load.
7.) What areas of concern for the Saints have yet to be addressed after the initial phase of free agency and the draft?
Still question marks at the center spot and I think the signing of a veteran, like Jonathan Goodwin would solve that problem and at the kicker position. Shayne Graham is the favorite, but he has always been a bit streaky as a kicker. We saw how good he was late in the season and against the Eagles in the playoffs, but not nearly as good when he had to kick in the weather conditions of Seattle.
8.) How would you grade the Saints overall draft class?
I would give them a solid B-plus. The sizzle is Brandin Cooks, but the meat and potatoes of this draft is Jean-Baptiste, Fortt and Powell. You have to win the division first and then you know who you will meet eye to eye with, either San Francisco or Seattle and the Saints got bigger and more physical on defense.
I like what they did and certainly the undrafted free agents they picked up like wide receiver Brandin Coleman, tight end Nic Jacobs, center Matt Armstrong, defensive tackle George Uko, safety Ty Zimmerman, running back Timmy Flanders and outside linebacker Kasim Edebali.