The New Orleans Saints made some interesting moves in the 2015 NFL Draft, using their maiden pick of the first round on an offensive lineman and doubled, make that tripled, down on defense. College football expert, author of one of the most comprehensive guides to the NFL draft, and WWL 870 AM radio contributor Mike Detillier gives his take on how the Black and Gold front office fared in restocking the team’s talent pool and whether some of the moves indicate other changes down the road with current personnel.
1. Were you surprised by the Saints’ first pick of the NFL draft and what role do you see Andrus Peat playing in the 2015 season?
Once the top defensive players were off the board, then it didn’t surprise me they go for an offensive lineman. In our last session I told you that this off-season offensively was about protecting your most prized player in Drew Brees and getting a better running game. Andrus Peat is a plug and play offensive lineman. He will play tackle. He has strictly played on the left side, but I think he could be the guy on the right side at tackle and Zach Strief gets moved inside.
Play your best five players and Peat is one of the best five, but he is not a guard, he is a tackle. Good pick. Big man who can move his feet, technically sound, has a “power” game to him and yet he is so light on his feet for a big man. And he is only 21 years old. He won’t turn 22 years old until November. Playing pro ball won’t be “huge” to him. His athleticism and technical skills are very good for a young player entering the NFL. He was well coached at Stanford and his dad, Todd Peat, was an excellent pro offensive guard with the Phoenix Cardinals and the Los Angeles Raiders.
2. Were you surprised by the relative lack of big draft moves by teams, including by the Saints?
In years past I always said there was much more talk than action, but I really thought there would be more action early on in Round One. I should have known better. With the Saints they needed players, plural. This team had two second round picks stripped from them in Bountygate, they gave up a 3rd round pick last year to acquire Brandin Cooks and they gave up a 1st and 2nd for Mark Ingram. They needed the picks to reload this team. With this team the way they are structured with Brees/Payton it is not rebuild, but reload. And last year’s draft was a whiff other than Cooks.
3. The Saints picked Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson in the third round, the third overall quarterback selected.You had rated Baylor’s Bryce Petty higher than Grayson. Why do you think the Saints grabbed Grayson first and is he the heir apparent to Drew Brees?
Yes, I did. I am a big fan of Bryce Petty. He is talented, but he is not as pro ready as Grayson. Garrett played in a pro-style scheme at Colorado State and he graded out second to Jameis Winston on timing, throwing from the pocket and anticipation. Petty is a tough kid, rocket for an arm, but he has never played in a pro-stye attack. It will take him a little while to adjust his game. Grayson knows all about checkdowns, second and third reads downfield and setting up and throwing from the pocket. That part of the game, and it is a huge part of the NFL, Petty was not part of at Baylor.
Garrett played in a “read option” scheme in high school and went to Colorado State because of their pro-style scheme. He is the heir apparent to Drew Brees. Now, let’s found out if he can be the CEO of this team somewhere down the line. I still believe Brees has three really strong years in him, barring an injury.
4. The Saints ended a long first round linebacker drought by using their second pick on linebacker Stephone Anthony of Clemson. You were on him going to New Orleans for weeks before the draft. Will he be an immediate starter?
Yes, I believe that Anthony will step into the starting role at middle linebacker. He is physical, smart, he has excellent football instincts and he is very athletic. He reminds me a lot of Bobby Wagner, now with the Seattle Seahawks. He was overshadowed at Clemson due to the pass rush exploits of Vic Beasley, but he was a terrific player for the Tigers. I really like that pick and he gives this team a very physical presence in the middle. Folks that haven’t see him play a lot will like him instantly.
5. Have the Saints adequately addressed their defensive weaknesses in this draft? You spoke about this team going after a veteran defensive lineman. Is that guy Kevin Williams?
I am still worried about the play of their defensive line. It’s Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In 2013 the group of Cam Jordan, Akiem Hicks and John Jenkins really played well. Last season they all played in spurts and never consistent. Brodrick Bunkley is a good run stuffer, but he has been nicked up some. That unit as a whole bothers me a lot.
I like what they have done to upgrade their cornerback position with Brandon Browner, Delvin Breaux, Kyle Wilson and then drafting P.J. Williams and Damian Swann. But the biggest question mark on this team in 2015 will be the play of the defensive line.
Kevin Williams was an elite player for so many years with the Minnesota Vikings. Few guys in this league could stop the run and rush the quarterback like Kevin could. As he has gotten older he can’t push the interior pocket as well and he is strictly a run stopper, but he is still pretty good doing that part of the game. K.W. is still a good rotation guy. Money has to be right for him to come back and play again in the league, but he is a tough fellow inside to run against.
It is still hard to believe in 2003 the NO Saints passed on Kevin Williams to select Johnathan Sullivan in Round One. He can help in run support. No debate here, Kevin Williams was an elite defensive tackle in the NFL for 10 years. He is in the fading moments of his career though.
6. Were you surprised the Saints did not pick a single tight end or wide receiver?
Yes, surprised they didn’t pick a wide receiver or a tight end. They have to bring in a couple of veterans at those spots. Joe Morgan, Brandon Coleman and Seantavious Jones have potential, but I was surprised they didn’t pick one. Same at tight end. Interesting to see how Josh Hill reacts to teams adjusting to him as a starter and not a role player. Saints love to get the ball to the tight end. Hill has a lot of potential, especially in the passing game.
7. Which undrafted free agent signed by the Saints do you think has the best chance of making the 53-man roster?
I like OT Sean Hickey from Syracuse and Mississippi State DT. Kaleb Eulls.
8. Does the selection of a return man Marcus Murphy in the seventh round indicate that wide receiver Brandin Cooks has probably fielded his last punt?
I am a big fan of Marcus Murphy. He is a natural as a punt and kickoff return artist. He makes a quick impact on this team. Just is so quick and has a knack for making people miss him in space and he is a very good receiver coming out of the backfield.
I don’t know about his last punt, but Murphy has special traits in that category as a return man. I am impressed with Cooks working out in the off-season to get his timing down with Drew Brees in San Diego. That is impressive for this young man to hone down the timing and anticipation routes.
9. How would you rate the Saints’ 2015 draft class?
I give it a B-plus. I like what they did to acquire two plug and play guys in Andrus Peat and Stephone Anthony. They got a really good prospect as a return man in Marcus Murphy. P.J. Williams will help early in the nickel and dime sets. But in a couple of years this draft will be really good if Hau’oli Kikaha can stay healthy and give this team a real top edge pass rusher like he was at Washington and I saw Davis Tull play a lot of football at Tennessee-Chattanooga. He was a terrific edge pass rusher and he reminds me a lot of Paul Kruger-now with the Cleveland Browns.
And what happens with Garrett Grayson at quarterback. You have struck gold if he is the “MAN” to eventually replace Drew Brees. Garrett reminds me a lot of a bigger version of Brian Sipe who was a pretty damn good starting QB. with the Cleveland Browns My neighbor, Coach Joe Clark, coached Sipe in Cleveland in the 1970’s and early 1980’s with the Browns and he raved about Sipes’ accuracy skills, touch, intelligence and the ability to read coverages downfield.
Disappointing at no upgrades at defensive end and at wide receiver.
10. Finally, the Saints drafted two defensive backs in 2015: are Stanley Jean-Baptiste’s days numbered with the Saints?
He better get his act together. Bottom line you don’t pick a project player in Round 2. He is still developing his coverage techniques and foot work as a cover guy. Saints will give him every chance to make this team in 2015. His days are not numbered, yet. He has the physical skills, the size and athleticism, but he lacks great instincts to read a route and plant and drive hard to the ball. He has so much hesitation in his game and that can’t be the case playing cornerback in the NFL.