2013 New Orleans Saints Mock Draft v.1

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Going into the 2012 NFL draft, the New Orleans are without their 2nd rounder (still not reinstated by Goodell the Benevolent) and could be without their 7th rounder following the Barrett Ruud trade. Barring any compensatory picks and Goodell changing his mind, the New Orleans Saints will have 5 draft picks in which to add pieces as they transition to a 3-4 defense. Any picks used on depth will be lagniappe as depth can be used almost every position on the team.

There Saints are missing two major pieces for a 3-4 defense: outside linebacker (rushbacker) and nose tackle. Martez Wilson will likely hold down one outside linebacker position but I have my doubts about Junior Galette holding down the other outside linebacker position full-time. I also have my doubts about Broderick Bunkley being the full-time nose tackle. Those two positions MUST be addressed in this draft.

Round 1 – DE/OLB Ezekial “Ziggy” Ansah (6’6”, 274lbs) – BYU

Big Zig is still extremely raw for the position, and his best fit may be as a 4-3 DE, but his natural athleticism and play-making abilities would be hard pressed to pass up if he’s there in the first. He had an up-and-down week at the Senior Bowl but shined during the game and played like a man possessed. His raw skill set reminds many scouts of Jason Pierre-Paul whenever he came out and if Ziggy can develop into something similar then the Saints will have a stud linebacker on their hands.

Round 3 – NT Brandon Williams (6’3”, 341lbs) – Missouri Southern St.

Williams is an absolute mammoth of a man and would be perfect for the most important position in any 3-4 defense: nose tackle. Williams had a coming out party during Senior Bowl practices by being an absolute handful to handle and drawing rave reviews about his athleticism at his weight. This comparison isn’t thrown out nearly as much as it should be but Williams is like a big, dancing refrigerator and would command double teams in the middle of the Saints new scheme.

Round 4 – OT Terron Armstead (6’4”, 306lbs) – Arkansas-Pine Bluff

Going into next season the only offensive tackles the Saints have on the roster are Zach Strief, Charles Brown, and last year’s 7th round draft pick Marcel Jones. There is also a strong chance that Jermon Bushrod might leave via free agency which will leave Drew Brees’ blind side being protected by a “rookie” that spent last year on IR or Charles Brown. Enter Terron Armstead. He made a name for himself by having a standout East-West Shrine Game and was an injury replacement during the Senior Bowl where he continued his excellent offseason performance. Armstead is light on his feet, quick hands, flexible hips and reminds me of a slightly more athletic Bushrod.

Round 5 – CB Leon McFadden (5’10”, 193lbs) – San Diego State

There isn’t much to get excited about when it comes to McFadden’s career interception stats (8) but his total career passes defended will make you do a double take – 37 total! He is an aggressive, fluid corner that isn’t afraid to mix it up. With how much the Saints cornerbacks struggled last year, it wouldn’t be a surprise if they look for reinforcements this year.

Round 6 – TE Ryan Otten (6’5”, 235lbs) – San Jose State

Jimmy Graham is the only reliable tight end on the Saints roster especially now that David Thomas is suffering through persistent injuries and Michael Higgins is nothing more than 3rd stringer. Otten is a long, athletic receiving threat who is an improving blocker. The talent at tight end isn’t very deep in this draft class and if Otten is available in the 6th then it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Saints scurry to the podium to draft him.

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Roger Goodell Believes Payback Is Hell and He’s A Firm Believer in Overkill

There’s a phrase my mother uses when someone slights her, “Payback is hell and I’m a firm believer in overkill”. I’ve heard that exact saying several times throughout my lifetime and that same phrase popped into my head when I read today on twitter that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would not be reinstating the New Orleans Saints their 2013 2nd round pick.

By not re-instating the Saints 2nd rounder, Goodell has crossed over from stern father to drunk dad. He’s no longer ruling his house with a fair but firm hand but instead has come stumbling in the door with an empty beer bottle and smacked his kid across the head with it.

Before due process could even be administered, the man who sits on the throne of the NFL decreed that the Saints should receive unprecedented punishment for the perceived sin of installing and maintaining a “pay-for-injury” program, i.e. a bounty program. Only after New Orleans had their head coach suspended for a year, general manager suspended for the first eight games, interim head coach suspended for the first six games, the franchise fined $500,000, a 2012 and 2013 second round draft pick docked, their starting middle linebacker suspended for a year, and starting defensive end suspended for the first four games did due process begin to unfold.

It was these punishments that set the tone for the 2012 New Orleans Saints. Peripheral fallout thus ensued. Drew Brees, one of the elite NFL quarterbacks, saw one of his few remaining years of his prime wasted. One of the more competitive teams in the NFL toiled below .500, only becoming average once this season. Perhaps the last year of long time Saints defensive end Will Smith in a New Orleans uniform was squandered. Finally, with each poor showing the crowds at Saints game dwindled.

While the Saints season sputtered, the proceedings themselves devoloped into a comedy of errors with sport’s worst commissioner being embarrassed with an endless parade of lies and hypocritical statements that the NFL’s equally embarrassing PR machine has tirelessly mouth-breathed. The latest bungled attempt was that of the commissioner extending a tainted olive branch in the form of reinstating Sean Payton, the suspended Saints head coach, two weeks before his mandated forced absence was to end.

The timing was particularly curious with Payton’s reinstatement coming two weeks before the Super Bowl. Maybe it was the threat of having his food contaminated with ipecac while he was in New Orleans or maybe it was his likeness portrayed in some compromising situations during the raucous Krewe du Vieux Mardi Gras parade that inclined Goodell to reinstate Payton before his benevolence descended onto the Crescent City.

No matter, the NFL PR machine once again churned out what equated to bird cage lining with its story on how Goodell should be praised as a hero for helping save New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. In the article, the controversial Times-Picayune writer Jeff Duncan compares Paul Tagliabue to the head coach with Roger Goodell being his quarterback. He goes on to describe how well Goodell did his job as Tagliabue’s “quarterback”, meaning it was Goodell’s job to do what he was sent to do.

This is regardless of the fact of the PR windfall which would have equaled Katrina should the Saints have relocated to Los Angeles like the NFL wanted in the midst of such a catastrophic natural disaster. Roger Goodell helped keep the Saints in New Orleans and, for the most part, anyone who was a part of the Katrina clean-up effort in and around New Orleans were treated with even more hospitality and gratitude than New Orleanians already extend to tourists.

However, just because a man helped you rebuild your own does not mean he should punch you in the face after it was hit by a tornado. And then punch you with the other fist after the house has been fixed.

That’s what Goodell is doing by not reinstating the Saints 2nd round pick. The punishments have been served even if they did not meet the crime. It has been a year, a forgettable one in the mind of every Saints fan, and all affiliated in any way with the organization just want to move on. By not offering the 2013 2nd round draft pick as a final olive branch Saints fans, especially, will have a particularly difficult time moving on.

The wound that had begun to heal will be re-opened and the memory of last year refreshed. A full compliment of draft picks would mean tons to the fans and the front office. It would be the right thing to do if Goodell is as benevolent as he would like to think.

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Examining The Catholic 7 Expansion Targets

Photo courtesy of VU Hoops

The Catholic 7 basketball schools of the Big East are planning their departure from the rest of the Big East and with their departure, the best basketball programs left in the disheveled conference move on for greener pastures. The only details left for the new basketball conference to sort out is how soon they can legally leave. The group of 7 would like to officially secede in 2013 but a more realistic outcome may be their departure on July 1, 2014.

In the midst of haggling a departure date, the Catholic 7 will also need to secure anywhere from 3 to 5 new members for the conference. Reports stemming from the contractual negotiations with Fox Sports suggest that the new conference will likely expand up to 12 members. Just another detail that needs to be decided is if an expansion to 12 will occur immediately or over a period of time after first expanding to 10 members.

Other factors like which schools to add, whether to make the conference geographically symmetrical by having the same number of teams on the East Coast as in the Midwest, the overall quality of the basketball product, how much institutional fit will be a factor or will expansion candidates be purely determined by basketball factors, and which television markets to add will all be characteristics that should be closely examined when inviting teams to join.

After surveying the college basketball landscape there are seven teams that immediately standout as expansion candidates: Butler, Creighton, Dayton, Richmond, St. Louis, VCU, and Xavier. Since reports first surfaced of the Catholic 7 members of the Big East seceding to form their new conference, Butler and Xavier have been rumored to be two of the first invites the new league would invite. Outside of those two exceedingly quality programs, the other rumored expansion candidates have varied with only Richmond not receiving much discussion despite the perceived fit.

Using an arbitrary five year window, the records (and locations) of the current expansion targets is listed below to better gauge how strong the basketball programs are that the Catholic 7 is looking at:

Butler 139-40 (77.6%) (Indianapolis, IN)

Creighton 119-57 (67.6%) (Omaha, NE)

Dayton 117-58 (66.8%) (Dayton, OH)

Richmond 107-64 (62.5%) (Richmond, VA)

St. Louis 95-69 (57.9%) (St. Louis, MO)

VCU 132-46 (74.1%) (Richmond, VA)

Xavier 130-45 (74.2%) (Cincinnati, OH)

Numerous reports already suggest that Creighton has been contacted by representatives of the Catholic 7 and that the Blue Jays are ready to jump at the opportunity to join – they’re just waiting for the word.

Looking at the geographic make-up of the Catholic 7 there currently are five East Coast programs (Georgetown, Providence, St. John’s, Seton Hall, Villanova) and two Midwest programs (DePaul and Marquette). Ideally, and in compliance with the human need for symmetry, there would be four Midwest programs and one East Coast program considered to provide each region six teams.

Just eye-balling it on the map, Omaha, Nebraska (home of Creighton) would seem like a geographic outlier with the rest of the Catholic 7 and most of the expansion candidates. It would seem that way until realizing that Omaha is roughly 7 hours away from Milwaukee (Marquette) and Chicago (DePaul) – only a measly two hours driving distance more than those cities from St. Louis. An addition of Creighton would be no more of an inconvenience for the Blue Jays and the rest of whoever the Catholic 7 invites than St. Louis currently is to the Atlantic 10 and its current membership.

With Butler and Xavier all but officially in the fold with the Catholic 7, and Creighton having “reportedly” been contacted already, it would seem that there would then be only two spots remaining to be filled. Those final two spots would then come down between Dayton, Richmond, St. Louis, and VCU.

Chances are that if Xavier is invited, then an invite to Dayton won’t be too far behind. Those two universities already possess a rich history having played against each other in the same conference since 1985 when Dayton joined the Midwestern Collegiate Conference. The Flyers have an intense fan base, solid basketball success, and would want to follow Xavier to the new conference. There is also little reason to suggest that the Catholic 7 would decline inviting Dayton.

That leaves three schools remaining for just one available spot.

All of the expansion candidates, with the exception of VCU, are like-minded institutions with the rest of the Catholic 7 – small, private, religious. However, all of the schools mentioned have co-existed in conferences with a mixture of private and public universities before, including the Catholic 7 schools during their time with the Big East and currently with the expansion candidates in the Atlantic 10 and the Missouri Valley Conference.

Is “institutional fit” one of the most important factors in forming this conference? Important enough to ostracize one of the most recently successful and nationally recognized programs that’s under consideration in VCU?

It may very well be. The two biggest issues facing VCU in gaining access to the new Catholic 7 league is that they are neither Catholic (nor affiliated religiously at all) and are a public institution trying to gain an invite from a conference that’s comprised entirely of private universities. The Rams are also the only public institution that has been mentioned in expansion talks.

Richmond, on the other hand, is a private institute and has a fairly impressive basketball resume to boot. However, they too are nonsectarian and that may be one of the key reasons that they have not been mentioned in any conference expansion discussions. Both Richmond and VCU may be left in the Atlantic 10 because of “institutional fit” reasons – a reason that St. Louis doesn’t face seeing that they are both private and religiously affiliated.

The possible, and perhaps even imminent, move to invite St. Louis over VCU and Richmond is not a slight at the latter universities nor would it be considered a poor basketball decision. The Bilikens boast excellent facilities along with possessing a respectable history in the sport. On the contrary, it would represent a move to bring into the fold a university that’s not only a geographic fit but also best represents the move forward with like-minded private, religious, urban universities in forming their own conference together.

The need for symmetry may be damned in favor of the overwhelming desire for institutional fit. Uniting similar institutions into a new league created by the Catholic 7 would seem to tip the scales in favor of them inviting Butler, Creighton, Dayton, St. Louis, and Xavier; all are private, secular universities that have striking basketball resumes and would represent the best long-term fits for the new conference.

This new league, forged with whichever membership the Catholic 7 chooses to add, will accomplish one goal – it will fulfill Dave Gavitt’s dream envisioned 34 years ago of creating a premier basketball conference that can compete with the other major conferences.

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Moving On Up

I would like to thank each and everyone one of you for reading and making this site successful. Unfortunately, though, I will no longer be posting here.

However, my work will now be featured exclusively on Saturday Night Slant. If you’re a fan of LSU, college football, and college football realignment then be sure to bookmark the site and check it often.

Kris Brauner and myself will be updating it as often as possible and usually there is a new post each day.

One again, thank you all for reading and I look forward to you checking out the new site.

Thanks, Jordan Grove

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Les Miles To The NFL?

by Jordan Grove

Les to the NFL? The Mad Hatter in the professional football world?

Haven’t LSU fans heard this before from a former coach? It was seven years ago that Nick Saban, after denying several reports that he was leaving to become the next head coach for the Miami Dolphins, did just that.

Now, it’s Les Miles, LSU’s popular, eccentric, grass-eating, outlandish orator/head coach, that could be pursued by the NFL.

In a story published recently by CBSsports, there seems to be several NFL franchises interested in Miles. His ability to sustain a high level of success at a top-notch program while being able to deftly handle with the issues and intricacies of the 21st century collegiate athlete have made him an attractive choice to replace a few of the lame-duck head coaches currently in the National Football League.

The new found interest in Miles could be traced back to how his team has performed so far in this young college football season.

After dealing with several off-the-field issues including the indefinite suspension of their starting quarterback (Jordan Jefferson), a three game suspension of one of their most explosive wide receivers (Russell Shepard), and being caught up in the Willie Lyles whirlwind, LSU has exceeded almost everyone’s expectations in now being ranked #1 in the Associated Press’ latest poll.

The Tigers, who faced the most difficult September schedule in all of college football, have easily dispatched three top 25 teams in four weeks. In the process the Tigers defense has established itself as one of the two most dominant units in the NCAA while former scapegoat quarterback Jarrett Lee is making everyone reevaluate how they perceive him.

Who is at the top of this “damn strong football team”? Les Miles.

According to the CBSsports story, one NFL team executive said that Les is the most intriguing coaching prospect I’ve seen in a long time”. That shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Questions do linger, though, of a Miles transition to the NFL. His clock-management is some of the most perplexing in all of the NFL and NCAA combined and would make Philadelphia Eagles head coach Andy Reid look like a master of managing the clock. Also, how would Les take to eating field turf?

 

 

 

Not only that but Miles turns 58 in November. A change of scenery to one of, if not, the most stressful jobs in sports is not what people plan to do once they start approaching retirement age.

Could Les be leaving for the NFL? Well, anything is possible, but he has already turned down his beloved alma-mater (Michigan) when they were in pursuit of him. Miles is also one of the highest paid head coaches in college football and makes a salary that most NFL coaches could only dream of.

Anything could happen with the Mad Hatter but, if history is any indication, he would just tell all of his NFL seducers to kiss his grass and “have a great day”. 

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LSU Earns Respect After Defeating 3rd Top 25 Team In Four Games

Three is a magic number,
Yes it is, it’s a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number”

The popular Schoolhouse Rock song proved prophetic for LSU.

Less than a day after LSU dominated their third top 25 ranked opponent in four weeks, the Tigers jumped #1 Oklahoma to take the top spot in the AP top 25 poll.

The game against 16th ranked West Virginia was LSU’s second appearance on ESPN’s College Game Day and also the Tigers third nationally broadcast performance. Their first appearance on nationally television was the Cowboys Classic kickoff against Oregon in the first week of the second and their second national appearance came on a Thursday night game against Mississippi State in Starkville.

Perhaps the most telling outcome of their drubbing of West Virginia was the respect LSU garnered on a national level.

#3 Oregon opened up as a 3.5 point favorite against LSU and the game was close until the second half when LSU’s defense begin to squeeze the life out of Oregon much like a python wrings the life out of its prey. The Ducks ended up finishing the game with less than 340 yards of total offense and last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up LaMichael James rushing for less than 55 yards.

Despite their double-digit win, skeptics still remained over the prowess of Les Miles damn strong football team.

Against 25th ranked Mississippi State, who the Tigers were just 3.5 point favorites against, LSU contained the SEC’s most prolific rushing attack to less than 53 yards while also limiting the Bulldogs to less than 200 yards of total offense. LSU’s fifteen tackles for loss impressed a handful but questions still remained about the LSU offense.

But it was the game against West Virginia that the national media begin clamoring for LSU to be number one. Ironically, it came in the game where the vaunted LSU defense gave up almost 200 more total yards than it did against Oregon. The Tigers also gave up more than 200 more yards through the air than they did against Oregon.

In the past three games combined the teams LSU faced threw for just 17 more yards combined than West Virginia threw for the entire game. Oregon, Northwestern State, and Mississippi State combined to throw for 480 yards. Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith alone threw for 463 yards.

LSU also matched its record so far this year in turnovers. Against Oregon the Tigers’ defense recovered three fumbles to go along with interception Ducks QB Darron Thomas once. Against West Virginia, LSU’s defense intercepted Mountaineers QB Geno Smith twice while recovering two fumbles.

Those stats, though, are just that. They don’t tell the whole tale.

LSU’s “honey badger”, Tyrann Mathieu, played like a man possessed stripping the ball from Brad Starks grasp. What’s more impressive is that Starks stands seven inches taller and weighs twenty more pounds than Mathieu.

Then, later in the game, Mathieu came on a blitz, deflected a Geno Smith pass into the air, caught it and ran it back to the West Virginia one yard line. One play later Jarrett Lee would connect with tight end Chase Clement to put LSU up by 20.

Watching the game, you would see that Mathieu’s mouth kept running; he was constantly talking to either his teammates or talking smack to opposing receivers. Listed at 5’9” according to LSUsports.net, Mathieu has become the most heralded defensive back in LSU’s loaded secondary with Maurice “Mo” Claiborne being second in attention received.

Mathieu, Claiborne, and the rest of the Tigers defense can talk as much smack as they want because they back it up. This LSU defense possesses a swagger about them that the 2003 and 2007 squads lacked. The amount of tackles for loss, sacks, QB hurries, QB pressures, forced fumbles, and interceptions created by the defense makes them more fun to watch the offense – something the preceding defensive units have in common with the most current one.

Tharold Simon, a shutdown corner in his own right, and the hard-hitting Eric Reid receive even less attention, however, the dynamic play-making abilities of Mathieu couple with the shutdown and return abilities of Claiborne have propelled LSU to the #1 spot in the AP poll.

It was their performance in the West Virginia game that did. Claiborne’s 99 yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Mathieu’s forced fumble and interception opened the national audience’s eyes to what LSU fans were already aware – this is one of the two best defenses in the country. The other being Alabama.

The dominating performance over West Virginia has put to rest the lingering questions and doubts that surrounded LSU in the off-season, especially the ones concerning Jordan Jefferson.

Fifth year senior Jarrett Lee has been more impressive than any Tiger fan could dream. So far on the season he has thrown for six touchdowns to one interception. He’s passed for over 600 yards with a completion percentage of 64.4%. The rumors of Jordan Jefferson usurping Lee when the former returns have been put to rest. This is Lee’s world, Jefferson just lives in it.

What makes LSU even scarier is that the defense is extremely young. Mathieu is a sophomore along with Tharold Simon, Craig Loston, Eric Reid. Claiborne’s a junior. Along the defensive line Michael Brockers is a redshirt sophomore and Bennie Logan is a redshirt freshman. Defensive ends Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery are also both sophomores. Anthony “Freak” Johnson is a true freshman. The most experienced player along the d-line is senior Kendrick Adams.

The only seniors on LSU’s defense are starting linebackers Stefoin Francois and Ryan Baker, back-up cornerback Ron Brooks, and safety Brandon Taylor.

Two senior linebackers at what is considered to be the weakest part of LSU’s defense, if you can call any part of LSU’s defense weak. Even on offense LSU is young with only four seniors that start on that side of the ball.

It took three times for LSU to dominate three top 25 opponents. It was the most difficult September schedule played by any FBS school and LSU made it look easy but finally, on their third attempt, the Tigers made believers out of the national media. Now they coast into SEC play with Kentucky coming to Baton Rouge and Death Valley. Expect more of the same results on defense and the same solid, effective play on offense.

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SEC Officially Announces Addition Of Texas A&M

So long, Big XII. Hello, SEC! The pleas and conversations with interim Big XII commissioner Chuck Neinas were unproductive and now Texas A&M will be joining the SEC.

The Southeastern Conference released the news today that Texas A&M will begin SEC conference play for the 2012-2013 season. All that is left for the Aggies is to discuss the details of exit fees they will pay to the Big XII to make the move.

The move unites Texas A&M with former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas. The two shared residency in that conference from 1915 to 1991, when scandal forced the conference to dissolve. Most of the Texas based schools went on to merge with the Big 8 Conference to create the Big XII while Arkansas, along with South Carolina, joined the SEC.

In the official statement released by the SEC it stated that: “Over the course of its storied 78-year history of athletic achievements and academic excellence, the Southeastern Conference has consistently set the standard for the greatest tradition in intercollegiate athletics.

With an ever-changing dynamic to the conference paradigm over the past year, the SEC has again demonstrated its commitment to maintaining its stature as one of the nation’s premier conferences by welcoming Texas A&M University as its 13th league member”, Commissioner Mike Slive announced Sunday.

The addition of Texas A&M increases the number of AAU universities within the Southeastern Conference from two to three. The AAU stands for the Association of American Universities and member universities focus “on issues that are important to research-intensive universities, such as funding for research, research policy issues, and graduate and undergraduate education”.

The announcement today by the SEC either means that Baylor’s threat of suing Texas A&M for leaving the Big XII has stopped or the SEC expects it to stop. Either way the SEC could counter-sue the Big XII for improperly discussing with Arkansas about the possibility of the Razorbacks leaving the SEC for the Big XII. That would give the SEC grounds to sue based on “tortuous interference”.

Texas A&M is one of the best teams the SEC could have added as they offer great tradition, expand the conference’s footprint, bring in new television market (Houston) all on top of being a prestigious academic university. When the SEC expands to 14 teams and who will be the 14th team has yet to be determined.

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