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.