Team Needs: New Orleans Saints
NEEDS RATING KEY
5.0 - High priority. This is a position that is a glaring weakness and there is the likelihood that this team cannot compete next year without making a major addition here.
4.0 - Medium Priority. This is an area that is an obvious weakness, but the team isn't quite desperate to make a major move here possibly because they have some young potential. But this is an area that if the team cannot fix via free agency, will definitely use one of their picks in the first three or four rounds to supplement.
3.0 - Upgrade Potential. This is a position that isn't a weakness per se, but there is significant room for an upgrade. If the right player comes along they will certainly snag him, but if they don't fix this position with a major free agent addition or early round pick, then it's not the end of the world.
2.0 - Depth Need. An area where there is a need to add depth. Perhaps there is an aging veteran and they might want to start to look at grooming his heir apparent or replacement. Not likely to be a high priority and a position that more than likely will be address in the middle and late rounds rather than with a top pick.
1.0 - Future Need. This is an area that is not a priority, and doesn't initially appear as a need. But there is some room to develop some depth for perhaps two or more years down the line. This is usually an area that a team will look at in the late rounds if at all.
0.0 - Non-need. This is a position that is a strength of their team, they have a solid starter, capable depth, and/or a young player at the position that they like and want to develop. Very little possibility this area is addressed and would be the equivalent of a wasted draft pick.
Top 10 Needs
1. OG - 4.0
2. DT - 3.5
3. LB - 3.5
4. DE - 3.0
5. WR - 3.0
6. CB - 2.5
7. S - 2.0
8. TE - 2.0
9. OT - 1.5
10. QB - 1.5
Quarterback - The Saints have tagged Brees and will likely sign him to a long-term extension that will make him one of the highest paid players in the league. Chase Daniels is a decent prospect and will be a restricted free agent, which means there is no guarantee that he'll be sticking around New Orleans for much longer. They could look at some more developmental options in the late rounds. NEED: 1.5
Running Back - They like their trio of backs in Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, and Darren Sproles. They are hoping Ingram takes an even larger role as the No. 1 back this year to make their trade for him more worthwhile. Chris Ivory is probably the best No. 4 tailback in the league, giving them a lot of depth. NEED: 0.5
Fullback - Jed Collins was very productive in his first year as the starter. And they have Korey Hall, a solid lead blocker and special teams player behind him, making this a non-need. NEED: 0.0
WIde Receiver - The potential free agent losses of Marques Colston and Robert Meachem could deplete this unit. They would like to bring both back, but probably only for the right price. That would leave Lance Moore and Devery Henderson as their top options, which won't be terrible. But you can expect that they will definitely add another body in the draft, preferably someone with the upside to be a go-to threat. As well as potentially trying to find a stopgap in free agency. NEED: 3.0
Tight End - Jimmy Graham had an excellent season despite being marred by a few bouts of inconsistency. David Thomas is a reliable backup, and John Gilmore is a good blocker. Gilmore is a free agent, and if not re-signing him, they will likely add another inline blocker to the mix since that is not a strength of either Graham's or Thomas's game. NEED: 2.0
Offensive Tackle - Jermon Bushrod had his best year, but is still not a sure thing on the left side. He's entering the final year of his contract, and needs to at the very least maintain the status quo to keep his job beyond 2012. Zach Strief was solid on th right side, and Charles Brown had his moments as a replacement starter early int he year. Brown has been unable to stay healthy, but is a good swing tackle option. They could use some more depth given the number of injuries that have occurred here, but are fairly solid with three starting-caliber players. NEED: 1.5
Offensive Guard - The potential loss of Carl Nicks in free agency could loom large here. They don't really have a viable replacement on the roster, unless they plug Strief there, although that would more likely be a last resort than Plan A. If they can't re-sign Nicks, then they will likely prioritize adding another big body up front to try and keep Brees' jersey clean. NEED: 4.0
Center - Brian De La Puente was serviceable as the starter taking over after the sudden retirement of Olin Kreutz early int he year. This still is a position they would like to see Matt Tennant lock down long-term, but they are okay here since they still like Tennant's upside. NEED: 1.0
Defensive Tackle - The experiement with SHaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin did not pay huge dividends. Sedrick Ellis is a serviceable starter, but has never consistently shown that elite pass rushing potential they thought they were getting when they made him a Top 10 pick four years ago. Cameron Jordan showed some things when he flipped inside on passing downs, and under Steve Spagnuolo they could continue that similar to how he used Justin Tuck in New York. This definitely a position they need to upgrade. NEED: 3.5
Defensive End - Jordan is a good run stopper, but not the sort of pass rusher you need on the edge. Will Smith is solid, but isn't a guy that most offenses fear. The rest of this group is mainly rotational guys, so this is another position they want to upgrade in order to make Spags' aggressive scheme work. NEED: 3.0
Linebacker - Gregg Williams tried to make this work with a bunch of journeyman types, but it did not work. Vilma's play has declined since 2009 in the middle and he's potentially facing a huge suspension from the Commish. Martez Wilson has upside, but hardly played as a rookie. Dunbar, Casillas, and Shanle between them are good enough to hold the fort at the other spot, but all three of them would be backups on most NFL teams. If they can find a playmaker to stablize this unit, it could go along way to improving them. It's likely they would target someone that could play the middle as a replacement or successor to Vilma. NEED: 3.5
Cornerback - Tracy Porter is a free agent, and not likely to return given his inconsistent play, and the fact that Patrick Robinson played well down the stretch. That could leave an opening at the nickel spot, which could be filled by Johnny Patrick, but at the least they will be adding some insurance. NEED: 2.5
Safety - Malcolm Jenkins had a breakout 2010, but struggled this past year, particularly in the playoffs when Gregg Williams blitzing scheme left him on an island too much against elite receivers like Calvin Johnson and Vernon Davis. He should improve under Spags who won't leave him out to dry as much. Roman Harper also got exposed quite a bit, but playing in coverage has never been his strength, and they like his veteran presence. They will probably look into adding some depth, but that's about it. NEED: 2.0
Kicker - John Kasay is solid but just lacks the range of his youth. He's a free agent and could return in a pinch if Hartley isn't 100% recovered from the hip injury that forced him to miss all of 2011. NEED: 1.0
Punter - Morstead has a big booming leg that serves him well on kickoffs. He's not the most accurate punter, but he's more than capable given their needs since their offense means they don't have to punt the ball a ton. NEED: 0.0
Return Specialist - Sproles likely will continue as a return man, especially if Ingram can take a bigger role at tailback. NEED: 1.0
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.