Big D

Saints get defensive lineman, leader in first round

In the week leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft the New Orleans Saints were linked to some of far-fetched storylines, but wound up making one of the most sensible choices possible. Days before the draft started they were reported to have had interest in trading for the top overall pick in the draft, presumably for one of the top two available quarterback prospects, California’s Jared Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. 

General Manager Mickey Loomis discounted that talk immediately. 

Then word was they were smitten with Memphis QB Paxton Lynch, and they might take him with their first round pick, the 12th overall. 

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Quarterback Drew Brees shrugged and said if the Saints thought they could pick his eventual replacement they should.

The rumors made for interesting viewing Thursday night. With Brees, and having just selected quarterback Garrett Grayson in the third round of last year’s draft, would the Saints really pick a quarterback? 

It didn’t make much sense for them to pick a signal caller, not when they gave up NFL worst 29.8 points per game last year and have need at almost every position on defense. And in the end, they made a reasoned selection that may prove to be very smart choice in the years to come.

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With the 12th pick in the first round, the Saints chose Sheldon Rankins, a defensive tackle/defensive end from Louisville. Rankins (6’1”, 300 pounds) played multiple spots on Louisville’s defensive line, and recorded six sacks and 13 tackles for loss last season. Although disruptive on the field, he is noted for his character and being a leader in the locker room. 

WWL Radio’s NFL Draft expert Michael Detillier predicted Rankins’ selection on Wednesday, telling Gannett Louisiana’s Glenn Guilbeau, “In a thick defensive tackle class, Sheldon is the best pure interior player in this very talented class.”

Rankins will join defensive end Cameron Jordan and two picks from last year’s draft, linebackers Stephone Anthony and Hau'oli Kikaha, to form the nucleus of the Saints’ young defense. 

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Jordan had 10 sacks and a forced fumble in 16 starts last season. Anthony was named to the Pro Football Writers Association all-rookie team after he started all 16 games, and made 112 tackles, one sack, one interception, and two forced fumbles. He scored a touchdown and ran back a blocked extra point for a safety. Kikaha had 55 tackles, four sacks, and four forced fumbles in 15 games, 10 of which he started.

With free agent signings defensive tackle Nick Fairley and defensive end/outside linebacker James Laurinaitis, the Saints should have much improved disruption up front. They’ll need it to reduce the 45 touchdown passes they gave up last year.

The Saints own the 47th (in Round 2), 78th (3), 112th (4), 152nd (5), and 237th (7) overall picks. New Orleans traded its 2015 and 2016 sixth-round selections to the Washington Redskins last year in exchange for their 2015 fifth-round selection. 

Rounds two and three of the 81st annual NFL draft will resume tonight at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago beginning at 7 p.m.; Rounds 4-7 will be held Saturday starting at 11 a.m. ESPN and The NFL Network will provide live coverage of each rounds.



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