Choose Wisely

Saints have to get more value out of this year’s draft

            The 2016 NFL Draft doesn’t kick off until Thursday, but there’s already been a blockbuster deal for the top overall pick. More moves are expected to come in the days leading up to the first selection, including the possibility of the Saints making deals to acquire more players to fill their talent-needy roster. If anyone tells you they know what a team is going to do, don’t believe them. The moves made thus far have blown up several speculative draft boards, resulting in prognosticators shuffling their predictions faster than a Blackjack dealer at Harrah’s.

            The Los Angeles Rams made a splash in their return to Tinsel Town by moving up from the 15th slot to number one. To get the top spot, the Rams gave the Titans their first-round pick (No. 15), two second-round selections (Nos. 43 and 45), and a third-round pick (No. 76) in 2016, and their first- and third-round picks in 2017. In addition to the first overall pick, the Titans sent the Rams selections in the fourth (No. 113) and sixth (177) rounds.

            With the top pick, the Rams are expected to take a quarterback, either of the draft’s top two QB prospects California’s Jared Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz, to bring pizazz and sell tickets as they begin play in Hollywood again.

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            On Wednesday, the Philadelphia Eagles picked up the second overall pick in this year’s draft and a fourth-round pick in 2017 in a deal with the Cleveland Browns. The Eagles gave up picks in the first (No. 8), third (No. 77), and fourth (No. 100) rounds of this year’s draft plus a first-round pick in 2017 and a second-round pick in 2018.

            The Eagles will pick whichever QB doesn’t get picked by the Rams.

            The trades have altered draft forecasts and caused speculation that several players will slide up or down teams’ draft boards as they adjust their strategies.

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            The Saints own the 12th overall pick in the draft, as well as the 47th (in Round 2), 78th (3), 112th (4), 152nd (5), and 237th (7). New Orleans traded its 2015 and 2016 sixth-round selections to the Washington Redskins last year in exchange for their 2015 fifth-round selection. The Saints have needs on the offensive line, at receiver and almost every position on defense.

            One thing that’s for sure is the Saints have to get more value out of this year’s draft than they did last year. In 2015, the Saints selected two first rounders, OT Andrus Peat with the 13th overall pick and LB Stephone Anthony with the 31st pick. They picked up LB Hau'oli Kikaha (44th overall) in the second round, QB Garrett Grayson (75th) and DB P.J. Williams (78th) in the third, LB Davis Tull (148th), DT Tyeler Davison (154th), and CB Damian Swann (167th) in the fifth, and RB Marcus Murphy (230th) in the seventh round.

            Anthony and Kikaha made an immediate impact for the Saints last year. 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.

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            Peat played in 12 games and started eight, in which many are calling a red-shirt year. While some are giving him a pass on his rookie season, the Saints could ill afford to not have more of an impact from their top draft choice. They will have to get more production from him going forward to be considered worthy of the 13th overall pick.

            Despite being the highest QB drafted by the Saints since Archie Manning, Grayson remains an unknown. Touted as the heir apparent to 37-year-old Drew Brees, Grayson was only on the active roster for a handful of games, but didn’t see any action at all. One local sportscaster thinks the Saints could draft Memphis QB Paxton Lynch with the 12th pick and trade Grayson, who attended Colorado State, to the suddenly QB-needy Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, who lost starter Peyton Manning to retirement and backup Brock Osweiler to free agency.

            The rest of the Saints 2015 draft class had minimal impact on the team due to injury, lack of playing time, or failure to make the team.

            With the Saints finishing 7-9 in three of the last four seasons and free agency not working as hoped, they cannot afford to have just two players from their draft class making significant contributions to the team.

            The 81st annual NFL draft will be held at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago beginning Thursday, April 28 at 7 p.m.; Rounds 2-3 are on Friday, April 29, beginning at 7 p.m.; and rounds 4-7 will be held Saturday, April 30, starting at 11 a.m. ESPN and The NFL Network will provide live coverage of all seven rounds.

 

First Round Draft Choice

            The NFL Draft kicks off on ESPN and The NFL Network on Thursday, April 28 at 7 p.m. There are 253 picks available in the draft’s seven rounds, beginning with the LA Rams at No. 1. The first round will have just 31 picks after the Patriots were forced to forfeit their first-round pick as punishment for allegedly deflating footballs in the 2014 season playoffs.

 

Pick             Team                                2015 record

1          Los Angeles Rams*                       3–13

2          Philadelphia Eagles**                     6–10

3          San Diego Chargers                      4–12

4          Dallas Cowboys                            4–12

5          Jacksonville Jaguars                     5–11

6          Baltimore Ravens                          5–11

7          San Francisco 49ers                     5–11

8          Cleveland Browns***                     3–13

9          Tampa Bay Buccaneers                6–10

10        New York Giants                           6–10

11        Chicago Bears                              6–10

12        New Orleans Saints                    7–9

13        Miami Dolphins****                        7–9

14        Oakland Raiders                           7–9

15        Tennessee Titans*****                   7–9

16        Detroit Lions                                 7–9

17        Atlanta Falcons                            8–8

18        Indianapolis Colts                        8–8

19        Buffalo Bills                                  8–8

20        New York Jets                             10–6

21        Washington Redskins                  9–7

22        Houston Texans                           9–7

23        Minnesota Vikings                      11–5

24        Cincinnati Bengals                     12–4

25        Pittsburgh Steelers                     10–6

26        Seattle Seahawks                       10–6

27        Green Bay Packers                     10–6

28        Kansas City Chiefs                      11–5

29        Arizona Cardinals                        13–3

30        Carolina Panthers                       15–1

31        Denver Broncos                          12–4

                                                           

* acquired from the Titans                 

** acquired from the Browns

*** acquired from the Dolphins via the Eagles                     

**** acquired from the Eagles

***** acquired from the Rams          

            

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