You guys had to know I would need a follow up interview with my contemporary Kris Brauner (blogger for the LSU site, Saturday Night Slant). In case you missed it, Kris was kind enough to take the time to give us his thoughts before the draft, and of course it was only fitting to bring him back to see how he thinks we did now that the exercise is complete. I want to thank Kris again for taking a significant amount of time to provide us with the in depth answers we are looking for. Trust me when I say that few guys in the blogging business are as willing to lend such a helping hand to keep us informed on this kind of stuff and we’re lucky to have him on our side. I very much look forward to this process again with his next year.
I now give you my post draft interview with Kris – some great stuff in here:
1. Now that the Saints draft is complete, how do you think they fared? If you have to give them the old “grade”, what’s your take? Your favorite pick – least favorite pick?
I think the Saints fared excellent. Like we discussed in our piece leading up to the draft, I felt they needed to get stronger on the defensive line. To have Cameron Jordan, who was a total beast at the Senior Bowl, fall to them was a dream come true. He is not really the pass rushing terror that you may have wanted to see. But Jordan is a very solid defensive end that has a high floor and has the look of a multi-year, high impact starter. With Alex Brown just being OK in 2010 and with Will Smith finally looking like he’ll serve that four game suspension, I think you’ll see Jordan on the field early and often.
Initially, I was not crazy about giving up so much to get a running back. But I’m able to buy into the theory that you have a window of opportunity with this team, especially with Drew Brees in his prime. So why not go for it and make another run for another Lombardi while you can? I’ll buy into that.
Martez Wilson was GREAT value in the third round. The Saints had to be ecstatic to see him fall. He was projected to go much higher, and his athleticism is off the charts. I’m sure they have him slotted for the starting outside backer spot that was so unsettled last year. He could start the opener and be an improvement over what the Saints had a year ago.
Johnny Patrick seemed like a reach at the end of the third. But the Saints knew they were not picking again until the seventh. They must have liked Patrick, and they probably have him pegged to take over for Randall Gay, who many suspect will be let go. So while the value was not there, the Saints did not have the luxury of seeing if he would slide since they had no fourth, fifth, or sixth round pick. So that skews the “value” conversation a bit.
I love the Greg Romeus pick in the seventh. At one point, he was a projected first rounder. If he can prove that he’s healthy again, that could become one of the steals of the draft.
Nate Bussey looks like the kind of athlete worth taking a chance on. And he could prove valuable as a special teams ace while providing depth at either linebacker or safety. I would have liked to have seen the Saints grab a defensive tackle with one of their top four picks (which turned into three), but it didn’t happen. You can’t get em all.
Favorite Pick: Martez Wilson #72 overall
Least Favorite Pick: Johnny Patrick #88 overall
Overall Grade: A
2. You’ve seen enough Mark Ingram to make you sick by now. Just how good is he? Do you think his game translates well to the next level?
Ingram is the real deal, and his game absolutely translates to the NFL level. The most impressive thing about Ingram is his versatility. He’s as tough a runner as you’ll find, and has a very compact powerful frame at 5’9″ 215. He’s a very good blocker, which will suit the Saints very well as they run a whole lot of one-back sets. And he’s also a good receiver out of the backfield, especially on screens. Again — great fit for the Saints. The Saints essentially have the same running back group that they had in 2009 when they won the Superbowl. The only exception is that you plug in Chris Ivory for Mike Bell. But Ingram will add even more to that. Injuries killed the Saints running backs in 2010. Defenses failed to respect the running game, and Brees did not see the open receivers down the field that he did in 2009. That’s the biggest reason he threw so many interceptions. A healthy Pierre, Ivory, and Ingram — and possibly Reggie Bush — will balance out that offense and once again make it nearly impossible stop.
3. Talking about other teams, a few NFC South questions: The Bucs go with Clayborn, then Bowers, then your boy Mason Foster. Some big names there, but Clayborn and Bowers are huge injury concerns. Do you think they just got ridiculously better defensively, or do you think taking damaged goods comes back to bite them?
My thought is that the Bucs got a whole lot better on defense. I was secretly kind of hoping the Saints would have grabbed Bowers at #24. These injury concerns around draft time are often a bit inflated, and players tend to slide further than they should. With that said, the Bucs obviously were not scared by Clayborn’s issue as they took him ahead of a guy like Cameron Jordan. So I think the Bucs essentially got two first round defensive ends — one of which may have been worth of a Top-5 pick. And as I mentioned before, I was really impressed with Mason Foster coming out of Washington. I think he’s a NFL starter.
4. Cam Newton: good 1st pick or bad first pick? Does he ever become even a solid starting NFL qb? Superstar? How do you see his career playing out in Carolina? Should Saints fans be worried that he’s the next Donovan McNabb or better, or should we be relieved that he’s the next JaMarcus Russell/Akili Smith?
Only time will tell the true answer to this, but I was not terribly high on Newton. His athleticism and his ceiling make it awfully tempting to put him in 1st overall pick category. But Newton has SO far to go as a passer to be a competent quarterback in the NFL, much less a star. If I were an owner or a general manager, I could not have pulled the trigger to invest that kind of money in a guy that I consider such a big project. And that’s not even getting into the numerous off the field incidents that have surrounded him while in college. I don’t think he’s Akili Smith or Jamarcus Russell, but I don’t think he’ll be Donovan McNabb either. I suspect his career will fall somewhere in between and he’ll probably be very similar to Vince Young. The Panthers also need to get him some legitimate passing options to help him out. A pair of rookies, David Gettis and Brandon Lafell, did some good things for them in 2010 but I’m not sure anyone expects those guys to develop into Pro Bowlers. I’ll put it this way: I’m happy as a Saints fan that the Panthers took Cam Newton rather than trading for a guy like Kevin Kolb or Carson Palmer.
5. How good is Julio Jones? The Falcons basically gave up their entire draft to get him. Is he a nightmare cover for the Saints in year 1?
Julio Jones is a very good player, and he’ll do well in NFL. I would not be too surprised to see him as a Pro Bowler at some point in his career. But the Falcons gave up entirely too much to get him. I suspect they feel similar to the Saints, that they have most of the pieces in place and were willing to sacrifice future draft picks in order to make a run at a championsip over the next few years. But it was still an awful, awful lot to give up. The history of NFL teams selecting wide receivers so early has not been a terribly successful one. Perhaps they saw what Green Bay did to them in the playoffs, when they passed for over three times as many yards as they ran for, and want to mimic that. Jones has a few issues. At times during his career, he has battled drops. He has also battled some nagging injuries. So those are concerns. But it’s pretty scary to think of him on the other side of Roddy White, especially if Roman Harper is one of the two safeties providing deep help. The Falcon’s passing game is going to be scary. The Saints are well equipped at cornerback, and a (hopefully) increased pass rush will help too.
6. How did you feel about the LSU players drafted? Bummer for Jasper to go undrafted, but expected. I was personally shocked to A. see Terrance Toliver go undrafted and B. Pep Levingston get drafted. Did that surprise you? Talk about the destinations for the guys and how you think their abilities shake out at the next level.
Starting with Toliver, I was definitely surprised he did not get picked. He struggled with drops as a senior, and he does not offer any value on special teams. But he is still a good player, and his size and skills translate well to the NFL. I didn’t think he’d get out of the fifth round. But this NFL Draft Site speculates that Toliver could have had an injury red flag, which prevented teams from taking him. Those injury concerns could have been increased due to the lockout since teams would be unable to monitor their progress. Toliver did pull his hamstring at LSU’s pro day, and I’m unsure if that’s the injury that is being referenced. The business with the injury would make some sense as to why he was not drafted. I was not terribly surprised to see Pep Levingston picked in the seventh round. Had I guessed, I would have guessed that nobody picked him. But he was a solid player who has a lot of experience in the SEC. If Marlon Favorite was able to make a NFL roster, then Pep certainly has the ability to latch on somewhere. Patrick Peterson could have an impact anywhere, and Arizona seems like a good spot for him. The Cardinals were a playoff team a couple of years ago. If they can figure out something at quarterback, they can get back to the post-season quickly — especially in the weak NFC West. And Peterson will be a big part of their success. Kelvin Sheppard found a great, great fit in Buffalo. This early third round selection was about where I thought he’d go. He’s best suited to be on the inside in a 3-4 scheme, and that’s exactly what he’ll be doing. And Buffalo needs a lot of help, so he’ll have the opportunity to start right away. Former Tiger Kyle Williams was an All-Pro in 2010, and the Bills drafted Marcel Dareus. So he’ll have a pair of good tackles in front of him which may help him rack up some nice stats. Stevan Ridley was a surprise pick in the third round by New England. They are pretty pleased with Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, and they picked Cal’s Shane Vereen one round before Ridley. Vereen is a versatile, third-down type of back, and common sense tells you that he’s targeted to be the eventual replacement for Kevin Faulk (favorite Tiger ever) who is coming off an injury. So it’s tough to see where Ridley fits. Most teams won’t carry four backs on the active roster, so he could be a practice squad guy assuming everyone is heallthy. Regardless of the running back depth in New England, Ridley has to be ecstatic to have been picked in the third round, especially by such a good franchise. Drake Nevis went next to the Colts in the third round. This is a great spot for Drake. The Colts run a Tampa 2 scheme and prefer speed over size. Nevis should get the opporutnity to do what he does best — which is shoot through gaps and disrupt plays. Joseph Barksdale went late in the third round to the Oakland Raiders in what was the biggest surprise pick for me. Barksdale was not projected to go this high. He was a solid player for LSU, but I’m not sure he’s deserving of being picked in the third round. He certainly has a chance to compete for playing time at right tackle, but he may be better suited moving inside to guard if he wants to have a prolonged NFL career. The Raiders franchise is not a desirable destination, but they do seem to have things going in the right direction at the moment. They have a strong running game, which better suits Barksdale’s skills — so there’s that. Pep Levingston was chosen by Seattle in the seventh round, which was a minor surprise. I don’t think Levingston will ever be a NFL starter, but he’s such a hard worker and has such a great attitude that he’ll make the coaching staff want to keep him on the roster. Having a high character guy in the locker room as a back-up and special teams guy is not without some value.
Lastly, I wanted to thank The Saints Nation for asking me to do this piece. While I’m no expert on the Saints, I am a big fan and enjoy the opportunity to talk about them in regards to the NFL Draft. It has been fun, and I look forward to next year.