The Saints don’t pick till 89th overall at the end of the month’s NFL draft and by now we all know the reasons why. It makes both getting excited about the draft and predicting who could land in black and gold very difficult. That said, I thought I would identify 5 players that would fit the Saints’ mold, fill a possible need, and possibly be available around that 89th pick. Hopefully this will give you even a little reason to look forward to the usually more exciting event that is the NFL draft.
1. Amini Silatolu, G/T, Midwestern State
This guy is going somewhere between rounds 2 and 3, so there’s a decent chance he won’t fall to the Saints. If he does, though, there is an extremely strong chance they’ll take him. Offensive line depth has gotten a little thin in the last couple of years with Bushrod, Strief and De La Puente thrust into starting roles. Matt Tennant and Charles Brown are still players the Saints count on, but landing Silatolu would be huge because he would provide depth at both guard and tackle, having the versatility to play both positions. In addition, we know the Saints have always had a penchant for turning over stones and finding real gems at small schools no one has heard of. Chris Ivory (Tifton), Jahri Evans (Bloomsburg), Jahri Evans (Towson) and Marques Colston (Hofstra) are just a few examples. Silatolu has turned some heads with terrific combine results and he’s considered the top prospect coming out of unknown schools.
2. Josh Norman, CB, Coastal Carolina
Norman is just a very solid corner that should be available when the Saints pick. He isn’t flashy and he’s probably not star potential, but a guy that can be plugged in early in his career and probably do a good job. He’s tall and big, yet he still runs pretty well. He’s a guy that covers pretty well in man regardless of the receiver (speed or size) and he’s got terrific ball skills. Saints fans who’s heads wanted to explode with the number of dropped interceptions we saw last year should pull for this guy to come to the Saints, I can promise you with him back there that would be less of a problem. With the loss of Tracy Porter and Leigh Torrence, the Saints need to give Johnny Patrick some competition.
3. Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma State
Safety is a position that has almost no depth at all. Behind Harper and Jenkins, both possibly risking suspensions, are Isa Abdul-Quddus and Jonathon Amaya, neither of who impressed that much last year. Martin is an enigma because he comes into the draft as a top 3 safety with a 2nd round grade, but he’s nursing some injuries that could drop him to the 89th pick. If he falls into the Saints’ lap this is one they have to think about. The questions are both his ball skills and his injury (fluid in the knee), but he’s tall, fast and hits very hard. Could be useful on special teams, too.
4. Ladarius Green, TE, Louisiana-Lafayette (pictured)
Green is projected to go in the 3rd or 4th round. I know most of us would like to see the Saints go defense at pick #89, but the reality is the Saints will pick the highest player left on their board, and tight end depth happens to be something they could really use. Green has the length, catching ability and speed to be a fancy new toy for Drew Brees in the Saints’ offense. His receiving skills are top notch and I could see the Saints using him and Graham like the Pats use Gronkowksi and Hernandez. Seeing those two players run down the seam in 2 tight end formations would be terrifying to defenses. Green’s major weakness is his blocking, though, so he’ll need to vastly improve both bulk and technique if he wants to become a full time player, otherwise he’s just a situational guy. Still, there’s no denying his abilities as a receiving tight end.
5. Mike Martin, DT, Michigan
Martin is regarded as a bit of a underachiever, which doesn’t really match up with the type of guy the Saints target, but the need for depth at DT and the talent and potential Martin has may be too good to pass up at 89. The draft is all about perceived value. Martin is an excellent run stuffer when he applies himself, and with Shaun Rogers and Aubrayo Franklin both likely gone the Saints need to replace them. This guy is as good as they come from a talent perspective. He’s huge in size and yet still maintains impressive athleticism. Broderick Bunkley was a huge pickup/upgrade, but Martin would be another nice depth move. Maybe the Saints’ staff can get the most out of him, but they should be careful with the warning flag that motivation might be an issue.