The New Orleans Saints entered the 2012 NFL draft with little need for immediate starters on either offense or defense, however, the want was there for the Saints to shore up several spots on both sides of the ball with much needed depth. Tight end, defensive tackle, and cornerback were the three positions that required the most depth while every position along the offensive line as well as defensive end and even safety could use competent back-ups. Due to trading their 2012 first rounder to the New England Patriots so they could move up in last year’s draft to select Mark Ingram and the Bounty Hunter punishment, the Saints began this year’s draft in the 3rd round but held a pick in every round.
3rd (89) – Akiem Hicks, DT, Regina (Canada)
To start the draft off the Saints went north of the border to select an extremely raw defensive tackle that was kicked off of LSU’s team for violating team policies (hitching a ride with a coach from the airport). There’s a lot to like about Hicks as the potential is there for him to be an effective role player in the NFL but he has several areas of his game that he needs to address (hand placement, getting too upright in his stance) before he can become deserving of his draft value. Hicks was considered a late mid-round pick at best and rarely, if ever, was placed in the 3rd round of many of the draft experts mock drafts. It’s extremely poor value especially considering that several defensive tackles that were experienced playing against tougher competition than Hicks.
My pick: TE LaDarius Green, UL-Lafayette
Due to their pressing need for a back-up tight end and the league about to become infatuated with two tight-end sets because of the success the New England Patriots had running theirs, the Saints would have been greatly served by drafting someone to complement Jimmy Graham. That player would have been LaDarius Green. Green has strong hands, a willingness to develop his game further, is a huge red-zone target, and he and Graham together would have given opposing defenses fits.
4th (122) – Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
Toon represents the best value the Saints received out of any of their picks. A prototypical possession receiver that complements Marques Colston extremely, Toon can do everything you expect a #2 receiver to do. He can pluck the ball out of the air, run clean routes and get open on a consistent basis but isn’t going to wow with his acceleration or break-away speed. The Saints needed a replacement to Meachem and while Toon does not possess Meachem’s athleticism he does own better ball skills and route running.
My pick: DT/DE Jared Crick, Nebraska
It’s hard to knock the need for a replacement to Meachem but depth at defensive tackle was severely lacking. Crick is the type of player that would have excelled in Spagnuolo’s scheme with his versatility and ability to line up at multiple places along the defensive line. His production in college was impressive just like his motor and relentlessness, not to mention that selecting Crick here would have presented excellent value.
5th (162) – Corey White, CB, Samford
The Saints may know something no one else does about this pick but when a college prospect isn’t on most draft experts Top 300 lists it leads you to ask “what were they thinking?!” White is a fearless and borderline overly confident strong safety that failed to dominate his level of competition. He does not possess the speed needed to keep up with NFL tight ends but does tremendous run support abilities. White’s scouting report reads almost exactly like that of a poor man’s Roman Harper’s which won’t inspire much confidence in Saints fans.
My pick: Marvin Jones, WR, California
A big, tall receiver that made a name for himself at the Senior Bowl, Jones possesses all the skills to be a very effective #2 wide receiver. He lacks breakaway speed but he rarely drops passes, has above-average run after the catch ability, and would be a nice #2 receiver that seems more developed as a receiver than Toon is.
6th (179) – Andrew Tiller, Guard, Syracuse
The Doug Marrone connection was likely in effect with this pick but it was still another one that left most draft analysts scratching their heads. Tiller plays very upright and is heavy-legged with inconsistent technique. He also struggled with the offensive lineman drills at the combine. That being said, he possess prototypical size for an NFL guard and is a nasty, aggressive run blocker.
My pick: Brandon Washington, OG, Miami
Like Tiller, Washington has prototypical size for an NFL guard but has a more sophisticated game with greater strength. As a top 10 guard prospect on most NFL draft experts boards, Washington represented plenty value as many are lauding the Philadelphia Eagles for their selection of him in the 6th.
7th (234) – Marcel Jones, Tackle, Nebraska
It’s hard to knock a 7th round draft pick as most turn out to be special teamer’s at best, although some can pan out into effective starters (Marques Colston). It’s also hard to knock the Saints for drafting the prospect with the best hair in the draft. This guy’s afro would have won awards in the 1970s. That aside, Jones has the prototypical size and athleticism but struggles in pass protection and struggles with the fundamentals of line blocking. With the right coaching Jones can develop in a capable backup which bodes well for the Saints as Aaron Kromer is one hell of an offensive line coach.
My pick: Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia
While the Jones pick isn’t bad, Johnson represented far greater value. Johnson has developed in each of his season with the Cavaliers and while he’s not a sack artist, he has the tools that are there to be an above-average starting defensive end. Most draft experts wouldn’t have thought twice about a Johnson selection in the 3rd round much less the 7th. His fall was due mostly to him being diagnosed with the sickle-cell trait.
Saints overall draft grade: D
Based on overall value, positions of want and need, and immediate impact the Saints whiffed on all of the selections with the exception of Nick Toon. This draft class could surprise and develop into capable rotational players, or even starters but until they do this is one of the worst drafts of Mickey Loomis’ career as Saints GM.