One of the more intriguing draft picks by the Saints in this year’s offering was linebacker Khairi Fortt of California. The fit makes sense, but will he be able to make an impact in year one or beyond? I caught up with Jim McGill of Bear Insider to get the scoop on one of the Saints’ newest players. He had the following to say:
Fortt is a very physically-talented linebacker who has battled health problems at Penn State and in his one season at Cal.
When he’s able to play, he’s been very productive and was among the team leaders in tackles despite missing starts in his last three games. He plays with good quickness and pursues well but is not always in good position to make the play.
Fortt looks the part and is already built like a prototype NFL linebacker. He also puts up good numbers in the weight room. The question will continue to be how durable he’ll be with the rigors of an NFL schedule.
Many thanks to Jim for taking the time to give us his insights from watching Fortt play every weekend this past fall (when he was healthy, anyway). It confirms my concerns that Fortt has a lot of the Cie Grant/Courtney Watson write ups coming into his first NFL season. If you’re not familiar with those guys, they were fast, well built, “NFL ready” linebackers that came with a checkered health background; and sure enough struggled to see the field due to injury once they came to the Saints. More recently Stanley Arnoux is another guy that fits the profile and comes to mind.
The Saints’ history of drafting linebackers under Sean Payton is actually terrible. The team’s most productive linebacker selected in the draft for this era is probably Marvin Mitchell, a guy who had just 89 tackles and two fumble recoveries in four seasons with the team. At his best he was a rotational spot starter and decent special teamer. I don’t count Rob Ninkovich because he was drafted as a defensive end and while he’s turned into a solid player for the Patriots he had 4 tackles in his career as a Saint.
Hopefully Fortt can break this horrific trend and change the fortunes of any recent Saints drafted linebacker. In fact, you have to go back to 1995 for the last time the Saints drafted themselves a quality starting linebacker in Mark Fields, it’s been that long. If Fortt is going to be the first since Fields to make a real impact, though, he’ll need to prove he can stay on the field consistently.