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Grading the Saints’ Draft

Every NFL team walks away from the NFL Draft telling its fans that the team got better with every pick. That can’t be the case, of course, since some teams are going to clearly be bad next season, and some picks are not going to make it out of training camp.

It is hard not to be optimistic during and after the draft, though. All the picks have the potential to make an NFL roster and help their teams win. Unless a team does something crazy in the draft, it really is hard to be cynical because none of the picks have even had an NFL practice.

But the optimism doesn’t mean the team made the right selections or that the drafted players will help the team in the next season or the years to come.

Now that it is over, let’s take a look at how the New Orleans Saints did in this year’s draft. If you have questions about your favorite team, jump on Twitter and send a tweet to @JFPSports.

Overall, I like what the Saints did in the draft. First-round pick and 11th overall Marshon Lattimore could start at cornerback for New Orleans if he can develop quickly and has left his hamstring problems behind him. He was a one-year starter at Ohio State University due to injuries, but he shined this season when he was finally healthy. Lattimore should make an instant impact.

New Orleans’ other first-round pick, Ryan Ramczky, might have been the best offensive lineman in the draft. Offensive linemen aren’t sexy selections, but ask a team with a bad offensive line how important drafting that position is. Ramczky, who played for the University of Wisconsin, could start this season somewhere on the line. I’m not sure if he can play guard, but he could take over for right tackle Zach Strief, who might move inside.

The Saints continued to work on the defense in the second round with safety Marcus Williams from the University of Utah. A pass rusher in one of three first picks would have been nice, but throwing on New Orleans got a lot harder with this draft. Williams should become a role player right away and is good at forcing turnover, with 10 interceptions over the last three seasons.

Third-round pick Alvin Kamara out of the University of Tennessee is by far my biggest complaint against New Orleans in this draft. Running backs Mark Ingram and recently signed Adrian Peterson will eat up most of the carries next season, and Kamara is a first- or second-round talent in the third round, but was he needed? Plus, the Saints gave up a second-round pick in next year’s draft to select Kamara.

Again, the Saints could have found a pass rusher with this pick instead. Kamara can catch the ball out of the backfield, but will he do well in pass blocking? New Orleans wants to use him in the mold of Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles, but a pass rusher would have helped more.

The final third-round pick, University of Florida linebacker Alex Anzalone, is a pick that could work instantly. Anzalone fell further in the draft due to medical concerns, but he can rush the passer and cover when healthy. The linebacker had numerous shoulder injuries in college but can be a major playmaker. This pick might turn into a situational edge-rusher next season.

New Orleans finally got a hand-in-the-dirt pass rusher in fifth-round defensive end Trey Hendrickson of Florida Atlantic University. A knock on Hendrickson is his short arms, which mean offensive linemen will have an easier time of getting hands on him.

Hendrickson didn’t play in a major conference, but he is a high-motor guy and plays with the maximum effort on every play. He could end up a role player this season but also develop into a nice complement to defensive end Cameron Jordan down the road. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he overachieved in the NFL.

The Saints took a chance with their final selection of the draft. New Orleans used a sixth-round selection on defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad. This is a risk-versus-reward pick with from the University of Miami senior having off-the-field issues.

He was suspended for the 2014 season for punching a fellow student and then was caught up in an NCAA investigation that got him permanently kickoff of the team in 2016. Here’s the thing: If, and that’s a big if, Muhammad wants to play football and be in the NFL, this select could be a steal.

On the other hand, if Muhammad doesn’t clean up his act, he will end up making news for more problems and force the Saints to cut him. This is a classic boom-or-bust pick. If New Orleans gets him in the right frame of mind, the Saints have a pass rusher that just needs some polishing.

New Orleans spent most of this draft on its defense with five of the seven picks. The selection of Kamara is a bit of a head scratcher with how crowded the Saints’ backfield is becoming. However, there is no question of his talent. He was exciting to watch at the University of Tennessee.

A few players need to develop, but they all have positives and potential to help out. New Orleans could get a pass rusher or two in the rotation if they develop players in mini camps and organized team activities.

The defensive secondary should be better next season, as the unit got faster, younger and cheaper. That could be better than trading for a veteran who would cost more.

New Orleans, overall, took care of most of its needs. You could argue that the team should have looked at a quarterback or wide receiver, and Kamara was a luxury pick, but overall, the team should be better if these players develop.

Draft Grade: B+


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