Draft Needs: New Orleans Saints

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the New Orleans Saints [full archive here].

Season Recap: After a somewhat slow start to the season, the New Orleans Saints exploded in the second-half, finishing the year with eight straight wins. Drew Brees broke Dan Marino’s record of passing yards in a season, and many people anointed the Saints as early Super Bowl favorites. The Saints easily took care of the Lions in the Wild Card round, but failed to beat the 49ers on the road. With Head Coach Sean Payton suspended for the 2012 season, the New Orleans Saints have a lot to overcome if they hope to be contenders in 2012.

Team Needs:
1. Outside Linebacker: The Saints signed MLB Curtis Lofton to take over for Jonathon Vilma, who will likely be suspended for his role in the Bounty program, but questions still remain on the outside. Former Ram Chris Chamberlain was signed, but ideally as a depth player. The Saints don’t have a pick until the third round, so a player such as Zach Brown, Keenan Robinson, Sean Spence, or Nigel Bradham would be ideal fits.

2. Defensive End: New Defensive Coordinator Steve Spagnuolo loves having a rotation of ends to stay fresh throughout the game, enabling 100% effort every snap. Under “Spags”, you can never have enough D-lineman. The Saints need to add another body to the mix. Cam Johnson and Chandler Jones are names that are possibilities in the third round.

3. Defensive Tackle: Again, you can never have too many D-lineman under Spagnuolo. The Saints made a good signing in run-stuffer Brodrick Bunkley to start alongside Sedrick Ellis, but more depth is needed. With few high draft picks, it will be hard to get production from the rookies in 2012, but if a player such as Brandon Thompson or Kendall Reyes falls in the second round, the Saints could make a move up to grab them.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2012, Saints 1 Comment

Sean Spence scouting report

Sean Spence LB Miami FL #31
Ht: 5’11″

Wt: 231

 
Strengths:
Smart, hard-working player. Put in a lot of work in the weight room to bulk up throughout his college career. Hard hitter; has the ability to jar the ball loose. High-energy player who gives his full effort on every play. Decent athleticism for a linebacker.
Weaknesses:
Vastly undersized; lacks the height and overall bulk that most teams want in their linebackers. Even some 4-3 teams may view him as too small to play weak-side linebacker. Lacks the fluid athleticism to transition to safety. Plays out of control at times; flies all over the field, but often takes poor angles to the ball carrier. Can’t shed a block to save his life; ineffective at the point of attack against the run, especially when lined up right at the line of scrimmage. Needs to do a better job keeping his eyes in the backfield; often late to react to misdirection plays. Suspended for one game in 2011 for receiving improper benefits.
Comments:
Spence was a productive college linebacker, but there may not be a position for him in the NFL. He’s too small to play anything but weak-side linebacker in a 4-3 scheme and he isn’t quite athletic enough to transition to strong safety. Even if someone likes his ability as a weak-side linebacker, he isn’t a three-down linebacker. He’ll be limited to a backup role and playing on special teams.
Videos:
2011 vs Kansas State, Florida State 
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 Comments Off

Ronnell Lewis scouting report

Ronnell Lewis OLB Oklahoma #56
Ht: 6’2″

Wt: 253

 
Strengths:
Extremely versatile player with experience at strong-side linebacker and defensive end. Explosive pass rusher; quick off the snap and does a great job staying low to blow past taller offensive tackles, especially when lining up with his hand on the ground. Reliable wrap-up tackler who can also deliver the big hit. Has the speed to make plays in pursuit and generally takes good angles and displays decent anticipation/instincts. Worth ethic praised by coaches and teammates; nicknamed “The Hammer” for his intense play.
Weaknesses:
Versatility is an asset, but it also means he lacks experience at any one position. Struggles at the point of attack, especially with his hand on the ground; lacks the strength but could also improve his technique – tends to play back on his heels and does not use good leverage to hold his ground. Used almost exclusively as a pass rusher in passing situations. Limited experience in coverage, and may lack the fluid athleticism necessary to stay with tight ends/running backs in man coverage at the next level.
Comments:
Lewis is a tough prospect to grade because of the way in which Oklahoma used him. He primarily lined up with his hand on the ground, but he won’t be a three-down lineman at the next level. His best chance to stay on the field at the next level will be as a 3-4 outside linebacker, where he can be used almost exclusively as a pass rusher and his deficiencies against the run can be masked slightly by having more room to move before becoming engaged in a block. He could come off the board anywhere from the late 1st to the late 3rd round, it really all depends on how each teams thinks he can transition into their system because he won’t be playing the same role he was in at Oklahoma.
Videos:
2011 vs Texas 
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 1 Comment

Michael Egnew scouting report

Michael Egnew TE Missouri #82
Ht: 6’5″

Wt: 252

 
Strengths:
Prototypical size. Reliable hands; consistently catches the ball away from his body. Secures the ball quickly and turns to get up field. Tough runner with the ball in his hands; willing to lower his shoulder into a defender to pick up the extra yardage. Strong route runner; does a great job finding the soft spot and giving his quarterback a target. Shows good body control when going up in traffic. Experience lining up in the slot. Some experience carrying the ball on reverses.
Weaknesses:
Lacks the explosive athleticism to be a deep threat; reasonably fast once he’s up to full speed, but doesn’t explode off the line, or have the quickness to shake man coverage. Limited experience as a blocker; essentially used as an extra receiver and rarely used as an inline blocker. Suffered a sprained ankle which required surgery in 2009.
Comments:
Egnew was essentially a wide receiver at Missouri and, as a result, he’s not ready to be a three-down tight end at the next level. However, he does have the size and athleticism to be an asset in the passing game. His impact at the next level will depend on the system he lands in, but he could make an immediate impact somewhere in a Jimmy Graham-type role where he’s used almost exclusively as a route runner.
Videos:
2011 vs Kansas State 
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 Comments Off

McCrystal’s updated mock draft

1. Indianapolis Colts – Andrew Luck – QB – Stanford - Scouting Report
The Colts rebuilding process is fully underway, and it’s hard not to feel sorry for Andrew Luck. While I fully believe Luck be the centerpiece of this franchise for the next 10-15 years, it’s going to take some time before they can be considered legitimate contenders. With so few weapons around him, Luck is in for a very long and potentially painful rookie year.

2. Washington Redskins - Robert Griffin III – QB – Baylor - Scouting Report
[from Rams] As much as I like Robert Griffin, I do think the Redskins gave up too much. What makes Griffin special is his athleticism, his potential and his work ethic – which leads us to believe he will eventually develop into an elite pro quarterback. But he isn’t there yet, and isn’t even all that close. I expect Griffin to be among the game’s best in three to five years, but with so little talent around him and no meaningful picks with which to add talent, he’s going to struggle early on.

3. Minnesota Vikings - Matt Kalil – OT – USC - Scouting Report
The Vikings may entertain the possibility of trading this pick but if they stay put Kalil is too valuable to pass up. Their offensive line has been depleted by the release of Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera, and if they want to keep Christian Ponder on his feet in 2012, then adding a star at left tackle is a must. Read more

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Mock Draft Comments Off

Patriots showing interest in cornerbacks

The New England Patriots lack of depth in the secondary forced them to turn to a couple of receivers to play on the defensive side of the ball this past season, so it should come as no surprise that the team is doing its homework on some cornerback prospects for the upcoming draft.

The Patriots may be willing to roll the dice on the injury-plagued Bolden.

Most mock drafts have linked the Patriots to a cornerback (or two) with their four 1st and 2nd round picks. But since they’re looking for depth more than just one playmaker, they don’t necessarily need to spend a high pick on the position.

The Patriots have reportedly scheduled pre-draft visits with LSU cornerback Ron Brooks and Omar Bolden of Arizona State.

Both prospects should come off the board no earlier than the 3rd round, but could each compete for playing time immediately in the Patriots secondary.

Bolden could be of particular interest to the Patriots, who aren’t afraid to gamble on prospects with high upside. Bolden’s stock has fallen considerably after missing most of the 2008 and all of the 2011 season with injuries. But when healthy, Bolden, who was a starter since his freshman year at Arizona State, has shown legitimate starter potential.

For more info, follow our Draft Visit Tracker, updated daily. 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Patriots Comments Off

Adonis Thomas scouting report

Adonis Thomas RB Toledo #24
Ht: 5’10″

Wt: 185

 
Strengths:
Incredibly shifty runner; does a great job making himself small to slip through holes at the line of scrimmage. Very tough to bring down in the open field; quick feet and exceptional stop-and-start ability. A patient runner with great vision; anticipates holes opening and hits them with an impressive burst. Excellent receiver out of the backfield; great hands and explosive after the catch (30+ catches and 10+ yards per rec in each of past two seasons). Has experience taking direct snaps. Did not return kicks/punts in college but has the skill set to handle those duties at the next level.
Weaknesses:
Undersized. Teams would probably be more comfortable about his ability to handle an NFL workload if he added 5-10 pounds of muscle. Missed time with a broken arm in 2011. Lacks the special teams experience that you’d like from a back with his skill set. Will occasionally dance too much in the backfield in effort to break big run instead of settling for modest gain. Lacks the strength to offer much as a blocker. Limited experience against top competition.
Comments:
Thomas is underrated due to his lack of size and the fact that he played in the MAC, but he has obvious NFL talent. He is every bit as explosive as the more well-known LaMichael James, but what gives him an edge over James is his vision and body control. Thomas is a impressively polished runner has the instincts and vision to run between the tackles, but the explosiveness and speed to be a home run hitter as well. Thomas hasn’t faced many elite opponents, but he proved himself to be a legitimate threat in Toledo’s near-upset of Ohio State in 2011.
Videos:
2011 vs NIU 
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 Comments Off

Tauren Poole scouting report

Tauren Poole RB Tennessee #28
Ht: 5’10″

Wt: 205

 
Strengths:
Adequate overall size and strength. Best asset is his vision. Anticipates holes opening and looks very comfortable and instinctive running between the tackles. Adequate straight-line speed; will break off some big runs. Very fundamentally sounds; good hands as a receiver, excellent ball security as a runner. Gives a solid effort as a blocker; not real strong, but willing to get low and makes some plays. Some experience working as a lead blocker as well. Experience on special teams coverage. Excelled academically in college.
Weaknesses:
Lacks elite measurables; not fast or quick enough to really be big-play threat, but not powerful enough to be a true North/South runner. Needs to do a better job keeping his legs churning; goes down on first contact too often. Takes too many risks; change-of-direction ability is decent but he trusts it too much and he’ll get caught in the backfield trying to make plays that just aren’t there for him.
Comments:
What you see is what you get with Poole. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but he’s capable of doing it all. His upside is limited and he’ll probably never be a starter at the next level, but he should develop into an adequate backup. He’s a safe mid-round pick who should be able to earn a roster spot as a 3rd running back and will also contribute on special teams.
Videos:
2010 vs Alabama 
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 Comments Off

Chris Rainey scouting report

Chris Rainey RB Florida #1
Ht: 5’8″

Wt: 180

 
Strengths:
Elite speed and change-of-direction ability. A threat to take it the distance on any play. Experienced on special teams and could be a high pick based on his return ability alone. Experienced as a receiver out of the backfield and in the slot. Very efficient as a runner; doesn’t take many wasted steps and tends to continue moving forward rather than taking risks and losing yards. Fairly reliable hands and has good overall technique, catching the ball away from his body. More physical than you’d expect; willing to run between the tackles and occasionally used a lead blocker.
Weaknesses:
Vastly undersized; cannot be a feature back at the next level, will be limited to special teams duty and specially designed plays on offense. Does not have the size to be effective as a blocker at the next level. Willingness to play physical and take on much bigger defenders may lead to injury concerns in the future. Has struggled with ball security at times; a reckless runner who often carries the ball with one hand away from his body. Arrested for aggravated stalking for threatening his ex-girlfriend which led to five-game suspension in 2010. Missed time with ankle injury in 2011.
Comments:
Rainey has the potential to be a game-changer, but he is not an every-down player. His skills as a return specialist are undoubtedly his best asset, but in the right system he could see 5-10 touches per game as both a running back and receiver. He is a likely top 100 pick, but should only be considered by those teams with the overall depth to justify such a luxury pick.
Videos:
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 Comments Off

Cyrus Gray scouting report

Cyrus Gray RB Texas A&M #32
Ht: 5’10″Wt: 206  
Strengths:
Adequate size and strength. Good vision when running between the tackles; takes what’s given to him and rarely makes poor decision about where to go with the ball. Willing to take on defenders by lowering his shoulder; plays bigger than his size. Reliable hands as a receiver; caught over 30 passes in each of past two seasons and has lined up in the slot on occasion. Experienced returning kicks. Plenty of experience against top competition; three-year starter. Team leader on and off the field; praised by coaches for his work ethic and leadership.
Weaknesses:
Lacks elite quickness and agility; doesn’t have the ability to consistently avoid tackles in the open field, but also lacks the physical running ability to break tackles. Very much a North/South runner, who lacks the size to be that type of back. Lacks the speed to bounce runs to the outside; often gets caught in the backfield when trying to make something happen off the edge when the inside gaps don’t open up. Physical running style could lead to injuries considering his modest size. Already has a lot of wear and tear on his body; over 700 career touches at A&M. Missed final two games of career with stress fracture in shoulder.
Comments:
Gray was a tremendously productive runner in college as the primary starter for three years at A&M, but lacks the physical tools to be a feature back in the pros. Due to his modest speed and agility Gray has been forced to be a North/South runner, which worked for him in college, but he lacks the strength to hold up in that role at the next level. He does have the skills to contribute, however, and his ability as a receiver and on special teams will allow for him to earn a roster spot as a backup or 3rd-string running back.
Videos:
2011 vs Kansas State
2011 vs SMU
2010 vs LSU 
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 1 Comment