Over the next week, The Falcoholic will review the 2011 drafts of the three other teams in the NFC South. Today, it's the New Orleans Saints.
The rivalry between the Falcons and Saints is a long one, often marred by the fact that neither team was all that great. These past few years, the fortunes of the two teams have changed, and the rivalry has heated up as a result. The Saints drafting a top young running back and the Falcons drafting Julio Jones have as much to do with beating up on the likely NFC South title contenders as they do getting to the Super Bowl.
Join me after the jump and I'll break down the Saints' draft for you. Better put on my gloves.
DE Cameron Jordan: As value picks go, this is a great one.
The Saints needed some help up front on their defensive front seven and got one of the better ends in the draft. Jordan is strong, tough and capable of doing a little bit of everything. For the Saints, that kind of defensive balance is a good thing, and Jordan will improve their defense.
What he won't do is suddenly propel the team's pass rush into the stratosphere, as he lacks the speed and requisite moves to be a double digit sack type of guy. For that reason, he's not someone I unduly fear, though I don't like the fact that he's going to be a measurable improvement in run-stopping.
RB Mark Ingram: On one hand, this is an overdue move. The Saints have been relying on a combination of the oft-injured Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas in recent seasons, dipping occasionally into the washed-up veteran (Mike Bell) or undrafted free agent (Chris Ivory) to patch up holes. On those merits, the hard-charging Ingram is a great pick.
What I wonder is how effective he'll really be. Sean Payton has a fetish for rotating his backs, and while Ingram is unquestionably talented, he's also the best back in a weak class. He's dealt with some injuries, doesn't have great agility or vision and comes into a city that hasn't seen a workhorse back since Deuce McAllister.
Paired with Thomas and (maybe) Bush, however, Ingram is going to be an effective complementary piece even if he's not fantastic. The Falcons won't love him.
LB Martez Wilson: Another good pick. Wilson is athletic and quick, and the Saints have a linebacking corps full of guys who are capable enough but lack elite potential. It may take Wilson a while to get there, but I think he's got the chops to be a full-time starter, and a good one.
Really not liking these picks so far.
CB Johnny Patrick: I'm not a big fan of Patrick, honestly. He's solid all the way around and for that reason alone he's good value, but I don't see him as a standout and he has some mild off-the-field concerns. Soft hands make him a potential starter, but a lack of elite athleticism and cover skills may dock that. Solid pick, but nothing frightening.
DE Greg Romeus: This pick is annoying as hell, because the Saints were the last team I wanted to get Romeus. He's got an injury history that caused him to drop this far and he may not be fully ready for the start of the season, but Romeus has a ton of talent and could be a future starter if the Saints groom him the right way.
LB Nate Bussey: A special teamer with enough athleticism to contribute as a backup linebacker. Good pick to cap the draft with, but nothing spectacular.
Conclusion: It's hard to poke holes in this draft. The Saints filled needs, got solid players across the board and will be stronger in 2011 because of it. While none of the players they got are guys I necessarily feel will become elite, any time you can get four to five potential starters in a draft, you've done well.
Damn the Saints.