April 21, 2009

2009 NOPF Saints Draft Board

Here's our take on the draft board for the Saints, that is, the top 14 players on the Saints' board. The Saints should take the top player available Saturday afternoon.

1. Virginia LB Aaron Curry, 6'2, 254, 4.52 40

The draft's top defender, Curry is a three-down linebacker and the safest bet of all players. But he's not at a premier position and could fall as far as fifth in the draft. Saintly Impact: Would initiate a shakeup in the linebacking trio for the Saints, but lets not get carried away. Saintly Chances: Zero.

2. Baylor T Jason Smith, 6'5, 309, 5.09 40

Though he played in a spread offense and rarely dropped to a three point stance, he possesses the best combination of physical and mental qualities in the draft. Will be able to play either left or right tackle. Won't get out of the top two. Saintly Impact: Would probably force the trade of Jammal Brown, but don't even think about it. Saintly Chances: Zero.

3. Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree, 6'2, 215, 4.54 40

Insanely productive with great overall capabilities, Crabtree lacks only elite speed and has a non-factor foot injury right now that he'll recover from. As for the rumored primadonna attitude, is that really a surprise to anyone? There's no way he gets out of the top eight, as he won't fall past Jacksonville at that pick, even if they trade out. Saintly Impact: A dream pick for Drew Brees will remain just that - a dream. Saintly Chances: Zero.

4. LSU DE Tyson Jackson, 6'4, 296, 4.94 40

Ideal full time 3-4 DE or 4-3 LDE who could slide inside to tackle on passing downs. Great size and quickness who played against top competition in the SEC. Consensus second best defender in the draft and will not get past Denver at 12. Saintly Impact: Would probably make Saints fans forget about Charles Grant during his suspension. Saintly Chances: Zero.

5. Virginia T Eugene Monroe, 6'5, 309, 5.18 40

Played big at a program with a great pro pedigree and a solid overall tackle prospect. Some concern about a potentially career-limiting knee injury. Could go as high as third but likely won't get past the top five. Saintly Impact: Would force the Jammal Brown trade into reality, but it'll never happen. Saintly Chances: Zero.

6. Ohio State CB Malcolm Jenkins, 6'0, 204, 4.51 40

There are some teams that have no use for Jenkins, because as a tweener cornerback/safety, a team needs to know where he'll play before they pull the trigger on him in the first round. Does Gregg Williams know where Jenkins is going to play in his defense already? If so, he's a very likely pick for the Saints. Saintly Impact: Immediately plays in dime formations and puts pressure on starters at cornerback and free safety. Saintly Chances: Good.

7. USC LB Clay Matthews, 6'3, 240, 4.67 40

Matthews has amazing intangibles and his ascendance from walkon trumps the remarkable story of Scott Fujita. Like Fujita, Matthews fought and scratched his way into a scholarship and eventually into the starting line-up, and then the NFL. A starting defensive end early in his career for a major college defense like USC tells you his football IQ and versatility, and eventually he was used as a mutlirole player, switching between lineman and linebacker depending on the formation. Has a legendary bloodline, with an NFL Hall of Famer for an uncle (Bruce) and an 18-year NFL veteran for a father (Clay), among his family's sports stars. A great pass rusher with experience and has more linebacking instincts than Cushing and Maualuga combined. Willing special teamer. He will not get past Houston at 15. Saintly Impact: Starts at weakside linebacker by midseason. Saintly Chances: Good.

8. Boston College DT BJ Raji, 6'2, 337, 5.12 40

Assuming he keeps his weight under control, Raji should be a premier run stopper in the league right away. Raji would be a great fit in New Orleans, where hopefully the Saints will retain Hollis Thomas to provide priceless veteran experience. Both Thomas and Raji have similar builds and roles in the NFL. Unfortunately, Raji probably won't get past Green Bay at 9. Saintly Impact: Should rotate with Hollis Thomas and Kendrick Clancy immediately and provide solid minutes at a key position. Would team with last year's first round pick Ellis to provide a solid foundation to the Saints' defensive line, and allow the Saints to start a defensive line completely made up of first round picks. Saintly Chances: Slim.

9. Texas DE Brian Orakpo, 6'3, 263, 4.63 40

Tremendous athlete and a natural born pass rusher, yet, he's just beginning to tap his potential. Played as a rush end in a 4-3 defense and could make his mark as a pass rusher in either a 4-3 or 3-4 front in the NFL. Won't get to the Saints, as there are too many teams hungry for pass rushers ahead of them. Like Saints DE Will Smith, Orakpo could grow into a fulltime starter at right end, but has more quickness to work with. Saintly Impact: There are a number of pass rushing specialists in the draft like Orakpo that could be the Weapon X of Gregg Williams' defense. Orakpo, Maybin, and Brown could all become two-point stance ends for a creative mind like Williams. Saintly Chances: Slim.

10. Penn State DE Aaron Maybin, 6'4, 250, 4.74 40

The ultimate gamble in this draft, Maybin is a third-year sophomore with the world at his fingertips. He must to go a team that can refine his skillset. Has an upside out of this world but is so young, so raw and so inconsistent. Maybin could go anywhere from the top five to the bottom of the first round, depending on what scout you talk to. Saintly Impact: Will flash into the backfield when asked, but what would the Saints do with him on first and second down? Saintly Chances: Decent.

11. Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno, 5'11, 217, 4.50 40

A poor man's Emmitt Smith coming out of an SEC school, Moreno doesn't have elite speed or size, but instead has a natural skill set for a runningback. Moreno doesn't have the same frame or inventory of moves that Smith has, yet runs with the same heart. Moreno is likely to be on the board at 14 and could be the target of a team trading up. Saintly Impact: To Pierre Thomas' detriment, Moreno would take over the role as primary compliment to Reggie Bush. Moreno doesn't have dominating size but is a hard, quick runner inside who excelled against top competition. Saintly Chances: Good.

12. USC LB Brian Cushing, 6'3, 243, 4.68 40

Big, strong, fast linebacker with great intangibles. Big and fast enough to play any linebacker position, a gym rat and an aggressive player on defense. Has been through a career's worth of injuries in the past four years, including ankle, shoulder, and knee injuries that all resulted in surgery and a broken hand as a senior. Should not make it out of the teens and could sneak into the top eight. Saintly Impact: If healthy through camp, likely wins the starting weakside linebacker job. Saintly Chances: Good.

13. Florida State DE Everette Brown, 6'1, 256, 4.66 40

A edge-bending pass rusher best in space, Brown is certainly a good prospect as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. As a situational pass rusher in a four-man front, Brown might not be a great fit for the Saints because he doesn't have the frame to start at defensive end for the Saints. Saintly Impact: Situational at best as a pass rusher, can he play linebacker? Saintly Chances: Good.

14. Ohio State RB Chris Wells, 6'1, 235, 4.52 40

A big man with big speed and a career made on strong running. Strong upper bowl and runs upright but with remarkable straightline speed. Showed his stuff by throwing LSU defensive backs around in the 2007 national championship game, but ran for only 60 yards after the first quarter of that game. Word about a bone injury in his foot may smoke and mirrors right now, or it may be a legitimate concern. Wells is very likely to be on the board at 14. He may also be on the board in the second round. Saintly Impact: If he's healthy, Wells replaces Deuce McAllister's dimensions of size and power. He has some questions about toughness and that foot injury - is it real? The Saints need their 14th overall pick to play in 2009. Saintly Chances: Very Good.

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