April 27, 2012

Akiem Hicks, defensive tackle, University of Regina

Akiem Hicks, DT, University of Regina
89th overall selection, 26th pick in the 3rd round
6'4 5/8", 318, 5.23 40

The Saints added depth to the interior defensive line with massive defensive tackle Akiem Hicks.  Behind starters Sedrick Ellis and Broderick Bunkley, the rookie will compete for playing time with another Canadian product, Tom Johnson, a CFL All-Star who the Saints signed away from the Calgary Stampeders in 2011.

Hicks took the JUCO route to LSU in 2009 but his scholarship was not renewed after one season. He was found to be the recipient of improper benefits.  Hicks created a minor, self-reported recruiting violation which cost LSU two scholarships in 2011 and cost assistant coach DJ McCarthy his job. Hicks lost his eligibility and never played for LSU.

Hicks bounced to Canada, landing at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, Canada. Hicks dominated the East-West All Star game with superior athletic ability, and he's believed to be the first player in Canadian Interuniversity Sport to be invited to the Combine. He turned down an opportunity to play in the UFL and returned to school for his senior year.

Tall, wide-bodied Hicks, who will be 24 in November, got by with his great size and raw athleticism. But a pedigree at junior colleges and Canadian college football leaves him raw, untrained and without proper hand training and instincts. With proper training, Hicks' upside is limitless, but he remains a developmental project.

For as physically intimidating as he is, Hicks must transform himself in a pro locker room and needs to get involved in the training program as soon as possible.

In a press conference after the pick, interim head coach Joe Vitt joked that "if Sean [Payton] were here, we'd probably have had an offensive player."  Vitt admitted that Hicks was raw and needed coaching.

As the Saints' pick near the end of the third round approached, a pair of quarterbacks were dropping, raising the possibility of a bombshell in New Orleans - the Saints using their first draft pick on a quarterback with Drew Brees unsigned.  Taking a quarterback on day three would be less of a symbolic shot across the bow at Brees.  Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins and Arizona QB Nick Foles were on the clock with three picks to go.  Foles was taken by the Eagles at 88, Cousins was on the board, and the Saints passed.

Shortly before the Saints came up at 89, Louisiana-Lafayette CB Dwight Bentley was drafted by the Lions, one likely local target.  Miami OLB Sean Spence, the 5'11 sparkplug and a potential target, went three picks prior.

After the Saints took Hicks at 89, the Patriots selected Arkansas DE Jake Bequette.  Clemson DT Brandon Thompson went three picks later and Va Tech CB Jayron Hosley went 94th overall.

After the pick, Saints RT Zach Strief joked on twitter: "Canada Eh?! Welcome to the big easy Akiem"

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