The draft may be just an afterthought for the scandal-rocked Saints franchise, who are in the middle of the storm. US Attorneys, the FBI and state police agencies are sniffing all around the Saints, and somehow the front office is planning on how to salvage talent from a decapitated draft class.
Eighty-nine picks deep into the draft late Friday night, the Saints are scheduled to pick in the historical range of future Hall of Famer Morten Andersen, iron man Lorenzo Neal, and past solid starters Jim Merlo and Delles Howell. The Saints will almost certainly take a defensive player - at any position - to build depth to weather the upcoming storm of suspensions. The third round pick can't be a project - he'll be needed when the NFL finally announces discipline for Saints defensive stars like Jonathan Vilma, Will Smith, Scott Shanle and Roman Harper.
We present our final mock draft for the 2012 NFL Draft, which will forever be associated with the league's hammer strikes to the franchise in the wake of scandals.
1 Indianapolis Colts - QB Andrew Luck, Stanford
2 Washington Redskins - QB Robert Griffin III, Baylor
3 Minnesota Vikings - T Matt Kalil, USC
4 Cleveland Browns - RB Trent Richardson, Alabama
5 Tampa Bay Bucs - CB Morris Claiborne, LSU
6 St. Louis Rams - WR Justin Blackmon, Ok State
7 Jacksonville Jaguars - WR Michael Floyd, Notre Dame
8 Miami Dolphins - QB Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M
9 Carolina Panthers - LB Luke Kuechly, Boston College
10 Buffalo Bills - CB Stephon Gilmore, South Carolina
11 Kansas City Chiefs - DE Melvin Ingram, South Carolina
12 Seattle Seahawks - DT Fletcher Cox, Miss State
13 Arizona Cardinals - T Cordy Glenn, Georgia
14 Dallas Cowboys - S Mark Barron, Alabama
15 Philadelphia Eagles - LB Courtney Upshaw, Alabama
16 New York Jets - DT Michael Brockers, LSU
17 Cincinnati Bengals - CB Dre Kirkpatrick, Alabama
18 San Diego Chargers - DT Dontari Poe, Memphis
19 Chicago Bears - T Riley Reiff, Iowa
20 Tennessee Titans - G David DeCastro, Stanford
21 Cincinnati Bengals - T Mike Adams, Ohio State
22 Cleveland Browns - DE Quinton Coples, North Carolina
23 Detroit Lions - G/T Amini Silatolu, Midwestern State (TX)
24 Pittsburgh Steelers - LB Dont'a Hightower, Alabama
25 Denver Broncos - DT Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
26 Houston Texans - TE Coby Fleener, Stanford
27 New England Patriots (from New Orleans) - DE Chandler Jones, Syracuse
28 Green Bay Packers - DE Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
29 Baltimore Ravens - C Peter Konz, Wisconsin
30 San Francisco 49ers - T Jonathan Martin, Stanford
31 New England Patriots - CB Janoris Jenkins, North Alabama
32 New York Giants - RB Doug Martin, Boise State
Second round, 59th Overall Pick - forfeited
Third round pick, 89th Overall Pick - New Orleans
Defensive End Trevor Guyton, Cal, 6'3.10, 285, 5.04 40
We'll stick with our v3.0 pick and go with Guyton, who would give the Saints defense a pair of versatile Golden Bears on the defensive line. Saints scouts know Guyton from film because he started next to 2011 first round pick Cam Jordan. Guyton is set to join Tyson Alualu, Jordan, and Brandon Mebane as talented Cal Bear defensive linemen in the NFL. They certainly saw Guyton's 2.5 sack, 3 TFL game against Washington State in 2010, when he and Jordan wrecked havoc. Like Jordan, Guyton played inside and out. He pressed 225 pounds 31 times at the combine. He's regularly seen downfield and at the sidelines making tackles, and has very quick feet. Guyton was often compared to Jordan as a senior, with his versatility and strength, but was hidden in Jordan's and Mychal Kendricks' shadows.
Fourth round pick, 122nd Overall Pick - New Orleans
Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, Clemson, 5'11 1/4, 189, 4.37 40
We'll stick with our v4.0 prediction of Sensabaugh, and we know that the Saints will take at least one player in the secondary this draft. Super-quick team captain for a terrible Clemson defense that allowed 29+ points per game and surrendered a whopping 70 points to West Virginia in the Orange Bowl. Sensabaugh played more snaps than another other defender for the Tigers in 2011. Absolutely blazed the agility drills at the combine, running a 6.60 in the three-cone drill and a 4.37 40 yard dash. Nearly shut down South Carolina WR Alshon Jeffrey this season. But Sensabaugh never took the next step up in instincts and has only three career interceptions and one full season as a starter. Seems best suited for man-up, island work which was preferred by Gregg Williams and Steve Spagnuolo alike. Sensabaugh doesn't have a great tackling history and will need to get stronger in an NFL locker room. He needs coaching to put it all together but has smarts and character to work in the NFL. Cousin Gerald Sensabaugh, who was very close to becoming a Saint in 2009, is the starting safety for the Cowboys.
Fifth round pick, 162nd Overall - New Orleans
Offensive tackle Markus Zusevics, Iowa, 6'5 3/8", 303, 5.09 40
The Saints have penchants for former tight ends turned offensive tackles and Zusevics is just that, transforming his body from a 255-pound three-star recruit high school tight end in 2007 into a 303-pound offensive tackle with fantastic athleticism. His narrow build is not yet complete adding pounds, and his short 79" wingspan is, for example, more than five inches shorter than Georgia OL Gordy Glenn's. Zusevics has great upside, great body control and nimble feet as a blocker, and will need to work on his blocking technique and overall strength to overcome his length limitations. He's still learning the position and strength, and will need a "redshirt" season in the NFL. Zusevics doesn't have injury history but tore a pectoral muscle while lifting at the combine.
Sixth round pick (from Miami), 179th Overall - New Orleans
Quarterback Kellen Moore, Boise State, 6'0", 197, 4.92 40
Could any college player be more a fit behind Saints QB Drew Brees? Could any college player be more a warning shot to unsigned Saints QB Drew Brees? The consummate college football player, Moore was 49-3 as a starter at Boise State and never backed down after one of the greatest redshirt freshman seasons ever in 2008. Moore has many of Brees' admirable qualities - extremely competitive, accurate, intelligent and with solid decision making. Moore shares Brees' drawbacks as well and overcame them as a college star - six feet tall, slight build, only adequate arm strength, mediocre foot speed and open field skills. Moore would be perfect in a precision and timing-based offense like the Saints', and he visited with New Orleans on April 18... after Sean Payton was suspended. Moore would bring stiff competition to Chase Daniel and perhaps force the Saints to keep three quarterbacks - assuming that Brees signs and starts.
Seventh round pick, 234th Overall - New Orleans
Safety Duke Ihenacho, San Diego State, 6'0", 203, 4.60 40
We'll stick with a favorite from our first version, the three time All-WAC selection. Started as a freshman at linebacker and two more seasons as a safety. In 2010, he missed all but two games with a broken foot, for which he received an extra year of eligibility. Older brother Carl is currently a defensive end/linebacker for the Oakland Raiders and was undrafted out of SJSU in 2010. A good special teamer and a productive defensive back with seven forced fumbles, seven interceptions and 143 tackles in four seasons and two games of a fifth. In October, Ihenacho returned a blocked extra point all the way, despite crossing the field and outrunning the kicking team with a limping hamstring injury. Should be an immediate contributor on special teams. Could refine in a pro weight room into a poor man's Roman Harper when he plays safety with a linebacker's mentality.