Saints Pro Day Rumblings: March 17

The New Orleans Saints are jetting cross-country to evaluate talent for the NFL Draft. Each Monday will file its "Pro Day rumblings," a collection of Saints-related news regarding pro days. Today's article includes information on USF's Mike Jenkins, Western Michigan's James Blair, Illinois' Rashard Mendenhall and Delaware's Joe Flacco.

It's no real surprise the Saints were at the University of South Florida Pro Day. With the Saints owning the No. 10 pick and cornerback Mike Jenkins being, potentially, the first cornerback selected, it made sense.

Jenkins did nothing to hurt his stock. He did not test — he had already done so at the Combine — but he did impress in position drills.

He caught the eye of Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who said Jenkins could do it all.

The Saints have an obvious need at cornerback, even in the wake of the signing of Randall Gay. The Saints pass defense was one of the worst in the NFL and a player like Jenkins could have an immediate impact. The good thing for the Saints is that most of the top corners in this draft — including Troy's Leodis McKelvin — should be available to them with the No. 10 pick, if they want to go in that direction. Given than the top two defensive tackles won't drop to No. 10, cornerback seems the most likely direction.

KEEPING UP WITH BLAIR: The New Orleans Saints were one of a dozen teams reportedly at Western Michigan's Pro Day in Kalamazoo, Mich., last week.

The player who gained the most attention was offensive lineman James Blair, a 6-foot-4, 318-pound tackle who is quicker than his size. He checked in five pounds lighter than he did at the Scouting Combine and had a solid workout.

Most NFL Draft experts are projecting Blair as a guard and as a potential seventh-round or undrafted free agent.

Is he appealing to the Saints? He could be for the right price. The fact that he can play both guard and tackle is a plus. And while the Saints' biggest need is at center with the departure of Jeff Faine, Blair could give last year's third-round pick, Andy Alleman — also a Mid-American Conference product — a run for a backup job.

LOOKING AT RB: With the knowledge that the Saints will have to make a decision on Deuce McAllister's $1 million roster bonus next month, could the Saints be looking for running back help in this draft?

Sure, they have Reggie Bush, but it's clear that he works best in a tandem backfield with a bigger, more physical back like McAllister.

The Saints went to Illinois to find a running back last year in Pierre Thomas. There's another one this year in Rashard Mendenhall, who worked out in a limited fashion at his Pro Day last week.

Mendenhall is considered a first-round lock and the Saints pick at No. 10. But I don't think he'll be on New Orleans' radar for two reasons.

First, I expect the Saints to pick up McAllister's bonus. But, even if they don't, Mendenhall isn't big enough (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) to be Bush's counterpoint. Plus, the Saints have plenty of other needs before they take a running back that early.

EVERYBODY LOVES JOE: The Saints could be getting sucked into the Joe Flacco derby.

While the Saints seem set at quarterback with Drew Brees and the newly-signed Mark Brunell, they might feel the need to set themselves up for the future by drafting a quarterback in the middle part of the draft.

Flacco would seem an unlikely selection, as most pundits are projecting him as a first-day pick. But the Saints were at his Pro Day anyway, scribbling notes with about half of the league's teams.

Flacco is considered to have the best physical tools in this draft. The big question is whether he can develop into a top-tier signal-caller after spending part of his career at Delaware.

New Orleans would certainly be a low-pressure environment for Flacco to learn, given the stability of the position.

Chances are, though, Flacco won't fall to the Saints in the second round, which would be a logical place for a team like New Orleans to take a player like Flacco.

CHAMBERLAIN IMPROVES HIS STOCK The New Orleans Saints were not at Tulsa's Pro Day last week, but's Chris Steuber reports that linebacker Chris Chamberlain had a good workout for a dozen NFL scouts. The 6-foot-1, 226-pounder ran a 4.62 in the 40 and tested well in the short shuttle (4.09) and 3-cone drill (6.93). Chamberlain also showed great athleticism with a 36.5-inch vertical jump and a 9'6 broad jump, and showed good strength in the bench press with 17 reps of 225 pounds, Steuber reported.

Linebacker is a need in this draft for the Saints, despite re-signing Mark Simoneau and signing Dan Morgan. Simoneau is getting on in years and Morgan, while talented, is injury-prone. While Chamberlain projects more as an outside linebacker, he's worth keeping your eye on as the draft talk develops.

UNDER THE RADAR ALERT: Word out of Nebraska's Pro Day centered around a Chadron State back you've likely not heard of. Danny Woodhead (5-7 ½, 197 pounds) ran in the high-4.3s/low-4.4 range, had a vertical jump of 38 inches, did 20 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. He also reportedly did a great job in positional drills. Why might the Saints look at him? Well, his numbers are sick, first of all. He had 18 200-yard rushing games in his career at the Division II school. More importantly, he has the speed, hands and capability to offer a team a punt or kickoff returner in the late rounds or even as an undrafted free agent. While he doesn't have a history of kickoff returns, it's clear he can rush and receive and the Saints might to take a chance on a player with his pure speed. He certainly helped himself last week.

Also, it wouldn't hurt to file away Stillman College's Brian Witherspoon, who has no football experience but worked out at Alabama's Pro Day. He ran the 40 in 4.33 and 4.29, had a 40-inch vertical jump, 10-foot, 10-inch long jump, 4.36 short shuttle, 6.86 cone drill, and ran position drills for cornerback and kick returns.

Matthew Postins covers the Saints for He is an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association.

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