Matthew Postins: Let's start with NFLdraftscout.com, which definitely differs with what to do with New Orleans' first-round choice, 10th overall. Rob Rang has the Saints selecting Troy CB Leodis McKelvin, a position widely regarded as the biggest concern for the Saints. Any concern about McKelvin going to the Saints and how he might fit in?
Chris Steuber: I think McKelvin would be a good pick for the Saints, but I question if he will be available. There are two teams ahead of the Saints, the Patriots and Ravens, that will look to add youth and potential shutdown cornerbacks in their secondaries. McKelvin fits nicely in New England. He's a quality cover corner with great instincts. He's also a valuable return specialist and could add a lot on special teams. I currently have the Saints drafting USC LB Keith Rivers. The Saints added two linebackers, Jonathan Vilma and Dan Morgan, this offseason, but Vilma and Morgan have suffered major injuries during their careers, and adding a young, quality player like Rivers provides the Saints with some insurance.
Matthew Postins: Rang's colleague, Chad Reuter, has the Saints addressing another key need — defensive tackle — by taking North Carolina' Kentwan Balmer. After USC's Sedrick Ellis and LSU's Glenn Dorsey, the drop off is considered significant by most scouts. Is Balmer — a player one mock draft has going in the second round to the Saints — worth a No. 10 pick, and if so, why?
Chris Steuber: Balmer is a major reach at No. 10. I think Balmer is a nice player who defends the run very well, but he's a borderline first round prospect. There will be better value at other positions with the 10th pick for the Saints, and they won't have to reach for a player like Balmer. Although, in my current mock draft, I have the Saints drafting Balmer in the second round with the 40th pick overall.
Matthew Postins: Reuter was kind enough to do a three-round mock, and his second-round choice is USC TE Fred Davis. Now, the Saints have re-signed Billy Miller and Eric Johnson, but why do I think this is a pick that could happen on April 26, Chris?
|USC tight end Fred Davis is going to New Orleans in some mock drafts in the second round, but Scout.com's Chris Steuber isn't sure that's the right selection for the Saints. (Don Ryan/AP Photos)|
Matthew Postins: The Saints will have to address their need at center at some point during this draft. Reuter has them taking Notre Dame's John Sullivan in the third round. I had the chance to speak to Sullivan at the combine and was pretty impressed with him. Would he be a good fit for what the Saints want to do on offense?
Chris Steuber: I really like Sullivan as well. He's an intelligent lineman who understands the game. He makes good decisions and is strong up front. I think he would be a solid third round pick for the Saints.
Matthew Postins: Reuter went for secondary help in the second round by selecting Indiana's Tracy Porter. To me, there are several different guys that could go here. Is Porter the right fit for the Cover 2 and is he a good value here?
Chris Steuber: Porter is a good fit for a Cover 2 defense, because he's not very physical and he likes to play off of receivers. He has outstanding ball skills and can turn defense into offense in a hurry. He diagnoses the action extremely well and has a solid burst to the ball. He provides the Saints with a return specialist who possesses track star speed. I think Porter makes sense, but it all depends on what they do in the first round. Another cornerback the Saints should consider in the second round is Virginia Tech's Brandon Flowers, if he's available. Flowers is a more physical corner who doesn't have the same kind of speed as Porter, but covers well in a small area and has great instincts and ball skills.
Matthew Postins: The Sporting News took a completely different tactic and had the Saints taking USC LB Keith Rivers in the first round. The Saints appear pretty set at linebacker, especially after re-signing Mark Simoneau and signing Dan Morgan. But you and I both saw Rivers at the Senior Bowl and we know how talented this kid truly is. What could Gary Gibbs do with Rivers in his defense?
Chris Steuber: I agree with the Sporting News on Rivers. I've been saying Rivers will be the pick in my last three mock drafts. Personally, I think Mark Simoneau is a nice linebacker, but he's undersized and doesn't shed blocks well. As I mentioned previously, the Saints traded for Jonathan Vilma and signed Dan Morgan. Morgan has suffered major concussions during his career, and I'm not sure if you can count on him being fully productive. Vilma is coming off of knee surgery, and all signs suggest that he's healthy, but we won't know how healthy he is until he hits the field. The way I look at Keith Rivers is that he's a veteran who just happens to be a rookie. When you draft players from USC, especially players who stayed there for four years, they're assets. They've been put in situations that other prospects haven't had the opportunity to witness. Rivers is a highly intelligent, focused defender who I believe would be an instant leader on the field and in the locker room. With that said, Rivers isn't a big time playmaker. He has to improve his ball skills, but he has a nose for the ball and will make big tackles.
Matthew Postins: The Sporting News addressed the interior defensive line with an unlikely suspect (at least in my opinion) — Iowa State DT Athyba Rubin. For those that don't know who he is, clue them in and tell us why he's a solid — or not so solid — pick here.
Chris Steuber: I'm assuming the Sporting News has the Saints taking Rubin in the second round SN does). If that's the case, this is another reach. Rubin is a massive DT, but he doesn't do anything spectacular. He's a big body who moves well inside and can clog the middle, but he doesn't pressure the QB. If the Saints want to grab a DT in the second round, they should target Kentwan Balmer (North Carolina) or Trevor Laws (Notre Dame).
Matthew Postins: SN also has the Saints taking Virginia Tech WR Eddie Royal, a player I know a lot of scouts like for his receiving and return ability. Given how much of a bust first-round pick Robert Meachem was last year, is it a stretch to think the Saints would take a wide receiver in the third round?
Chris Steuber: I don't know if you can say Robert Meachem is a bust just yet, because I always believe you have to give a first-round receiver up to three years to produce. But like I previously stated, if I were running the Saints, I'd target defense with my first two picks and then switch to offense in the third round. A player like Eddie Royal, a guy who's rising up draft boards as we speak, will probably be a late second round pick. He may be available to the Saints in the third round, but I think New Orleans has more pressing needs than to draft another WR high in the draft. They should address their offensive line or add a young TE in the third round.
|Leodis McKelvin could end up being a Saint on draft day. (Dave Martin/AP Photos)|
Chris Steuber: The draft process is all about momentum and potential. When scouts observe McKelvin, they see a prospect with great qualities and skills that intrigue them so much that they may overvalue him and forget about a more steady player like Mike Jenkins. The same can be said about Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. He has a lot of momentum right now. Cromartie was a guy that was from a small school who had a lot of upside, but was still considered to be a second round pick. Now after a solid Senior Bowl performance, a tremendous showing at the Scouting Combine and reassurance at his Pro Day, Cromartie will most likely be a top-10 selection. Jenkins will probably fall in the first round because of the talent available at the CB position.
Matthew Postins: Finally, it seems the consensus among most of the Mock Drafts I've seen have the Saints taking Leodis McKelvin, Mike Jenkins or Keith Rivers No. 10 overall. In your mind, if it comes down to those three players, what factors will help make the final decision for the Saints?
Chris Steuber: If all three players are on the board, the Saints will jump all over Leodis McKelvin. McKelvin's potential as a lock down corner and a valuable weapon on special teams will entice the Saints. But like I've stated, I don't think McKelvin will be there and Keith Rivers will be hard to pass up. It's interesting to me that the consensus is that CB and LB are their top priority, but the last time the Saints selected a CB in the first round was in 1996, when they drafted Alex Molden (11th overall). And the last time they drafted a LB in the first round was in 1995, when they drafted Mark Fields (13th overall). I think the Saints have to end one of these first-round positional droughts this season.
Matthew Postins is the publisher of Saintinsider.com. He is an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association.
A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.