Grading the Draft: New Orleans Saints

The weeks leading up to the draft, it was well known that New Orleans was desperately trying to trade its pair of first round picks to move up into the top five. When they finally made a move and acquired the sixth selection, their choice was a little surprising.

Round Pick Overall Player Pos College Notes
1 6 6 Johnathan Sullivan DT Georgia  
2 5 37 Jon Stinchcomb OT Georgia From Arizona
3 22 86 Cie Grant OLB Ohio St  
4 5 102 Montrae Holland G Florida St From Arizona
5 20 155 Melvin Williams DE Kansas St  
6 30 203 Kareem Kelly WR USC  
7 17 231 Talman Gardner WR Florida St  

While everyone had Johnathan Sullivan ranked amongst the top four defensive tackles in the draft, no one predicted he would be the sixth pick. An underclassman with abundant upside for the next level, Sullivan combines terrific athleticism with strength and growth potential. He will eventually be effective as a wide-bodied run stuffer and can even be used as a two-gap lineman. We don't expect many early returns and Sullivan may need time to develop, but this selection will eventually reap rewards for the Saints.

Flip-flopping second round picks with the Cardinals as a result of the trade from the previous frame, New Orleans selected Jon Stinchcomb in round two. Needing bodies at offensive tackle after dealing Kyle Turley, Stinchcomb offers toughness and efficiency on either side of the line. We feel he limited by several factors and does not have the great upside but should be able to come in and produce immediately.

Round three saw Cie Grant brought into the fold. We like Grant's potential and feel when the former Buckeye eventually gets the mental part of the game down he'll be a fine weak-side linebacker. Our only question is, why not a defensive back with this pick?

Montrae Holland was good value and potentially an inexpensive starter down the road. He has the ability to open holes for the running game, can block on the move or pass protect when he puts his mind to it and stays in shape.

Selecting Melvin Williams in round five was a little early for our ranking, though we feel in time he can be a solid situational lineman. Williams adds bulk at defensive end and could be inserted into the line-up on running downs.

Their final two selections were used on a pair of very talented, yet very risky receiver prospects.

Early in his career Kareem Kelly looked like he was going to be a special player as his ability to catch the ball was only rivaled by the skill to pick up big chunks of yardage after the reception. Unfortunately Kelly never matured after his freshman season either as a football player or as a person and always left people feeling he could do more. The athletic skill is available but the desire/character is questionable and would be the only force holding Kelly back.

For his part Talman Gardner has been an enigma.  He looks the part, sometimes plays to it, but for the most part come up shy. Of course getting caught with marijuana just prior to the draft did not help his cause.

Both Kelly and Gardner were worth the risk of late round picks and should either hit their upper most limits, the Saints could come away with a home run receiver.

The only free agent of note signed by New Orleans was hometown favorite Lynaris Elpheage, who could work his way onto the field as a nickel back while his return skills will be a welcome addition.

Analysis: The Saints drafted quality with all their choices and came away with several prospects that will make the active roster and compete for playing time. Our only concern is the defensive secondary, an area of need for several drafts now, was never addressed.

Tony Pauline
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