Tuesday, 22 February 2011 16:07

NFL Scouting Combine, Draft And Graying Of The New Orleans Saints

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Ed Staton--Louisiana sports Sean Payton and Saints top executives, coaches, player personnel staffers and medical personnel are all in Indianapolis this week for the NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium to evaluate the nation's top players eligible for the upcoming draft.

The event, which runs Thursday through Tuesday, is a vital step in athletes achieving their dreams. NFL.com and NFL Network will have full coverage. This intense, four-day job interview is an exciting time for the 300 athletes and a vital step in achieving their dreams of playing in the NFL. The Saints need to draft a fast pass rusher or an outside linebacker.

Payton said the Saints, one of the older teams in the NFL, need to add some youth to their team at various positions. After the season, the coaching staff graded all 53 players on the active roster, the players on injured reserve, the players on the practice squad, all of the players in the building, trying to have an honest assessment of where the Saints were as a team.

"We need to get younger in certain positions," said Payton.  "Our defensive front, specifically our down linemen, and the linebacker position. We need to look at adding some youth there. We have to look at it with the idea that our free agents (26) aren't here.

"So, for example, when you look at our offensive line, you look at Jermon Bushrod and Jonathan Goodwin as being unrestricted players right now. We've got depth at the wide receiver position. Adrian Arrington had a good season, although he didn't play a lot, but he played a lot on the practice squad and was elevated to the 53 at the end. So we've got depth there.

"The running back position will be a key spot for us as we look at the players who are in the building and the players who technically are not.  Pierre Thomas is an unrestricted free agent.

"We've got depth at corner. It's going to be important at the safety position. Malcolm Jenkins had an outstanding year. Roman Harper (an unrestricted free agent) is a guy who will be a critical piece to what we are trying to accomplish.

"I do feel when that when we ran the ball in the '09 season, there was a key element that helped us win consistently and we weren't as good in that area offensively this year."

What does the future hold for veterans, some of whom may be approaching the downsides of their playing careers? Translation: Jeremy Shockey, Devery Henderson, Dave Thomas, Scott Shanle, Jermon Bushrod, Jonathan Goodwin, Darren Sharper, Anthony Hargrove and Pierre Thomas.

"It would be crazy for me as a head coach to go through who we have a vision for and who we don't have a vision for before ever discussing any of these things with the players. But we've had discussions in house and we know where we want to go."



The 2011 NFL Draft hype is with us and over the web there are articles trying to predict where players will selected based on team needs and ability.

All of these projections can be a lot of information to handle. Draft gurus from all over have mock drafts with extreme variations from pick to pick.

Mel Kiper and Todd McShay recently released a mock draft for ESPN. Meanwhile, Don Banks did the same for Sports Illustraded, and Nolan Nawrocki for Pro Football Weekly.

Bleacherreport.com takes a look at what these experts predict for the upcoming draft with a final verdict for each pick.

The final verdict on the Saints have them picking outside linebacker Justin Houston of Georgia with their 24th choice. The experts say the Saints need to improve their pass rush if they want to return to their Super Bowl form. Houston is extremely fast for his size and could be an ideal blitz option for defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

The 2011 Mock Draft's final verdicts:

1. Carolina: Nick Fairley, defensive tackle, Auburn. "Fairley seems to be the current clear cut top pick."
2. Denver:  Da'Quan Bowers, defensive end, Clemson. "Bowers is a candidate to going in  the top over-all spot."
3.Buffalo, Ryan Mullet, quarterback, Arkansas. "After missing out on Andrew Luck, Bills go after next best quarterback."
4. Cincinnati, A,J. Green, wide receiver, Georgia. "The Bengals are in need at wide receiver following the departure of Terrell Owens."
5. Arizona, Von Miller, outside linebacker, Texas A&M. "Miller might be on eof the  fastest rising draft stocks out there right now."
6. Cleveland, Marcell Darens, defensive tackle, Alabama. "Clearly everybody agrees that the Browns need to address the holes along the defensive line.
7. San Francisco, Patrick Peterson, cornerback, LSU. "Clearly the 49ers need to address their secondary in this draft, and if Peterson is still available then he is the pick."
8. Tennessee, J.J. Watt, defensive end, Wisconsin. "The Titans could look at quarterback here after the end of the Vince Young era in Tennessee."
9. Dallas, Prince Amukamara, cornerback, Wisconsin. "The Cowboys need to address the secondary issues and the top of this year's draft is a great place to do just that."
10. Washington, Blaine Gabbert, Missouri, "Clearly the Redskins are going to look for a quarterback of the future with this upcoming pick."

PRIOR to the start of NBA All-Star activities on Saturday, Commissioner David Stern was available to the media for his annual midterm state of the union. The Hornets were the first topic of interest. "Are you still confident about the team's future in New Orleans?" Stern answered yes and when if asked he would like to expand, he said, "no." Stern went on to say the difference between New Orleans and that of the Seattle Sonics"  "The arena was not adequate in Seattle. And in New Orleans, the arena was recently built and is adequate. And so this was a city -- and New Orleans has a special, I'd say place, given the devastation of Katrina and the difficulties there." Hornets GM Dell Dermps said the Hornets would like to trade for a backup center and a small forward. The Hornets are $5 million under the luxury tax and will go over that only if they acquire a "home run hitter". Translate: Carmelo Anthony. Trade rumors continue about Chris Paul, but it's unlikely the All-Star will be traded while the NBA is running the team...


CHRIS Paul played 28 minutes  scored 10 points with seven assists and three turnovers in Sunday's NBA All-Star game in Los Angeles.Paul's ball handling was dazzling at times and he orchestrated many of the West's 53 fast break points. He tied for a team high with seven assists, but his shots weren't falling much.  CP3 frequently wowed the crowd with his penetration and dishing...Former Grambling and NFL quarterback Doug Wiliiams was honored along with 10 other players and coaches from historically  black colleges in a gala ceremony in Atlanta over the weekend. The former Grambling coach was joined by Mel Blount (Southern), Lem Barney (Jackson State), Bob Hayes (Florida A&M) and Art Shell (Maryland Eastern Shore) .A year ago, former Grambling coach Eddie Robinson was voted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame....

A stellar one-hit effort from freshman Kurt McCune and a pair of three-run homers by Mike Mahtook fueled the No. 15 LSU baseball team past Wake Forest 9-1 to complete the series sweep  past Wake Forest on Sunday at Baton Rouge. The Tigers will take  on UNO on Tuesday at home with the first pitch slated  for 6:30 p.m. Junior righthander Tyler Jones will start for the Tigers. '"Over-all, I was very pleased with the way we played this weekend," said LSU coach Paul Mainieri. "It was a good way to start the season.  Kurt McCune was exceptional today. The pitching throughout the weekend was very effective and it appears this start has a lot of depth that we hope to utilize as the season progresses."


Ed Staton

Ed Staton is a former sports writer for the Times Picayune and New Orleans States Item.  He also served as the New Orleans Saints Information Director.  He has won 43 media awards in writing, design and photography.  


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