Answering reader questions following the Senior Bowl.
There’s nothing saying he will be any different.
The Saints had lunch with Noah Spence at the Senior Bowl, and went on a fact-finding mission to find out about the drug issues that led to him being bounced from Ohio State, but that doesn’t mean they’re suddenly going to change their typical methods of operation.
But the difference between Spence and, say, Randy Gregory, is that Spence had a full year to rehabilitate his image. Gregory’s issues last year came right before the draft. The difference in timelines should help Spence get drafted somewhere closer to what his talent dictates.
Having said that, I’m not going to pretend to know what the Saints are thinking. Perhaps he blows them away during the interview process and Sean Payton and Mickey Loomis decide to take a chance. I’d be surprised if it happens, but you never know.
I’m not nearly far enough along in my draft preparation to give a firm answer or start banging a drum for a guy. I’m still at the point in this where I could be talked into different players and different positions.
I haven’t been shy in saying I think the Saints’ biggest need is at weakside linebacker. You could talk me into a defensive tackle or a defensive end. But all things being equal, I’m going to side with the weakside linebacker.
The two best players at that position, from where I’m sitting, are Notre Dame’s Jaylon Smith and UCLA’s Myles Jack. I think Jack might be more polished right now from the limited film I’ve seen on him, but Smith has much more upside.
The issue with Smith is that he suffered a knee injury and could miss some time to start the season. In this scenario, if you told me Smith’s knee was going to fine, then I’d take him for the Saints.
It’s doubtful both players are there when the Saints pick at No. 12. But if both fell, in reality, I’d probably take Jack over Smith since he’s the safer pick. But if Smith falls, and the Saints feel comfortable with his health, I’d have no issue with them taking him at that spot.
I really don’t care if he misses three or four games to start the season. This is about the next five years and he has the potential to be a very, very good NFL player.
I’m a big believer of filling all your pressing needs during free agency so you don’t enter the draft feeling as if you have to fill a hole.
It’s fine to enter the draft with needs and wants. But I’m talking about the gaping holes where everyone can see you need more talent. This will force you into reaching for players in the draft. That’s not a good way to live.
A lot of that depends on how the Saints handle their own free agents this offseason. All three of the tight ends could end up elsewhere next season. If one or two of them go, then that’s suddenly one of the biggest needs this offseason.
On the luxury list, I’d like to see the Saints add a veteran defensive tackle, a linebacker for depth and maybe even a guard. None of them have to be Day 1 players. Just build up the middle class of the roster so there aren’t major depth issues.
I have a feeling a lot of people aren’t going to like this answer, but if his medicals check out and I’m supremely confident in his ability to return to 100 percent and he’s the highest-graded player on my board, I would absolutely take him.
You keep Dannell Ellerbe around, find another player to serve as depth, and wait for Smith to return. The short-term view shouldn’t dictate this situation. I know everyone wants to win now, and I agree with that to a certain degree, but would you have sacrificed seven games of Todd Gurley to get the next 73 he’s under contract for? I make that deal in a second.
I think that is Keenan Lewis’ job to lose. I know he’s had a number of operations over the last 12 months, and that should be cause for concern, but I’m not going to doubt his ability to return at this point. If we’re in August and he doesn’t look right, then I’ll worry. For now, I have him inked into the starting job.
I’d say both of those guys. If Tyeler Davison makes the jump, then that will be a big development for the defense.
But I agree Peat is at the top of the list for the simple reason the Saints are hoping he competes for a starting job next year.
I am eager to see how all those guys show up next season. There are a lot of bright spots, but those feelings are contingent on players developing and taking the next step. New Orleans could have a nice young core if things go as planned.