Last week we previewed the Saints biggest needs heading into the 2016 NFL draft. To recap, we specifically highlighted New Orleans’ need to draft impact defensive players and to trade down and accumulate more picks in order to improve the team’s depth.
If you’ve been a fan of Mickey Loomis’s previous drafts as the Saints general manager, the 2016 version had a lot to like. Loomis traded up twice for players he thought would help the Saints, drafted an unknown player out of Canada, and added a tall and lanky wide receiver. If, on the other hand, you understand that the draft is a crapshoot and that no team is better than any other at identifying and developing players and trading up and giving away picks in future years is a bad idea, then there’s a lot for you to dislike.
On the whole, the Saints did address some of their biggest needs, but left themselves with little room for error. With all this in mind, let’s review New Orleans’ picks.
First Round, 12th overall: DT Sheldon Rankins, Lousiville
With their first round pick, the Saints selected a run stuffing defensive tackle from Louisville. This selection addressed the Saints’ need for a defensive tackle to bolster their anemic run defense. Will Rankins suddenly make New Orleans defensive line one of the best in the league? Of course not, but pair him with free agent signee Nick Fairley and the Saints have the makings of a decent interior of their defensive line.
Second Round, 47th overall: WR Michael Thomas, Ohio State
With their second round pick, Loomis snagged a 6’3, 212 lb wide receiver who should be a nice complement to the Saints current stable of pass catchers. Brandin Cooks and Willie Snead are smaller and speedier players and Thomas gives Brees a tall red zone target—much like the recently released Marques Colston. The biggest problem is the Saints don’t need a wide receiver as much as they need playmakers on defense.
Second Round, 61st overall: S Vonn Bell, Ohio State
In order to aid the Saints secondary, Loomis traded with the New England Patriots for one of their two second round selections. Since there’s two parts to this trade, the player selected and the cost to acquire him, let’s talk about safety Vonn Bell first. With the NFL becoming more and more of a passing league, the need for quality players in the secondary has only increased. While the Saints already have Kenny Vaccaro and Jarius Byrd as starters, they spend so much time in nickel coverage (5 defensive backs) that having a starting caliber third safety is essential to mounting any kind of pass defense. From this perspective the pick makes total sense.
As is their usual MO, the Saints traded up to get Bell and gave away their 4th round pick in the process.
New England trades 2-61 to the Saints for 3-78 and 4-112
According to Chase Stuart’s empirically derived draft chart, the Saints paid 137 cents on the dollar to move up. For a team that has a myriad of draft needs and a bad history of trading up and missing on those picks, this was a troubling move.
Overall, there was nothing wrong with the pick itself, but the trade up was too expensive especially for a team in desperate need of depth.
Fourth Round, 120th overall: DT David Onyemata, Manitoba
The Saints selected Onyemata, a Nigerian born player from Manitoba, by trading back up in the 4th round. Considering his background and lack of experience playing in the United States, the Saints are taking a huge risk with this pick. Maybe Onyemata helps bolster the interior of the defensive line or he could be a total bust.
To acquire Onyemata, the Saints gave up their 5th round pick this year (152) and their 5th rounder next year to move up to 120. According to Stuart’s draft pick calculator, the Saints paid 127 cents on the dollar to make this move up. Once again, they’ve left themselves with little room for error and now only have 6 picks for next year’s draft.
Seventh Round, 237th overall: RB Daniel Lasco, California
It’s hard to get too worked up about seventh round selections since they play primarily on special teams, if they make the roster at all. It is worth it, however, to question why New Orleans selected a running back when they already have Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Tim Hightower, Tavaris Cadet, and Vick Ballard on the roster. Maybe that pick should have gone to taking a shot on a defender.
This was a very Saints draft. They continued their trend of targeting specific players despite the fact that no team possesses the ability to draft better than any other. They drafted some badly needed players for the defense, but New Orleans is not one or two players away from fielding a championship level defense. They need depth across the roster and by trading up and giving away picks both this year and next, they walked out of the 2016 draft with only 5 players and no room for error.