Big question for New Orleans Saints in today’s NFL draft is, ‘Deal or no Deal?’

Big question for New Orleans Saints in today’s NFL draft is, ‘Deal or no Deal?’

Posted by Jeff Duncan, The Times-Picayune April 24, 2009 10:03PM

Here’s the dream scenario for the Saints in the first round of today’s NFL draft:

If Ohio State cornerback/safety is available at No. 14 when the Saints pick, there’s a good chance he’ll play in N.O. next year

A huddle of prospects they love is still available when their pick rolls around at No. 14. As is a top-10 talent that inexplicably has toppled out of his grade zone.

Faster than you can say Brady Quinn, the Saints would be positioned to make a deal that could transform their draft from four-pick famine to multi-pick feast.

This is the perfect draft storm for the Saints in the top half of today’s player lottery. And it’s a distinct possibility, judging by pre-draft forecasts from league outposts.

For once, it appears the stars are aligned for the Saints. In past drafts they have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time to nab the apple of their eye.

This time, though, it appears the team is in good position to get its man. Most of the teams set to draft above them appear to be interested in players at positions the Saints don’t need: quarterback, offensive tackle, wide receiver, defensive end.

There’s a real possibility that the top-rated player at the position of most need for the Saints will be available at No. 14: defensive back/safety Malcolm Jenkins.

And therein lies a potential dilemma.

What if Jenkins — by all accounts a rock-solid impact talent — is there, along with a juicy trade offer?

Several teams in the pecking order below the Saints reportedly are interested in trading up this year, among them New England, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia.

If one of them offers a package that includes their first-round pick along with a second- or high third-rounder, then the Saints will have a tough decision to make.

With only four picks at their disposal, the Saints could use a pick or two more to adequately address their needs that include safety, linebacker, defensive tackle, running back and interior offensive lineman.

As is, they’ll pick in the first round today, then not again until Sunday afternoon’s fourth round. That’s a long wait for a team desperately in need of defensive help. The chances of adding an impact player in the fourth round are slim.

So the Saints desperately need a team to offer them a good trade, so they can move down in the first round and procure at least one other starting caliber prospect.

Carolina faced a similar scenario two years ago with the No. 14 pick of the 2007 draft. The Panthers were desperate for a safety to replace Mike Minter, but the Jets’ trade offer, which included the No. 25 overall pick and an additional second-rounder, was too good to pass up.

The Panthers liked cornerback Darrelle Revis, whom the Jets selected at No. 14, but they also liked a handful of other defensive prospects, including safeties Michael Griffin, Brandon Merriweather, Reggie Nelson and linebacker Jon Beason.

So they rolled the dice that at least one of those guys would be there at No.¤25, and they guessed correctly when Beason was still on the board. With the second-round pick, the Panthers added center Ryan Kalil, who has become a fixture on their offensive line.

Revis and Beason both made the Pro Bowl this past year, and Kalil is a candidate to make it soon.

The Saints need to ask themselves a similar question today if a similar offer is made. And a deal is quite possible.

The Patriots, who are blessed with six picks in the top 100, are potential trade partners. The teams worked out a deal in last year’s draft and have traded twice before in the past six years, so the relationship is there to get a deal done.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick indicated as much earlier this week: “We could probably trade a combination of our picks in the first round and get up as high as 10.”

Clearly, the Saints have prepared for just such a scenario.

Many of the prospects invited to town for pre-draft visits are projected as second- and third-round picks. If the Patriots offered their first-rounder (No. 23) and one of their three second-rounders (Nos. 34, 47 or 58), do the Saints make the deal?

Will one potential impact player — Jenkins or, say, Clay Matthews Jr. — improve the team more than two lower-rated prospects, like perhaps cornerback Sean Smith and defensive tackle Ron Brace?

If the situation presents itself, the Saints should jump on the deal and disconnect the phone.

One pick at No. 14 is not going to turn this defense around, and make no mistake, defense is where the Saints need to concentrate today and tomorrow.

In three seasons under Coach Sean Payton, the Saints have scored more points than all but two teams in the NFL.

Their 26.1 points-per-game average over that span is the best in franchise history.

Problem is, they’ve allowed more than 26 points in almost half of their games during that span (21 of 48). Not surprisingly, they are 3-18 in those contests.

It doesn’t take Vince Lombardi to determine what the Saints need to add to join the NFL’s elite.

When you set a team scoring record (463) points, your quarterback passes for the second-most yards in NFL history (5,069) and you still only finish 8-8, then your team has a clear problem: Defense.

And the problems aren’t restricted to one phase of the defense. The Saints need help in the secondary, at linebacker and along the defensive line.

On offense, the needs are less pressing: A running back, preferably one with some junk in the trunk, to help fill the large cleats of the departed Deuce McAllister, and a perhaps a young interior lineman.

That’s more needs than picks.

So clearly, the best-case scenario for the Saints isn’t BPA — Best Player Available, it’s BDA — Best Deal Available.

Jeff Duncan can be reached at jduncan@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3404.

One Response to “Big question for New Orleans Saints in today’s NFL draft is, ‘Deal or no Deal?’”

  1. Martin Peck says:

    Thanks for this great blog.