The New Orleans Saints will have the 15th pick in the first round of the NFL draft tomorrow night in New York City.
In many ways, the draft marks the beginning of the new regular season in the NFL, when teams replenish their rosters and focus on offseason preparations.
The Saints, buried under the bounty scandal a year ago, will start the 2013 NFL regular season free of the death grip of commissioner Roger Goodell.
So what are they to do?
Picking pretty much smack dab in the middle of the first round, the Saints, like nearly every team in the league, have a myriad of needs they hope to address via the draft.
One of the holes they’ll probably look to fill is on defense – at pretty much any position.
Luckily for the Saints, there appears to be a plethora of talented defensive players in the draft this year.
Double lucky for the Saints, they’ll look to have linebacker Jonathan Vilma for a whole season after he was suspended for a large portion of last year in relation to the bounty scandal.
Curtis Lofton also contributed a strong season last year with more than 100 total tackles from the linebacker spot.
Multiple draftniks have identified Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones as a potential target for the Saints during the first round on Thursday.
The pick would make sense. Jones would provide the Saints with a pass rushing threat the team lacked last year.
Cameron Jordan led the Saints with eight sacks last year and the aging Will Smith chipped in six.
Jones’s ability to get to the quarterback could prove useful for the Saints, should they choose to go that route.
The Saints may also opt to go after a defensive lineman in the first round.
Picking in the middle of the first round, they may not be able to get their hands on Utah behemoth Star Lotulelei or Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, but the Saints may have a shot at bringing LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo.
Mingo may see time at linebacker in the pros, but certainly would give the Saints athleticism and speed off the edge.
Here’s an interesting thought: Let’s say the Saints aren’t able to snag Jones, and Mingo’s been taken as well. What COULD be interesting is that the Saints might opt to fortify their secondary. This would prove useful in a division that features big armed and capable passers like Matt Ryan, Cam Newton and Josh Freeman.
What if they go after someone like Florida safety Matt Elam? He’s an active and tenacious player who’s projected to go in the later part of the first round.
The Saints would then have to wait until the third round to pick again. They would still do well to get a pass rusher, and Sam Montgomery, the OTHER LSU defensive end, might still be available.
Montgomery at one point was projected as a first rounder along with Mingo. His draft stock plummeted in the eyes of draft analysts in recent weeks after he admitted taking plays “off” at LSU and an underwhelming NFL Combine performance.
Still, there’s no denying Montgomery’s ability and if the Saints have the opportunity to snatch him in the third round, where many draft experts say he’ll go,, they’d be wise to do so.
If this were to happen, the Saints’ first two picks in 2013 would add a young and aggressive secondary player in Elam who can study under Roman Harper, and a first round talent in Montgomery, helping breath life in their derelict pass rush.
Of course, the one certainty about the NFL draft is that there will always be surprise and intrigue when the draft finally arrives.
One thing that can be assumed with relative confidence is that the Saints will look to focus on defense in this draft.