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Saints mailbag Part 2: All about undrafteds, past and present

5/22/2015

Thanks for submitting your New Orleans Saints questions to me on Twitter. Send 'em anytime @MikeTriplett. And click here for Part 1 of this week's mailbag.


@MikeTriplett: Ryan Griffin's long-term future with the Saints may have taken a big dent with their draft choice of fellow QB Garrett Grayson in Round 3. But Griffin still has a good chance to win the backup job if Grayson's not quite ready for that role yet.

It will likely come down to Griffin and veteran Luke McCown for that No. 2 job, with the other one being cut from the roster entirely. It should be close to a 50-50 battle between Griffin and McCown. I thought Griffin looked good during the preseason last year and thought for a while he might win the job. But McCown is a well-liked and trusted journeyman who has proved difficult to unseat.


@MikeTriplett: I usually look at opportunity first and foremost, which means I'd look to the defensive line and tight end positions.

The Saints have only two experienced backups on their defensive line (John Jenkins and Glenn Foster), and they have a history of keeping undrafted/unheralded guys in those roles (see: Foster, Tyrunn Walker, Tom Johnson, etc.) They also seemed to acquire a lot of talent in this year's undrafted class. Mississippi State's Kaleb Eulls and Indiana's Bobby Richardson were two of the highest-rated UDFAs, and New Orleans also added Clemson's Tavaris Barnes and Texas-San Antonio's Ashaad Mabry. I bet at least one of those guys cracks the roster.

As for tight end, the Saints have only three experienced players on the roster -- Benjamin Watson, Josh Hill and Orson Charles -- and they've sometimes kept four in the past. I think Charles is still ahead of the rookies, especially as a blocker. But undrafted rookies Harold Spears from New Hampshire (who is more of a pass catcher) and North Carolina's Jack Tabb have an opportunity.


@MikeTriplett: Absolutely. He can, and he probably will. Tim Lelito had handled himself well in his cameo appearances as a starter at guard and center over the past two years. Now he's coming into his third NFL season with more experience, and he has noticeably bulked up in a good way. He told me he added about seven pounds this offseason. Best of all, Lelito is going back to what he called his "natural position" of left guard, where he played all four years in college.

I'm not predicting a Pro Bowl season for the former undrafted free agent from Grand Valley State, who likely still faces a learning curve. But I like his chances to earn the job.


@MikeTriplett: You're right. Last year's undrafted outside linebacker Kasim Edebali hasn't been discussed much this offseason, lost in the shuffle of new additions like veteran Anthony Spencer and rookies Hau'oli Kikaha and Davis Tull.

I liked what I saw from Edebali in small doses last year as an athletic pass-rusher who backed up Junior Galette and played about 10-11 snaps per game. The 6-2, 253-pounder is a bit small, but he'll likely benefit from another year of experience and physical development. His biggest issue will be the stiffer competition he's now facing. And you can throw last year's fifth-round draft pick, Ronald Powell, into that mix too. Powell (6-3, 237) is an impressive athlete, but he barely played on defense last year as Edebali leapfrogged him on the depth chart.


@MikeTriplett: Ha. That's a good question since the Saints had never drafted a linebacker in Rounds 1 or 2 in Joe Vitt's previous nine years with the team. Now they've drafted two (inside linebacker Stephone Anthony at No. 31 and Kikaha at No. 44).

I've gotten a ton of mailbag questions over the years about why the Saints haven't been able to develop linebackers -- and Vitt has been criticized in that area by fans. But one of my answers to those questions has always been that the Saints have rarely brought in any premium draft choices for Vitt to work with (I think he's also been hard to please when it comes to drafting those guys since he trusts his vets). Now we'll find out what the Saints can do with some blue chippers.