On Monday, Football Outsiders didn’t have a lot of flattering things to say about the New Orleans Saints’ young talent. Tuesday, Football Outsiders is singing the praises of New Orleans defensive end Martez Wilson.
He’s ranked No. 2 on a list of 25 prospects that have yet to make their full impact. Those players have to have entered the league between 2009 and 2011 as no better than a third-round pick. They have to have fewer than five career starts. They also have to be on their original contract and can’t be over 26 years old in 2012.
Wilson meets all that criteria, but he’s on this list for another reason. He has enormous potential. He played linebacker in college and has a rookie, although only sparingly. He’s making the move to defensive end in 2012 and that’s what has FBO all fired up. They describe Wilson as a player with a Jevon Kearse-meets-Jason Pierre-Paul body type." That’s pretty impressive praise for a guy that’s barely played in the NFL. But the Saints, particularly defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, see it as well.
Spagnuolo needs to bolster his pass rush because defensive end Will Smith is the only proven pass rusher on the front four and he’s looking at a four-game suspension to open the season. If the Saints can make Wilson into a strong pass rusher, there defense suddenly will get a lot better.
The only other NFC South player to make the list is Atlanta middle linebacker Akeem Dent. I like this call a lot. Dent was one of the league’s best special-teams players last year when he was the backup middle linebacker behind Curtis Lofton, who left as a free agent to join the Saints. The Falcons brought in veteran Lofa Tatupu as insurance at middle linebacker. Tatupu once was a very good player, but he’s had injury problems and sat out last season. The Falcons will start Tatupu, if they have to. But I think the hope in Atlanta is that Dent uses training camp and the preseason to show he’s ready. If he can convince the coaches of that, Dent likely will end up as the starter.