NFC South: Bradley Roby

Kiper's Mock 3.0: Saints

March, 13, 2014
Mar 13
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Free agency hasn't helped much when it comes to narrowing down the New Orleans Saints' draft-day targets. It's probably a safe bet now that they won't draft a safety in Round 1, since they're set with last year's first-round pick Kenny Vaccaro and blockbuster free-agent signing Jairus Byrd. But a number of positions could still be in play at No. 27 for a New Orleans team that always likes to select the highest-rated player on its board, regardless of position.

The Saints will still likely address one or two of their most pressing needs in free agency so they can think more long-term with their draft picks.

For now, though, I still see cornerback as the Saints' biggest need overall, so TCU's Jason Verrett and Ohio State's Bradley Roby could make a lot of sense. And the Saints definitely need some new, young dynamic playmakers on offense after parting ways with running back Darren Sproles and receiver Lance Moore. So speedy receivers such as LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. and Oregon State's Brandin Cooks could be very attractive.

But the Saints won't reach for those spots if they have a higher grade on someone such as Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Auburn pass-rusher Dee Ford or Virginia offensive tackle Morgan Moses (especially if they don't re-sign veteran free agent Zach Strief).

Check out ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper's Mock Draft 3.0 Insider to see where he thinks the Saints might go with that No. 27 pick.

Defensive backs fly at combine

February, 26, 2014
Feb 26
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The NFL scouting combine wrapped up Tuesday with some impressive workouts from many of the top defensive backs. That's good news for the New Orleans Saints, since I think that position group ranks as their No. 1 need this offseason -- especially when you lump the cornerbacks and safeties together.

I think the Saints will address at least one of those positions in free agency, if not both, since they've got some holes in their starting lineup right now. The Saints have already released longtime starting cornerback Jabari Greer and safety Roman Harper. And they could part ways with longtime starting safety Malcolm Jenkins, too, since he'll be an unrestricted free agent on March 11.

The good news is the Saints are set with their No. 1 cornerback in Keenan Lewis and No. 1 safety in Kenny Vaccaro. And they like the potential of young backup safety Rafael Bush and cornerback Corey White. So they don't need a total overhaul.

However, the Saints will certainly consider adding to their secondary depth in the draft, regardless of what happens in free agency. They know you can never have enough talent in the secondary in today's pass-happy NFL.

Since the Saints are picking 27th, they probably won't get a crack at the top two cornerbacks in this year's draft class -- Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert and Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard. But they're worth highlighting since it seems like there will be a pretty interesting debate over the next couple months over which should be drafted first.

Gilbert (6-0, 202) is an athletic marvel who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds Tuesday -- the fastest time of any defensive back. He also had one of the strongest bench press performances, among other impressive drills. He also showed big-play potential in college. However, he wasn't as consistent as a “shut-down” corner as Dennard (5-11, 199).

Dennard, meanwhile, seemed to draw just as much praise from draft analysts for posting a time of 4.51 seconds in the 40 Tuesday -- since that's considered fast enough to complement his impressive on-field work in college.

Two highly-touted corners who might be available to the Saints at No. 27 are TCU's Jason Verrett and Ohio State's Bradley Roby, who also posted blazing times in the 40 (4.38 and 4.39 seconds, respectively).

Verrett was a standout cover man in college. NFL teams will just have to get over the fact that he's only 5-9, 189 pounds. That would probably work for the Saints since they use Lewis as their physical press corner against opponents' top receivers. Roby (5-11, 194) was a little less consistent in college but still had a nice career.

The top safety prospects -- Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (6-1, 208) and Louisiville's Calvin Pryor (5-11, 207) -- could also be off the board before the Saints pick. Both of them reportedly helped solidfy their first-round status with impressive workouts at the combine, including matching times of 4.58 seconds in the 40.

Check out this piece by ESPN.com's San Diego Chargers reporter Eric D. Williams for an even more thorough look at how the secondary prospects fared.
The 2013 draft is over, but Mel Kiper Jr. already is looking ahead.

Kiper’s first Insider 2014 Big Board is out and it’s worth pondering and thinking about what NFC South teams could be in the market for next year.

The biggest issue hanging out there is whether Josh Freeman is the long-term answer in Tampa Bay. I think Freeman will be fine and end up eventually getting another contract with the Buccaneers. But what if that doesn’t happen?

Well, the 2014 group of quarterbacks is looking better than the 2013 crop. Kiper has three quarterbacks rated in the top 25: Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater and Tajh Boyd.

And what if the New Orleans Saints don’t find an effective pass-rusher for their 3-4 defense? UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr is No. 5 on Kiper’s board.

Carolina is rolling the dice this season and going with a bunch of mid-level cornerbacks. Maybe some of those guys rise up. If they don’t, Kiper has Ohio State’s Bradley Roby and Florida’s Loucheiz Purifoy in his top 10.

I can look ahead and see Atlanta having a potential need at defensive tackle. Jonathan Babineaux isn’t getting any younger and Corey Peters and Peria Jerry aren’t getting any younger. Unless the Falcons fall apart, they’re not likely to have a top-10 pick. But they could target someone like LSU’s Anthony Johnson, who is No. 22 on Kiper’s board.

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