With the NFL Draft approaching, we’re taking a team-by-team look at the needs of each club. Up next is the one with the No. 27 overall selection, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have seven total picks, with an extra fifth-rounder and no seventh (which makes for a quick getaway on Saturday afternoon).
Cornerback: The Saints upgraded the middle of their secondary by bringing big-ticket safety Jairus Byrd in to pair with last year’s first-rounder Kenny Vaccaro.
But the edges of the defensive backfield are another matter.
After releasing veteran Jabari Greer, they brought an even veteran-er Champ Bailey in. But Bailey’s play dropped precipitously last year with injuries, and unless he has a remarkable physical comeback after he turns 36 in June, they need more help here.
Keenan Lewis is solid on one side, but they could use a first-round talent to help him, and to allow Bailey to stay in a more limited role.
Outside linebacker: They made an incredible move last year under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, and they sort of did it with mirrors.
Junior Galette was very good (12.0 sacks), and Parys Haralson is a solid run-stopper, but they could use all the pass-rush they can find. Victor Butler was supposed to be the answer last year, but a torn ACL kept him from fulfilling the promise he had flashed as a reserve in Dallas.
Ryan performed alchemy last year, but they need to give him more to work with if he’s going to keep them playing at a high level.
Wide receiver: The Saints are always going to be able to fling it around as long as Drew Brees is there, so the pressure to find a guy is less.
But with age and the departure of reserves like Lance Moore, they need to find someone who could knock the top out of a defense. In a draft deep at the position, they need to find someone to stretch the field in the future, in case they can’t reach a long-term deal with tight end Jimmy Graham.
Offensive line: They didn’t put up much of a fight when center Brian de la Puente left in free agency for Chicago. That might indicate they have faith in Tim Lelito, but it also means they’re really thin in the middle.
They could also stand some tackle depth, though Terron Armstead showed signs he might be able to handle the left tackle job for the near future. That allowed them to let Charles Brown depart in free agency, and keeping Zach Strief allowed them some stability up front.