Found May 10, 2012 on The Sports Headquarters:

I should probably say something about bounties in the NFL, but really that has been beaten to death at this point.

The Saints had little to work with in the 2012 draft, with the trade they made in the 2011 draft to take Mark Ingram and then losing their second round pick because of the bounties program.

So we pick up our coverage of the 2012 New Orleans Saints Draft Grade in round 3, where they made a surprising selection.

When the Saints came on the clock there were some big names at need positions available as CB’s, LB’s and WR’s had all fallen into round 3.

Which way did the Saints go?  With a rookie out of Canada?  Alright, who is Akiem Hicks?

Hicks is a raw, athletic, physical specimen who possesses so much talent and has such high upside that picking him the third round isn’t exactly a reach.

He has outstanding length, which allows him to lock offensive players out and find the ball then shed and pursue.  Hicks has very good burst off the snap and can be a penetrating force in the NFL because of his quickness and ability to get his large frame skinny are impressive.

Then why was this such a head scratcher to many?  Hicks is the definition of a raw athlete.  He lacks game strength and instincts to match the athleticism, and wasn’t nearly as dominating as you would have hoped for in Canada.

He will be a solid two down lineman and rotational player to start his career in New Orleans, but Saints fans need to realize this was a pick for down the road, and if it takes 2-3 years before he has any kind of impact don’t be surprised.  If he doesn’t make it in the league don’t be surprised either.

In round 4 the Saints continued to make surprising picks, taking a more polished and refined, but lower upside prospect at the wide receiver spot in Nick Toon.

Toon has good hands, and uses them to pluck the ball out of the air, and more importantly he is an excellent route runner, who needs work exploding in and out of breaks.

He can fit in with the Saints because of his ability to line up all over the field, but I didn’t understand the pick for one reason, he lacks elite speed, and can have trouble separating off the line in non press situations.

Why add another intermediate to short route runner when you lost one of your main deep threats in Robert Meachem?

It’s not that I don’t think Toon will be a solid third or fourth WR, and in the Saints offense that is someone who can get you 600+ yards and 5-7 touchdowns, it’s that there were guys who have 1-2 potential sitting there, and that is where my question.

With their round 5 selection the Saints picked small school defensive back Corey White.

White is a well built, physical defensive back, with good size, and someone who likes contact.

Projects more as a safety in the NFL because he lacks great reaction skills and isn’t overly quick in his breaks out of his back pedal to stay with WRs at the next level.

I like him to come in and compete immediately as a special team’s ace; he is hard working and a physical guy.

It was a good pick because he can come in and learn and has the potential to become a good safety in this league; it is just a question of whether or not he can develop.

In round 6 the Saints added another guy who could become a starter down the line in Andrew Tiller, a big bodied guard.

Tiller is a massive, physical, run blocking guard.  He has good short area quickness and knows how to anchor himself in pass protection.

Can get upright far too often, and lacks smooth technique which causes him to have problem in space as he tends to whiff too much on blocks.

Uses his strength too often instead of exploding into his blocks, which again will cause problems at the next level.

Tiller is the perfect type of developmental lineman for the Saints, he is a massive, road grading blocker who needs time to learn behind some of the best guards in the NFL, but has the size and quickness to become a good player down the road.

The Saints ended the pain with the selection of Marcel Jones, another large bodied offensive lineman.

Jones is a guy I am quite familiar with and watched his star rise in my own state in high school.  I was shocked and disappointed when both Arizona colleges missed out on him, but that is par for their average football programs course.

Jones is a long armed, big boned, and surprising quick tackle prospect.

He has good core and base strength, and moves well in the run game as well as showing an impressive slide technique.

He fell off because, like most of the Saints prospects this draft season, he is lean on experience and technique.

Isn’t overly powerful, and is more of a catch and slide blocker as opposed to latch on and dominate.

Will have to fight hard for a position on the roster, and if he adds strength could be an intriguing guy you could hear about down the line as a starting tackle in this league, and honestly with his ability that wouldn’t be a surprise to me at all.

Overall:  This is another one of those drafts that in the here and now you just say; Hey it’s still a draft.

The Saints made a lot of picks that need time to develop and may have only two guys from this class that makes an impact this season.

This class is also the reason why I personally don’t hand out letter grades right after a draft has concluded.

You are talking about two possible starters on the offensive line, a possible starter on the defensive line and one in the secondary.  The only guy that I don’t see with starter upside is the guy I think has the most ability to contribute right away in Nick Toon, but this is the type of draft that honestly makes the draft fun.


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